Duo to Tighten Up Handheld Security

Meru and Funk are readying products that secure large numbers of wireless users and devices.

As the number of networked wireless devices continues to rise in the enterprise, the challenge of securing them continues to grow as well.

For most IT managers, two basic options exist: Install a VPN or employ 802.1x authentication. Two companies are offering updates to both concepts with new wares that make it easier to secure large numbers of wireless users and devices.

Meru Networks Inc. will introduce this week a WLAN (wireless LAN) VPN module that supports Secure Sockets Layer, allowing a Web browser to handle the key exchange, while Funk Software Inc. rolls out Version 3.0 of its Odyssey Client next week.

Merus solution, the Meru Zero-Config VPN, enables remote users who connect to the network via a wireless handheld to hook up to a VPN automatically, without requiring the VPN to be installed on the handheld.

Regarding a beta tester in Boston, "in the past they used a Check Point [Software Technologies Ltd.] VPN, but they wanted something a little more integrated," said Mike Pease, a technical systems engineer at TelecomNow, a hardware reseller in Northboro, Mass., that installs WLANs for large enterprises. With the Meru product, Pease said, "they significantly cut down on the roaming time between physical access points."

The Meru Zero-Config VPN module can terminate more than 2,000 VPNs, said officials at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company, which was founded in 2002 and is venture-funded. The module sits inside the companys Controller, a gateway that centrally controls the security, management and quality-of-service policies of a WLAN.

"Because were terminating the VPNs, we can look at the headers," said Chris Gilby, a product manager at Meru.

This feature is augmented by Merus Air Traffic Control technology, which allows VPNs to stay connected even when a user roams from one access point to another, officials said.

The Zero-Config VPN module, which was created in conjunction with Cavium Networks Inc., supports Microsoft Corp.s Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Support for handheld platforms, including Pocket PC and Palm OS, is due next quarter. The module is available now for $3,000. The Controller in which it sits costs about $8,000.

Next page: 802.1x security options.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...