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ANS launches new firewall service

Companies that manage intranets are attracting great interest among ISPs hoping to weather the entry of phone companies into their markets.

On the eve of a major ISP trade show in San Francisco, two network providers today said they're launching new initiatives for companies that want to outsource their intranets.

Today ANS Communications, a subsidiary of America Online (AOL) announced a service to manage security for corporate intranets, including the ability to manage firewalls from different vendors.

Separately, AimQuest said its outsourced intranet and roaming service for mobile users will be available through a global consortium of ISPs and telephone carriers called Global Reach Internet Connection Alliance (GRIC).

Such services are attracting great interest among ISPs hoping to weather the entry of phone companies into their markets. Industry analysts however are split on whether it's a long-term survival strategy.

"ISPs must concentrate on more than plain old access," said Eric Paulak, an analyst with Gartner Group. For business-oriented ISPs, he mentioned security services, virtual private networks (VPNs), and remote administration of corporate networks as new revenue sources.

But another analyst warned last month that ISPs may find that outsourcing of corporate intranets is a business that evaporates quickly.

"We're seeing a trend away from [outsourcing intranets] in part because companies have more experience in Internet and intranet technologies," said Paul Johnson, who wrote a report on the topic for Business Research Group.

"In the long term, it's a better investment for them to manage in-house," Johnson added. Nonetheless, ISPs like Network Intensive see an enduring opportunity in helping companies set up, then manage their intranets, in part because expertise is in short supply.

The ANS InterManage service allows organizations to outsource all their network security requirements. ANS supports its own ANS InterLock firewall, plus firewalls from Check Point Software Technologies and Raptor Systems. Those firewalls offer encryption, virus-scanning for email, and filtering Java Applets, JavaScript, and ActiveX.

Pricing for the ANS service starts at $2,000 month for up to 200 users.

The AimQuest service, designed in part as a "roaming" service for mobile workers, is based on tunneling, firewall, and encryption capabilities from Digital Equipment's (DEC) AltaVista software. It also uses AimQuest's access software, AimTraveler Corporate.

The service will be sold through nearly 150 GRIC members, including Netcom, Prodigy, Singapore Telecom, NEC, Fujitsu, KDD, Malaysia Telecom, Finland Telecom, Korea PC Telecom, FranceNet, Cybernet AG, Hong Kong Telecom, Samsung, Hyundai, Chungwha Telecom, Telstra, and DTI Mitsubishi.

The AimQuest offering is available on DEC Unix 4.0, Windows NT on Intel, and Windows NT on Alpha.