Juniper adds SAML to SSL VPN

The networking vendor is the first to add security assurance markup language compatibility to its SSL VPN, streamlining logon processes that are often complicated for users.

Juniper Networks Inc. is enhancing its remote access product to make it compatible with an emerging authentication standard, which will help businesses better integrate the authentication of remote and local employees.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networking vendor's market-leading secure socket layer (SSL) VPN is now compliant with security assurance markup language (SAML), an emerging XML-based standard that enables single sign-on capability for remote users. Juniper's is the first SAML-compatible SSL VPN product.

SSL VPNs have become popular because they do not require a client on the device. Users simply log onto the Internet and are immediately able to access relevant applications securely over the Internet.

SAML is an emerging standard designed to enable businesses to authenticate remote users and to set policies for access. Until now, VPN vendors have used remote access technologies that often required multiple logons for different applications or to access a number of portals, said Robert Whiteley, an associate analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

While remote access strategies have focused on providing connections to the LAN in the past, Whiteley said businesses are now more concerned about allowing access to applications, not just files. "The SSL VPN has become more strategic in the enterprise infrastructure," Whiteley said.

While SAML is not used in every business, Whiteley said Juniper's announcement is a significant step forward..

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As the first vendor to release this new compatibility, Juniper's strategy is a bit premature, said Jason Wright, a research analyst with San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan. "I don't think people are dying to have [SAML compatibility]," he said. "But soon we will see early adopters using it."

In addition, Wright, said it is important for Juniper to make product announcements now. In February the company acquired NetScreen Technologies Inc., which brought the SSL technology to Juniper. This recent announcement shows that Juniper is continuing with strong product strategy that features solid research and development, Whiteley said.

Juniper's ongoing focus on security will help it compete with Cisco Systems Inc., which has become a one-stop shop for everything from routers to voice over Internet protocol to security, Wright said.

"More businesses are looking for solution providers, not point products," Wright said, "and security is a great addition to Juniper's product line."

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