Dell’s acquisition of SonicWall has started to bear fruit, at least with the latest edition of SonicWall’s Secure Remote Access product line.
The new SRA 4600, which started shipping in early November, is now emblazoned with Dell’s logo along with the established SonicWall brand name. Beyond the new packaging, the SRA 4600 is still all SonicWall on the inside—which is a good thing for those who have come to rely on earlier products from the company when it was still independent.
The primary purpose of the SRA 4600 is to bring secure remote access (hence the SRA moniker) to mobile workers across the enterprise, effectively extending a secure network connection out to road warriors, remote offices, and even bring your own device (BYOD) practitioners, a group that is growing at a rapid pace.
Easy deployment and administration make the SRA 4600 a sensible choice for midsized enterprises that need to support a mobile and remote work force of up to 500 individuals, while providing a high level of protection to corporate applications.
However, the SRA 4600 does a lot more than just connect those remote workers. Several options, features and capabilities enhance the value of the device, while unifying the network access management of a remote work force. What’s more, the SRA 4600 includes capabilities, such as remote support (through a help desk remote-control portal) and collaboration.
The SRA 4600 comes as a 1U rack mounted device and sports four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the front of the unit. There is also a console port and a pair of USB ports. In most cases, you will only need to use the Ethernet ports, since the device can be set up just using an IP connection and a Web browser.
A power receptacle and a power switch are located on the back of the unit, as well as the cooling input and output ports. I found the device to be rather noisy, with a loud cooling fan. However, if installed in a rack, the noise will be drowned out by all the other rack mounted devices in the typical server rack.
While that may be a minor point, cooling is still an important consideration, and that noisy fan does move quite a bit of air, keeping the device cool to the touch. However, there are no dust filters, meaning that a controlled environment is the best place for the unit.
Cooling and dust concerns aside, I found the SRA 4600 very easy to deploy. It took little more than powering it up, connecting an Ethernet cable to a management PC and then temporarily setting up some TCP/IP systems to launch the browser-based console. The only way this could have been easier is if the SRA 4600 used Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) out of the box and a piece of client software for discovery was installed on a management system to “find” the device.
Nevertheless, since the device is designed to live in the network DMZ, DHCP IP assignment is probably not an option. That said, basic setup still proved straightforward and simple.
Things did get a little more complicated when it came to registering and licensing the SRA 4600. Licenses are delivered to the system using a service called MYSonicWall, which is a customer Website where I had to register the device and acquire the licenses.
SonicWall SRA 4600 Proves Easy to Set Up and Operate
Using the online registration and licensing system was not difficult. Having a central location to manage all your licenses is arguably a good thing, and more importantly, online registration, activation and licensing are becoming the standard with the majority of IT appliance vendors.
With the basics out of the way, I was able to quickly set up the multiple services the device offers. The browser-based management console was easy to navigate. The console offers a primary status screen, which gives a dashboard-like view into the functionality of the device.
At a glance, I was able to see the load on the device, alerts, ports in use and other critical bits of information on the dashboard. I was a little disappointed that the dashboard was not customizable and that I had to traverse multiple menus to drill down into other information. On the plus side, I found the management screens informative, once I drilled down into the elements on which I was trying to find information.
Management controls are divvied up by categories, which helps ease navigation through the management GUI. For example, if you want to define and manage portals, simply click on the “Portal” menu element. The same goes for NetExtender, EndPoint Control, Secure Virtual Assistant, Secure Virtual Meeting, Web Application Firewall, High Availability, Users, Logs and Virtual Office. Each menu element leads to the management screen for its corresponding service.
That proves more important than one may first realize. By using a divide-and-conquer methodology, Dell has made it much easier to manage the only parts of the SRA 4600 that you will use. That is an important point, since most buyers will probably already have services in place similar to Secure Virtual Assistant and Secure Virtual Meeting.
Life With the SRA 4600
With setup and basic deployment out of the way, the value of the SRA 4600 comes down to the services it can provide. That is where the device excels. Those services, which include remote access, BYOD mobility, wireless security, business continuity, Web application security, virtual meetings and remote support are combined in an easy-to-consume fashion—thanks to a design concept that leverages a portal approach.
Administrators simply set up a portal for users to access that is easy to define and can accommodate multiple links displayed as menu choices from which the user can select. Behind the scenes, the links on the portal page tie into the features defined by the administrator. I was able to quickly set up portal items for remote control, launching applications and starting up support sessions.
The SRA 4600 incorporates extensive security features, which can be integrated with other security applications on the network. For example, the SRA 4600 can be integrated with active directory to unify the log-on process and provide a single-sign-on experience. What’s more, the device incorporates Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN technology, as well as application security to create a fully secure remote-access environment.
The SRA 4600 provides a multi-tiered approach to remote access. The device can be configured as a Web-only access system, which eliminates the need for agent installation and leverages application offloading, a service that can leverage ActiveSync. What’s more, the Web-only methodology supports SharePoint, Intranet, webmail and other native applications, all without the need to install anything on the client PC.
The device also provides Layer-3 tunnel access, which creates a physical connection between the remote client PC and the internal network using an agent installed on the remote PC. That style of connectivity provides a complete “in-office” experience and supports terminal services, Citrix, Web apps, remote access, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and so on.