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Access that's not so remote

Access that's not so remote

The remote access market in Australia is still in a developmental stage. Emerging technologies are being trialled and tested, and the consumer market is being challenged to accept many products and systems. Durelle Fry looks at the pros and cons of what's on offer.

The waters are still very murky, but communications equipment vendors report significant growth with an expectation of even higher levels of sales in the future. The remote access market is still plagued by several problems, with enterprises demanding simpler and cheaper WAN solutions, greater access, security, reliability, usability and value. Vendors are striving to address these issues with their product range, but the increased adoption of remote access depends largely on the policies of the major telecommunications carriers.

Commenting on their positions in the remote access market in 1998 and their expected roles during 1999, the companies ARN spoke to are expecting continued growth.

Shiva's growth has exceeded the company's expectations, based on statistics from market research, and is expecting additional growth in the 56Kbps V.90 marketplace now that the standard has been ratified. This will only come into full effect, warns Gavin Rae, Shiva's country manager for Australia and New Zealand, when users have been educated about the use of 56Kbps V.90 modems and the need to connect to a digital server modem and the ISDN network (PRI or BRI) for 56Kbps speeds to be possible.

Shiva's new VPN product suite has also contributed to the company's strong position in the remote access market. Offering security, reduced communication costs and the opportunity to build a solution which is scalable and manageable, Shiva is expecting strong sales. A flow-on from interest in the VPN market, says Rae, is an increase in direct dial remote access requirements. He advises that while many users are expecting to do all of their remote access outsourced to an ISP, "we have a VPN calculator which calculates how much money a business can save by deploying a mix of direct dial and VPN access".

3Com has also seen a resurgence in the market during 1998, with the advent of V.90 technology, as well as initiatives within the market to increase the awareness of telecommuting and remote networking. During 1999, with the introduction of new technologies such as VOIP, 3Com perceives a further strong demand for its products.

Cabletron's variety of WAN and remote access products have either been developed internally or produced in partnership with other vendors. In Australia, the company's traditional market has been enterprise LAN switching and enterprise management, however Cabletron is refocusing on remote access and WANs to grow its market share with new products and solutions. This has come about, says Simon Rachowski, product marketing manager for Cabletron, because of new business requirements such as increased bandwidth in the WAN, voice and data convergence, and new applications based on the Internet. The company's commitment is evidenced by its acquisitions in this area. The most recent ones are FlowPoint Corporation (ISDN and DSL remote access products) and Ariel Communications SystemsÊGroupÊ(DSL Access Multiplexer products). Cabletron plans to release a number of new products to add to its existing range.

IBM views its share of the remote access market as part of its wider router business, as all IBM routers have in-built remote access features. IBM is seeing continued strong growth in the remote access area, particularly, as companies embrace an e-business roadmap for their IT strategies.

The change brought about in 1998 for Digi was due to the introduction of Microsoft and Novell's new and improved remote access and routing software. This followed Digi's introduction of its Server Based Communications (SBC) concept which is based upon open systems and, according to managing director Gary Spooner, "in essence combines these operating systems with Intel or Intel-compatible PCs or servers, and our AccelePort (analog) and DataFire (ISDN) and Sync2000 (Frame, X.21, X.25) communications cards to create Routers and Communications Servers".

Spooner believes 1999 will deliver opportunities based on this concept because of the cost effectiveness of SBC and its compelling business advantages. "We will remove the 'techno fud' which the Ciscos, Bays and 3Coms have created to reinforce their expensive, proprietary products." Spooner adds that Digi, in conjunction with partners such as Microsoft, Novell, Citrix, SCO, IBM, Acer and Sun, will assist the market to use remote access as a cost effective, easy to understand and use tool.

Sirius Technologies believes it is one of the few Australian-owned vendors aggressively competing in the remote access market. Despite increased challenges from major international companies this year, Cam Wayland, business strategy manager, believes the company has maintained its majority market share in the core area of modems and PC Card solutions. Modem sales were boosted in the retail sector by the establishment of a draft V.90 standard in February, and new desktop models such as NetComm's Roadster II 56 "have sold extremely well". Wayland is looking forward to further growth in V.90 sales through 1999 with the ITU's final ratification of the standard, and adds that Sirius will also target the "potentially huge" V.90 upgrade market. "There are more than 1.5 million non-56Kbps modems in Australia." New products under development by Sirius focus on the SME market and SOHO networking, an area identified by the company as likely to be one of the fastest growing sectors in 1999. An example is the new INTRA 4, a convenient and low-cost solution for SME's running Microsoft's NT-based Small Business Server, which has in-built RAS capabilities and only requires hardware.

Compaq believes remote access is one of the faster growth segments of the networking industry "because organisations worldwide are realising the benefits of distributed computing". The company is experiencing strong growth in the remote access market and this is expected to continue during 1999. Compaq's remote access solutions now include the recently announced line of Remote Access Servers. The company's RAS solutions leverage open architecture to provide "scalable solutions with low-cost entry points". Compaq offerings include Carbon Copy and support of emerging technologies such as ADSL and ISDN.

Challenges

Despite the growth of remote access in Australia, there are still many challenges which need to be addressed before remote access becomes more widely used at the business level.

According to Digi's Spooner: "The market has to be educated to remove the fear, sell it as a tool and make it simple, keep it inexpensive, base it around Best of Breed solutions and on Open Systems." Digi's new range of products, due for release in Australia in December/January 1999, will not require a modem for analog and users will be able to send and receive ISDN calls over the same chip and there will be 60 chips or DSP to a board.

Addressing the issues of cost and complexity, Sirius believes increased competition and larger manufacturing volumes have reduced the price of solutions and made them more affordable.

There is a need to educate and convince users of the benefits of teleworking and Internet access. While greater efficiencies and significant productivity gains are the biggest business advantages, the organisation has to be prepared for some changes in company culture. Workplace bounds need to be extended to allow employees to work from home, and employees themselves have to re-examine their working hours to incorporate the advantages of greater flexibility.

The policies of major telecommunications carriers also have a heavy influence on the increased adoption of remote access. The cost, accessibility and reliability of bandwidth services such as ISDN and DSL can affect the industry's growth. Cabletron's Rachowski believes these are the most important issues in the Australian market and the biggest problem he sees is the restriction to two carriers. Higher growth in the remote access market will only come about with increased competition, both in the service and access technologies offered to consumers. Rachowski believes emerging technologies such as DSL and the standardisation of VPN products will provide further opportunities.

Ease of installation of solutions for IT departments under pressure is another challenge. Sirius has addressed this issue providing "out-of-the-box" products in the company's newest range and those under development.

Shiva argues that many remote access servers on the market are not purpose built for the task of providing remote access. They are instead terminal servers revamped with PPP software and as a result require complex configurations and don't have comprehensive logging or monitoring features. Shiva has developed configuration software to address this issue.

The issue of security is being addressed via the Internet. With the increase in e-business and a greater flow of sensitive data to and from remote locations, network security becomes a critical issue. Easy access to the Internet and the emergence of a new TCP/IP security standard provides the user with a good cost-effective alternative to implementing a private remote access strategy. Remote LAN access can now be extended via the Internet using the new layer 2 tunnelling protocol L2TP to allow for full protocol support.

Choice of technologies

The Gartner Group has projected that by 2004, half of remote access will still be done by analog modems, with ISDN grabbing more than 30 per cent and the rest being shared by DSL, cable modems and other technologies such as wireless loop.

Sirius' Wayland agrees that 56Kbps modems will be around for several years to come because they offer a cost-effective and easily accessible bandwidth. Wayland added that Australia will probably see a widespread adoption of some form of DSL and ISDN could become more popular, but the perception remains that it is still far too expensive.

Compaq and Cabletron agree that developments in the Australian market will depend on the increased competition in the carrier and service market. Alex Gostin of Eicon Technology says that until there is legislation in place, carriers such as Telstra will have a monopoly and will dictate tariffs. There will be little competition and no justification for reducing tariffs.

Michael Boland, consulting systems engineer at Cisco Systems, reinforced that developments are up to the carriers. According to Boland, cable network technology, when it was first introduced, was largely dominated by video to the home, with very little data transfer. He believes that this mistargeted the market. Efforts should have been focused on remote users working from home with corporations paying their expenses. Boland believes it is possible for this new market to be reborn on cable, "but it is in the lap of the carriers".

Shiva believes that modems will remain popular while users don't perceive any gain from ISDN - "often viewed as more expensive rather than more responsive and flexible".

Digi's Spooner agrees that the future will centre around analog and ISDN but he says once the concept of remote access is understood, then the business sector will drive the deployment and utilisation of these services. Providers of services and manufacturers of communications equipment have been trialling and preparing for acceptance, "but it is up to the consumer to accept change".

Products

Cabletron

Cabletron provides ISDN and DSL solutions for both user access and the central office. For the central office, the CSX 550 remote access concentrator features a modular design with up to 4 PRI ports and 120 digital modems. The RRP is from $9580.

For the remote user or branch office, Cabletron offers SmartSwitch Router (SSR) 100 and 200 products. The SSR 100 features Ethernet to ISDN/BRI with POTS and hub options. The SSR 245 offers Ethernet to Ethernet for secure cable and DSL modem access. The SSR 250 features Ethernet to ADSL/DMT. Routing solutions include IP and IPX bridging, and security software options include VPN (L2TP, 56DES), and Firewall. The RRP of these products begins at $1250.

Compaq

Compaq has recently released a line of Remote Access servers based on Windows NT Server in its bid to become the biggest vendor of Windows NT Server RAS. The first of the three models is the 5208, which provides eight analog connections. The 5408 has eight ISDN BRI ports for up to 16 connections, and the 5601 has one ISDN PRI or T1 port for up to 24 connections, and scales up to four T1 or PRI lines. The two ISDN models offer full modem coverage for both analog and digital calls from remote users. Windows NT Server 4.0 operating system is pre-installed and is augmented by a suite of software for administration and reporting, and shared Internet access. The products support connectivity for portable users or telecommuters, connectivity between branch offices and corporate headquarters, connectivity to the Internet, and low-cost secure connectivity over the Internet. A choice of security mechanisms ensures only authorised remote users obtain access to the corporate network.

The server family can be implemented as an addition to existing networks. Users can continue to use the same management systems and administrative tools on existing servers.

All models are available now and come with a three-year parts and labour limited warranty. Compaq offers a range of service and support options that allow customers to tailor their response times and hours of coverage to suit individual requirements.

The RRP of the 5208 is from $11,607; the 5408 is from $18,611; and the 5601 is from $27,599.

Digi International

Digi International provides open system, server-based communications solutions. The company's new AccelePort Xr 920 intelligent asynchronous serial board provides up to 921.6Kbps throughput for servers requiring remote access by connecting high-speed modems and/or ISDN terminal adapters or serial connections for other high-speed peripheral devices. Operating systems supported include Windows NT, Novell NetWare, SCO OpenServer, Sun Solaris and Linux.

Gary Spooner, managing director of Digi Australia/NZ, says the new product has been designed to be a logical migration to meet the demand for high-speed communications solutions with both backwards compatibility and forward-looking technological enhancements.

Digi AccelePort Xr 920 is available in four and eight port versions and supports both PCI and ISA bus servers. The product ships modem-ready for easy installation and features 32-bit transmission, surge protection against hardware damage, and zero data loss for reliable and accurate I/O. Other features include powerful RISC processors and Digi's proprietary Front-End Processor/Operating System (FEP/OS) to reduce communications bottlenecks on the host processor.

The RRP (ex tax) of the AccelePort Xr 920 is from $524 to $1720.

Digi has also announced a new series of remote access servers which will be available in December. The Digi NSTM family includes adapter boards for high-speed analog, digital and hybrid protocol solutions in configurations of up to hundreds of integrated ports and offers "the highest concentration of modems on a single PC server card in the industry", according to the company. The solutions are provided for analog, ISDN, X.25, Frame Relay or T1 remote access and they expand Digi's existing range of DataFire, AccelePort and SyncPort lines of remote access products.

The new products will support Windows NT, Novell NetWare and a variety of UNIX platforms. They will also support a wide range of third-party security, accounting and network management packages. Aimed at corporate environments, ISPs and telephone company environments, the NS product family offers up to 60 (56Kbps) modems and up to 60 (64Kbps) ISDN B channels on a single PCI card. The first product that will be released will be the DataFire NS when an OEM agreement with one of the top five PC manufacturers is in place. Pricing is not yet available.

IBM

The IBM 2210 Nways Multiprotocol routers are multifunction, remote office devices that provide for Internet access, VPN support (IPSEC and L2TP), TN3270E support, multiprotocol support, and remote access. They can be tailored to enterprise network computing needs and offer connectivity and protocol support for environments from a small LAN through to a large TCP/IP-based WAN.

The most affordable models, the 1S4, 1S8, 1U4, and 1U8, are designed for the demands of small-business networking. They offer one Ethernet port for LAN architectures and either one serial WAN port or one ISDN BRI port (or allow concurrent serial WAN with a single ISDN B+D channel).

The midrange models, the 12T, 12E, 127, and 128, offer one Ethernet or token-ring LAN port and two serial WAN ports to support medium-sized businesses and larger branch offices. Some midrange models also provide a single ISDN BRI port.

The higher range models, the 14T, 24T, 24E, and 24M, double the connectivity and performance of other 2210 models. They can be configured with up to two LAN ports and four serial WAN ports to provide connectivity for large branch offices and regional locations. These models also include one adapter slot that supports the following adapters: four or eight port Dial Access Adapter; ISDN BRI; ISDN Quad BRI (S/T or U interfaces); ISDN PRI, channelised T1/E1/J1; 25Mbps ATM; or four or eight port WAN concentration.

The routers feature VPN-ready software, including IPSecurity for secure Internet connections at lower operating costs. Management software includes Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) support for enhanced multiprotocol network security. DIAL's remote LAN access functions and standard router functions are integrated and load balancing and high availability are provided by eNetwork Network Dispatcher.

Also featured are Enterprise Extender for higher session availability over a TCP/IP network, and Branch Extender which enlarges APPN networks to thousands of nodes. Native bridging and native APPN/HPR is available to exploit ATM. The RRP of the IBM 2210 Nways Multiprotocol Router begins at $2185 (ex tax).

Shiva

Shiva has been selling the LanRover D56 in Australia for the past few months. This product supports connection to the telephone network using PRI/E1 connection to the telco. The company is about to release a BRI option. With this option, users can initially start with a 4xBRI (eight channels) connection and then later as their connectivity requirements increase, upgrade to PRI (30 channels). The new D56 is targeted at the company requiring 56Kbps V.90 modem access, ISDN or GSM connectivity. The LanRover D56 allows dial in, dial out (COM port redirection) and LAN-to-LAN connectivity.

Available at the end of November, expected RRP for the LanRover D56 (BRI option - 12xV.90 modems) will be $10,000 to $12,000.

Sirius Technologies

Sirius mainly develops solutions for organisations of less than 200 employees, with a core focus on businesses employing less than 100 staff. Solutions are marketed under the brand names of NetComm, Banksia and Dataplex.

SmartModem56 from NetComm

Available now, this latest version of the SmartModem is now a dual-mode V.90/K56flex device which features enhancements to improve data security and point-to-point communications. It has been designed for corporations requiring secure communications such as banking, legal firms and government agencies.

The modem features 16-bit technology, DES encryption, password protection, Advanced Caller Identification, a 600-user security database, automatic redial, call logging, leased line operations, WinFax Pro communications software, 8:1 data compression delivering throughputs at up to 460.8Kbps, and statistical analysis. The RRP of the SmartModem56 is $549.

Roadster II USB from NetComm

Available in mid-November, this USB version of the Roadster II modem is claimed by Sirius to be the world's first Rockwell-powered, and Australia's first, USB modem. The modem does not need an external power pack, and is suited to any users with USB ports on their PCs.

Features include dual-mode V.90/K56flex, faster and more efficient throughputs, plug and play, WinFax Pro 8.0 voice/fax/data software, ergonomic design, Simultaneous Voice and Data, and software upgradeability. The RRP of the Roadster II USB is $299.

NetRamp A3 from Banksia

This product, available in November, is claimed to provide cost-effective and simultaneous Internet access for everyone in a small business. It features an Ethernet networking hub and serial connectors for up to three external modems; Easy IP software, COLT software; and "up to three times faster" browsing of Web pages. The RRP of the NetRamp A3 is less than $800.

INTRA 4 PCI from Banksia

Also available from November, this product is a remote access card that connects an office computer or network to the outside world via multiple phone lines, and satisfies dial-up communications needs.

It has been designed for small-to-medium enterprises with remote access requirements. When combined with off-the-shelf remote access software, the INTRA 4 provides remote users with the ability to interact online by remote login, by file transfer or by remote network connection.

Features include plug and play; four 56Kbps modems (software upgradeable to V.90); voice/fax/data capability; onboard dedicated acceleration hardware; and full integration with the server. The RRP of the INTRA 4 is less than $1500.

Future solutions from Sirius

Acting on its judgement that home networking will be the major growth area, together with SOHO networking products, Sirius is developing a new generation of SOHO solutions. The new products will be low-cost and multifunctional and will offer features such as a modem, hub, printer sharing and easy remote access.

CONTACTS

Banksia

Tel (02) 9424 2000

Cabletron

Tel (02) 9950 5900

Compaq

Tel (02) 9911 1999

Digi International

Tel (02) 9929 0299

IBM

Tel 13 2426

NetComm

Tel (02) 9878 7333

Shiva

Tel (02) 9959 2293


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