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Ascend secures remote access

Stepping up pressure on its networking competitors, Ascend unveils remote access equipment with tighter security.

Stepping up pressure on its networking competitors, Ascend Communication (ASND) today announced new remote access hardware and software for the Internet.

Ascend's new SecureConnect family of software adds encryption and virtual private network (VPN) capabilities to all routers in its Pipeline series, as well as to some Max switches, by implementing the IP Layer Security protocol. IPSec is under review by the Internet Engineering Task Force as a communication standard for firewalls and other security elements.

"SecureConnect allows for secure virtual private networks for dial-up or leased-line users," said Dave Dawson, Ascend's general manager, network security. "It gives a company a way to outsource its wide area network (WAN) safely to ISPs. Your traffic going over the Internet is then more secure than on a leased-line network."

SecureConnect software has IPSec-compliant encryption that allows users on a virtual private network to connect to a central router over the Internet through an encrypted tunnel.

Dataquest chief analyst Bobbi Murphy said the SecureConnect software puts Ascend ahead of networking rivals.

"Right now Ascend is the most aggressive in this area, although all the vendors are adding these [software] features," Murphy said.

The new hardware, Pipeline 220, goes at the high end of Ascend's Pipeline family and is designed for the remote access market, targeted at ISPs, midsized companies, and branch offices.

With SecureConnect software, Pipeline 220 can handle VPNs. It also includes Ascend's Secure Access dynamic firewall technology and multiprotocol routing and bridging.

The new router is designed for high-bandwidth applications where multiple LAN segments or VPNs are desired. Pipeline 220 is configured with two 10Base-T Ethernet local area network (LAN) ports and a software configurable T1 or V.35 wide area network (WAN) port.

Software-activated, port-level configuration allows customers to provide public access to Web sites while protecting sensitive internal data through a choice of security options.

"You can put the Secure Access firewall on any or all of the three interfaces for security solutions," said Bert Forbes, Ascend's Pipeline product manager.

Pipeline 220 is available now at a base retail price of $2,995. It supports a large number of user authentication and network access servers including Ascend MAX WAN access switches. Options for Ascend's firewall run $2,000 and the VPN capability is $1,500, Forbes said.

SecureConnect software is available now for Pipeline 50 and 75 routers for $500; for the 220 for $2,000; and $99 for a SecureConnect personal edition for remote users. Package pricing also is available, and the products are sold through Ascend resellers.