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2/22/2008
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At Del Monte, New Apps Open a Can of Worms for Remote Access

Package of Cisco products helps food giant resolve security conundrum

The cracks were quickly becoming clearer in Del Monte’s remote access system. Tried and true solutions, such as Microsoft IP Sec Tunneling and Point-to-Point tunneling, were no longer a match for emerging Web 2.0 applications. Users were grumbling when they could not access needed data from home and sometimes livid when their network connection suddenly dropped. A change was needed, and fast.

The onus for fixing the problem fell to Dennis Tokarski, manager of telecommunications and network operations at Del Monte. At the start of 2007, he began to search for a new remote access solution for one of the country's largest and best known food suppliers.

The company, which has 3,000 employees, has developed many well established brands, including Del Monte, StarKist, Contadina, and Kibbles 'n Bits. The conglomerate, which generated $3.4 billion revenue in 2007, operates 40 remote sites across the US, Latin America, and South America. At those locations, hundreds of road warriors work from sales offices, regional headquarters, factories, and distribution centers to keep products moving from Del Monte farms to customers’ kitchens.

But problems arose as employees began working with modern networks and applications. Emerging high speed broadband networking technologies, such as Verizon’s FiOS, did not work with the established tunneling protocols. Sophisticated peer-to-peer applications required more bandwidth than the protocols typically could deliver.

As a first step, Tokarski turned to Gartner analysts to provide the food producer with a list of possible solutions. By the spring of 2007, Array Networks, Checkpoint Software Technologies, Cisco Systems Inc., F5 Networks, and Juniper Networks were called in to outline how their products could help solve Del Monte’s problem.

Cisco’s ASA 5580 security appliance was chosen as the best fit at the start of the summer. The commands needed to set up and manage the device were familiar to Del Monte network technicians. The company relies heavily on the network equipment vendor to support its networking needs, using Cisco 2600, 2800, and 3800 routers; Catalyst 2950 and 3750 switches; and Cisco’s Call Manager VOIP unified messaging package.

“We wanted to make sure that our VOIP connections could be secured,” Tokarski explained.

In addition, the food supplier found the remote access appliance’s teleworker features attractive. A small ASA device could be installed quickly in a small branch office or an employee’s SOHO. Plus, IT administrators at the food producer found it easy to customize the device’s portal.

Del Monte encountered a few bumps during the ASA 5580's deployment, which was completed by the end of August and cost approximately $100,000. “The ASA’s integration with Java could have been tighter,” Tokarski explained. “Our applications rely on different versions of Java and a few of them would not load.” The company worked with The Presidia Group, a Cisco reseller, to solve the problems.

Also, the security appliance’s flexibility presented a challenge. Users can be granted access to or restricted from working with virtually any application.

“We are still tinkering with some of our policies and trying to determine which applications different types of employee should be able to access,” Tokarski explained.

Despite these issues, the food producer feels good about its decision. “Moving forward, we are in a much stronger position now than we were a year ago, in making sure that our employees have safe, secure access to corporate information,” Tokarski said.

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