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URoam takes a swipe at the heart of traditional VPN market

URoam is taking a swipe at the heart of traditional VPN market.

In a market that's cautious of wireless data, it is becoming critical for wireless companies to focus on applications and services that can bring material benefits to end users.

One company that appears to fall into that category is uRoam. URoam recently added SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to its FirePass remote access server and software, and can now provide users with access to fat-client apps, such as mobile ERP and MS Outlook, without the need for complex inbox replication and synchronization.


Until now, so-called fat applications such as CRM have required an expensive and troublesome VPN configuration or a separate solution for mobile users who need access to files, intranets and email. URoam's FirePass platform is a network appliance that offers traveling workers and telecommuters secure, high-performance remote access to their own corporate desktops and networks from any Internet browser, including those on phones, Palms, RIMs and PocketPCs.

The technology consists of a secure Web application server platform on the host desktop, a series of middleware modules to extend desktop access, and a Linux-based FirePass remote access server, which delivers the applications to the mobile user.

The Web application server component acts as an application proxy to various internal resources. The server enforces user authentication, manages user sessions and dynamically renders network resources into content that is compatible with the particular remote browser in use. The server is installed in the corporate network and integrated with the existing firewalls and security policies.

Security includes authentication, encryption, digital certificates and a proprietary Host Activation Protocol to determine authenticity between the parties involved in remote access. There are also logging and monitoring capabilities.

FirePass requires authentication between itself and the desktop, after which it drops the call. The desktop then dials back out to the Internet, and uRoam then redirects the browser to the desktop's IP address, and an SSL session is established between the desktop and browser. The entire setup typically takes about a minute, the company claims.


URoam competitors include Netilla and Neoteris, as well as VPN companies Aventail and Certicom and mobile management platforms such as iConverse and Aether. It also faces enterprise mobilization and virtual workplace companies such as iAnywhere and Citrix.

URoam claims total cost of ownership (TCO) advantages over VPN solutions, which require setup and maintenance on every remote device. In addition VPNs typically offer access only to shared folders and public files, not to files residing on desktops.

Enterprise mobilization companies tend to concentrate on rendering content to mobile devices -- uRoam has included the capability as part of its security platform. The company has partnered with authentication firms Vasco and RSA Security to stop hackers from stealing passwords with sniffer programs. URoam does not proxy traffic; instead, the browser and desktop communicate directly. Because nothing is cached at the browser, private data and credentials are never left on a public PC after the session ends.

Meanwhile, Netilla, Neoteris and Expertcity require organizations to rearchitect their networks, and they lack some of the functionality of uRoam's myDesktop software portfolio. Expertcity is more suitable for a consumer audience, says uRoam director of marketing communications Sylvia Ahern.

Business model

URoam sells both direct and through the channel. Its channel partners include broadband providers, ISPs and CLECs that resell its branded service to their own SMB customers -- either as a stand-alone or bundled offering. URoam is also considering licensing its technology to strategic partners. The company generates revenue through licensing and setup fees. It has dropped its hosting business.
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