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Bay, Ascend vie in VPN market

Bay Networks and Ascend Communications are two of many firms rolling out plans to add support for secure connections across the Net.

Bay Networks and Ascend Communications are two of many firms that aim to use the stage of the largest networking trade show of the year to roll out plans to add support for secure connections across the Net.

Those plans include adding particular wrinkles in attempts to stand out amid one of the most hyped technologies of the year.

What is everyone rattling on about? VPNs, or virtual private networks. The umbrella term covers a set of protocols that allow users to implement a secure connection across the public network using tunneling and encryption technologies. Some are targeting emerging extranet commerce settings as a potential bonanza, with partners able to access closely held information from another company, if desired.

Ascend will announce a strategy to add VPN capabilities across its line of remote access equipment and wide area frame and cell-based switches at Networld+Interop this week. The networking player will be among several firms announcing VPN products and services at the show.

"We see the demand from our enterprise and service provider customers is huge," said Kurt Bauer, vice president of access product management at Ascend.

Dubbed "MultiVPN," the new strategy attempts to offer software and hardware options for both corporate enterprises and service providers, a key market for Ascend's remote access equipment. The new focus also wraps the company's IP Navigator bandwidth management and routing software as well as its Navis service-based network management tools.

To buttress the firm's efforts, Ascend pointed to several customers who are deploying VPN technologies, such as Kinko's and Infonet Services.

Separately, Bay will launch a new model based on technology acquired earlier this year from New Oak Communications. The device combines network access hardware with specialized software to facilitate VPN capabilities.

The new Extranet Switch 1000 model, to ship next week, is targeted for networks with the need to connect up to 50 simultaneous users and is priced at $7,000. The software component of the offering also ties into various directory services software packages from the likes of Novell and Microsoft, among others.

Various market research firms predict VPN-based equipment and services will become a multibillion-dollar market by the turn of the century.