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Despite boom, IP VPN cost still a hurdle

A new study shows adoption of IP VPNs surging, but high cost continues to be an obstacle for some.

A new study from Forrester Research Inc. finds that the adoption of IP VPNs is continuing to surge, but many businesses are still apprehensive about the high cost.

Robert Whiteley, analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester and author of "2005 Enterprise VPN Adoption Trends," said a survey of 653 large enterprises found 80% plan to either upgrade existing IP VPNs or deploy new ones by year's end. The survey, which polled companies with 1,000 or more employees, was conducted in May.

Despite climbing adoption rates, Whiteley wrote, "enterprises are still hung up on cost. They rate it just ahead of security as the largest obstacle while acquiring VPN technology."

Whiteley noted, however, that most businesses realize VPNs are cheaper to maintain than other access technologies and "Forrester expects that enterprises will make the capital investment to achieve these operational savings."

According to Whiteley's study, aside from the cost of VPNs, businesses are most interested in security and reliability when considering VPN upgrades or deployments "because enterprises need VPNs to handle mission-critical apps like Siebel and SAP that contain sensitive corporate information, so the underlying gear must meet stringent security and reliability requirements."

Overall, the study found IPsec VPNs will continue to dominate in both the remote access and site-to-site VPN realms, but newer, emerging technologies are starting to gain traction.

"After years of hype, we're beginning to see actual mainstream adoption of emerging technology," Whiteley said.

Whiteley said 57% of organizations reported having IPsec VPNs in production or upgrades underway. While Whiteley expects that market to level off, he was "surprised that the number wasn't even higher, especially because network heavyweights like Check Point Software Technologies, Cisco [Systems], and Nortel Networks have been selling IPsec products for almost a decade."

IPsec is also ruling site-to-site VPNs, which is expected to continue to have solid growth potential, Whiteley said. More than half of the businesses surveyed said they have deployed or are upgrading their site-to-site VPNs this year and another 27% said they are in the early adoption phase.

Another up-and-comer, Whiteley said, are Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPNs, which appear to be growing rapidly and taking hold. Though SSL VPNs have only been around for about 18 months, the Forrester study found 39% of enterprises have recently started or completed rollouts. Whiteley also suggested that the SSL VPN market will continue to boom in 2006 because the technology offers clientless access, strong endpoint security and lower cost than IPsec.

The least favorable IP VPN technology, the survey found, was Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) VPNs. Of the businesses surveyed, 39% said they had no adoption plans because, unlike SSL and IPsec, MPLS requires large-scale migration of private networks.

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