SonicWall Looks to Expand SSL VPN Space

The company's new offering is the first since it acquired rival Aventail six months ago.

Roughly six months after SonicWall snapped up Aventail, the newly merged network security company launched another entry into the SSL VPN space as it prepares to pursue a more comprehensive network security strategy.

"When we were Aventail, we were just an SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] VPN provider," said Chris Witeck, director of product management at SonicWall. "If you look at how SSL VPNs are deployed, they are deployed most often behind a firewall, behind a UTM [unified threat management] device, so that was one of the advantages that Cisco had over Aventail. Now that we're part of SonicWall and investing in this e-class architecture for selling to larger organizations, we want to position ourselves as a stronger competitor to Cisco because we have the enterprise-class firewall, the enterprise class-UTM devices, the enterprise-class SSL VPN."

SonicWall acquires Aventail. Read more here.

The new release of SonicWall's Aventail SSL VPN product, version 9.0, is a start down that path. Rolled out Jan. 11, it's the first release since the acquisition in July, and includes integration with SonicWall's GMS platform for centralized management and monitoring of multiple SonicWall devices, support for Mac OS X 10.5, and updated IPsec replacement features to lower the costs of replacing IPsec with SSL VPNs.

When SonicWall officials announced the acquisition of Aventail last year, one of their primary justifications for buying a fellow SSL VPN vendor was the opportunity to expand into the enterprise marketplace and compete against Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and others. Likewise, Aventail saw in SonicWall a chance to take advantage of the company's worldwide channel and expand beyond its direct-sales approach. After overcoming some challenges in the channel, the results so far have been good, Witeck said.

"We had to spend a lot of time and effort educating the SonicWall channel on what the benefits were of the Aventail solutions because SonicWall already had an SSL VPN that they were selling to the channel," he said.

The differentiator, he said, was the granular policy control of the Aventail product, which was aimed mostly at enterprise-level customers.

"What we've seen is we've been able to maintain a lot of our larger sales into enterprise organizations because we've maintained the Aventail sales force, but then what we've also started to see is the SonicWall channel is starting to embrace the Aventail products, so we've seen our volume go up a bit, which is nice," Witeck said.

Besides the policy controls, Aventail 9.0 has static IP assignment to provide support for applications that require a one-to-one mapping of IP address to user as well as features such as network precedence, which allows for the selection of the local network or the corporate network in the event of any conflicts between resources on the local network and resources on the corporate network.

"Ideally, we want the Aventail products to become stronger because we have the ability to sell the SonicWALL NSA [network security appliance] devices, and we want the SonicWALL NSA devices to be stronger because they have the ability to be sold with the SonicWALL Aventail SSL VPN, so this is really all about network security as a whole and really pushing towards that," Witeck said.