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Amid acquisition, NetScreen updates SSL VPN

NetScreen has released an update to its clientless VPN product line. At the same time, Juniper Networks has announced plans to buy the company. If the acquisition goes through, the transition should be smooth for NetScreen customers, an analyst says.

This week, NetScreen Technologies Inc. announced the availability of products that expand the management functions of its remote access product, but the news was overshadowed by the company's impending acquisition.

Networking equipment maker Juniper Networks Inc. yesterday announced it would buy Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetScreen for $4 billion in stock. If the acquisition is approved, NetScreen will become part of a new security products group at Juniper.

If the Juniper acquisition is approved, it should be a smooth transition for NetScreen customers, said Aaron Vance, an analyst with the Phoenix-based Synergy Research Group. He said it is likely that NetScreen will be somewhat autonomous within Juniper. Both companies have good reputations for customer service, he said, and they do not have overlapping products.

Regarding its product announcement, NetScreen is upgrading its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN line, which it acquired when it purchased SSL VPN market leader Neoteris in October.

NetScreen's Secure Access appliances allow users to access server-based information using any device equipped with a Web browser. This kind of secure, clientless access has become more popular recently, and vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. have launched their own SSL VPN products to compete with NetScreen.

This new release, Instant Virtual Extranet (IVE) version 4, which includes the NetScreen Secure Access appliance and Secure Access Central Control manager, will make it easier for large global businesses to manage their employees' remote access capabilities, said Jason Matlof, vice president of marketing and business development for NetScreen.

Version 4 includes enhanced abilities for controlling access to various server-based files. Access can be granted based on multiple factors, including a user's identity, network, device, user group, time of day and IP address. Managers can also delegate administrative control based on geography or business function, better enabling distributed enterprises to manage remote access.

The new release also supports multiple host names, so enterprises can provide different experiences for different groups, such as partner organizations and employees. This helps the product to create an extranet-like environment for less cost than a traditional extranet, Matlof said.

The central manager component provides system-wide performance information that is updated in real time. Logs can be customized for individual companies' needs. During upgrades, at least one node is kept active at all times to minimize downtime.

For more information

See's coverage: Juniper Networks to buy NetScreen Technologies.

Get the background on NetScreen's acquisition of VPN specialist Neoteris.

A product such as this could allow small and medium-sized businesses to deploy extranets, something which until now has been prohibitively complicated and expensive, Vance said. In addition, if NetScreen's products are integrated with Juniper's high-end products for service providers, it is likely that companies could buy a managed extranet from their service provider, Vance said.

Managed network provider NCS Datacom in Richmond Heights, Ohio, has found value in many of these new features. In addition to connectivity, NCS Datacom provides secure remote access. With multiple clients using similar services, this new product helps NCS to keep client traffic separate from internal data, said Jeff McConocha, the company's president. And the SSL approach works far better than other approaches for secure access, he said.

"SSL VPNs are much easier to control and manage than typical IPsec solutions," he said. He added that the upgrade was much more granular and scalable.

The Secure Access product line begins at $6,995.

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