SSL VPN provider aims at smartphone market

Seattle-based remote access firm Aventail announced Monday that its remote access SSL VPN solution is now available for smartphones.

Demand for the ability to push applications out to smartphone users led to Aventail’s extending its remote access suite to include Connect Mobile, which is in beta right now and is expected to hit in mid-summer. It is compatible with both Windows Mobile 5 and the new Windows Mobile 6.

“There has been a greater recognition of mobile devices and smartphones as part of the remote access infrastructure,” said Aventail’s director of product marketing, Chris Witeck. “The importance of mobile devices is that they’re even more mobile than laptops, and more and more employees have access. Windows Mobile is another platform that needs secure applications.”

The company said that it is the only SSL VPN vendor offering a smartphone solution right now. “There hasn’t been a lot of activity,” said Witeck.

Connect Mobile has many security features, according to Witeck. “The system can take a look at the phone and identify it and determine if it is secure — whether it has anti-virus, whether there is an IT-trusted watermark,” he said.

“It’s a highly configurable product,” according to vice-president of marketing Sarah Daniels, who said that the IT manager has a variety of access controls. “It puts the power in the hands of the IT manager. You can set the conditions for which access is immediately denied.”

The IT manager can also apply settings that allow users to only access certain applications. “This way, the IT manager can consider the right level of security for that particular user, and what applications work on the mobile phone,” said Witeck.

He stressed the consistency of the solution, which works between different networks, and acts as a single integrated solution (which can be meshed with Aventail’s other Microsoft-based remote access products, too). Daniels said that this offers a significant cost advantage over “niche” players like Research in Motion, which require the purchasing and setting up of separate infrastructure.

Set-up can be aided by Aventail’s people, but a wizard makes for an easy integration, according to Witeck.

Jonathan Perret, IT Remote Connectivity analyst at Chevron PetroChemical, a joint venture between parent company Chevron and ConocoPhillipsSP, said that his company has been actively banning its employees from using smartphones and PDAs — including the popular Research In Motion BlackBerry — for the last several years.

Despite many requests by individual users to bring their personal BlackBerry devices into the office, the firm waited until it could get in hand Windows Mobile devices that would allow for enforcement of the same types of policies it has created for securing its desktops.

“We knew we would only use Windows Mobile, and we waited for it because it’s the platform we felt we could secure most easily and at the lowest cost,” Perret said. “This process of adopting smartphones is all about extending your network onto a new platform and addressing the challenges of that platform, and we felt Windows Mobile presented fewer challenges.”

In the wake of Palm’s announcement of a new Linux-based operating system, Witeck said that the company is going to keep an eye on the smartphone market to monitor customer uptake of the new Linux-enabled Treos. Original smartphone operating system research from IT research firms Gartner Research and Forrester Research indicated that Windows Mobile was the operating system of choice, due to its well-rounded features, including a low-cost footprint and easily-managed security features.

If the Linux play pans out, said Witeck, Aventail already has experience developing agents for Linux-based laptops.

–with files from IDG Newswire

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