A Slam Dunk for New VPNs

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-03-11 Print this article Print

IP security VPNs are a good way for individual users to connect into a corporate network. They're extremely ill-equipped, however, for connecting corporate applications, especially when two companies are involved.

IP security VPNs are a good way for individual users to connect into a corporate network. Theyre extremely ill-equipped, however, for connecting corporate applications, especially when two companies are involved. The reasons are simple: Its very difficult to manage two or more networks using a single virtual private network infrastructure because doing so means coordinating two IT departments. Just imagine the hassles of managing security keys when one of those companies is not located in the same region and time zone.

Worse still, IPSec VPNs tunnel IP traffic, whereas many legacy applications are not based on IP. In fact, the older the infrastructure, the more likely that X.25 and SNA protocols will be in place, and the data from these systems simply doesnt pass over IP-based VPNs.

Flatrock Inc.s Instant Extranet solves problems related to VPN management and ease of use, but its not the only solution for some of these issues. Slam Dunk Networks Inc. (www.slamdunknetworks.com) has a network infrastructure that is a better alternative to VPNs. Although Slam Dunk and Flatrock share some similar aspects, the two take different tacks.

Flatrocks Instant Extranet, for example, is built on the concept of ease of use via PAR (Provider Application Router) and SAR (Subscriber Application Router) hardware appliances running Linux and some proprietary applications that use IPSec Triple Data Encryption Standard and Blowfish encryption algorithms to secure traffic across the Flatrock TruTunnels. As such, Instant Extranet tunnels only IP traffic over User Datagram Protocol Port 5000. If SNA is involved, Flatrocks solution can incorporate Data Link Switching and tunnel those packets over secure tunnels.

Slam Dunk, meanwhile, is a software solution and a network. Instead of the PARs and SARs that Flatrock uses, Slam Dunk uses adapters that, in most cases, sit before the firewalls and after the applications at each end point. The adapters directly support common policies and standards, including SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, for financial applications—Slam Dunks biggest market.

As such, Slam Dunk can tunnel transactions over the network, regardless of the protocol. The adapters encrypt the entire transaction and make an exact copy of it that is blasted across two redundant networks. The redundant networks, meanwhile, ensure that the transaction is delivered to the end-point adapter, which then decrypts the transaction and discards the one that came in second place. Instant Extranet sends a single transaction across the public Internet.

At any time, Slam Dunk allows users to find the exact status of any transaction and guarantees the delivery of the transaction as well as meeting any time-based service-level agreements that might be in place. Instant Extranet does not have these capabilities.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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