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SSL VPN Secures iPhone, Extranet Sessions

Silicon Valley startup gets more mileage out of its VPN

With iPhones becoming popular within the company, RingCube Technologies Inc. recently extended its internal SSL VPN to offer secure access to the Apple smartphone and other mobile devices. The startup also now uses the virtual private network (VPN) to share data with its business partners.

The Silicon Valley virtualization company, which sells a desktop virtualization product, started with IPSec-based Cisco VPN appliances between its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and software development team in India. Most of the company’s employees work at headquarters, while a small group of salespeople are scattered throughout the U.S. RingCube’s users also needed access to company resources while working at home or traveling on the road.

So it considered expanding the Cisco VPN to user laptops and mobile devices. “We used the Cisco system in a pilot, but found that it required too much overhead to roll out to all of our users,” says Doug Dooley, senior director of marketing for RingCube. But anecdotal stories of batteries dying quickly and slow performance made the company look for another option.

RingCube then selected Juniper’s Secure Access (SA) clients, and has a management system that was easier to operate than the Cisco option. So RingCube installed SA 4500 and SA 2500 VPN boxes at headquarters, and an SA 700 at its India office.

That opened the door for RingCube to better share data with its business partners. RingCube works closely with VMware, RSA, Microsoft, and IBM, for instance, and in many cases, its users need to transfer very large files -- often over 100 Mbytes -- to those firms. “We wanted to use FTP [file transfer protocol] to transfer some of the large files, but our customers felt it was insecure,” says Charles Moore, director of operations for RingCube.

RingCube instead had been sending DVDs back and forth to its partners, an expensive and inefficient process. So last year it deployed an extranet feature that was added to the Juniper SSL appliances, and it now uses a VPN connection to transfer files to business partners.

Meanwhile, the company’s flexible technology policy for its users -- they can purchase and use just about any type of handheld device -- was getting out of hand. A growing number of employees were buying Apple iPhones and needed to use the synching function to perform tasks such as email. Once Juniper added iPhone support to the SA VPN late last year, RingCube added that feature to secure iPhone connections.

“The Juniper appliance has been like a Swiss Army knife,” RingCube’s Moore says. “We have found a number of uses for it beyond what we originally anticipated.”

Still, RingCube’s network administrators would prefer that the Juniper VPN appliances include a command line interface rather than a graphical one, and RingCube’s own virtualization software does not run with Juniper’s Web conferencing features in the product.

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  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

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