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Nortel tech to give secure Net connections

The networking equipment maker will introduce a revamped line of switching devices to allow mobile PC users secure connections to networks through the Net.

Nortel Networks next week will introduce a revamped line of switching devices that will allow mobile PC users to create secure connections to their corporate networks through the Internet.

Nortel Networks' additions to the equipment--acquired when the former Bay Networks teamed with New Oak Communications early last year--includes support for twice as many users as previous models and integrates Check Point Software Technologies' firewall software, said Patrick Grillo, the company's VPN product marketing manager.

Faster processors have helped Nortel enhance the performance of its switching technology, he said.

The new 1500 model, with a 300-MHz Intel Celeron chip, supports 100 simultaneous "tunnels," or secure connections over the Internet, while the 2500 model, with a 333-MHz Pentium II chip, supports 400 tunnels. The high-end 4500 model, with a dual 450-MHz Intel Xeon chip, supports 4,000 simultaneous users, according to the company.

Networking firms like Nortel and 3Com are actively pursuing the remote access device market. Their goal is to create virtual private network (VPN) technology that lets remote users securely transmit data to and from a central corporate hub using the public Internet.

In addition to remote users and branch offices, Grillo said Nortel Networks is targeting businesses that want their partners and suppliers to have access to corporate Web sites.

The revamped switches are identical in price to their predecessors. The 1500 switch, which replaces Nortel's 1000 switch, costs $7,000. The 2500 model costs $20,000, while the 4500 model is priced at $50,000.

Separately, in July Nortel plans to release policy-based management software that assigns priority to applications transmitted on a network. For example, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application from Oracle would be given higher priority over an email message on a corporate network.

Optivity Policy Services 1.0 features a Java-based Web interface and will support Microsoft's Windows NT and Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system. The software is also designed to handle management of Internet-based phone calls.

The software can work with Nortel's line of routers as well as those from competitor Cisco Systems, according to Nortel executives. It will also support Nortel Networks' Accelar and Passport switches this fall. No pricing has been announced.

A 2.0 version of the software--to be released in late 1999 or early 2000--will feature improved security and real-time decision-making, executives said. Through the support of new networking standards, version 2.0 can authenticate users before allowing access to a network.