Security Startups Thrive

A select group of startups offering dedicated 802.11 security devices are doing great business off the back of growth in wireless enterprise networks, according to the latest Wireless Oracle report: 802.11 Security Checkpoint.

Based on a conservative analysis, data in the report shows these firms will have an addressable market of $500 million by 2006.

The report also argues that the startups are well positioned to compete alongside virtual private networks (VPNs) as well as the new WiFi Protected Access (WPA) and 802.11i security systems set to hit the market in 2003 and 2004 (see 802.11 Security Issues Sorted?).

Vendors in this space include Bluesocket Inc., Cranite Systems Inc., Fortress Technologies Inc., ReefEdge Inc., and Vernier Networks Inc.

Typically, such security devices consist of servers or gateways that sit behind a number of access points to aggregate traffic and apply security policies and network permissions. But each vendor has a slightly different take on how best to do this. Fortress Technology and Cranite Systems, for example, both use Layer 2 encryption; while Bluesocket, ReefEdge, and Vernier operate at Layer 3.

From a security point of view, the relative merits of Layer 2 and Layer 3 are moot, although Cranite Systems claims it is the first to implement the new Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) that is mandated for the transmission of sensitive, non-military U.S. government data. [Ed. note: Is there any non-military U.S. government data these days?]

Table 1: Comparison of WLAN Security and Management Devices
Vendor Known funding to date Product Capacity Unencrypted (Mbit/s) Capacity Encrypted(Mbit/s) .11b APs supported Cost Layer
Bluesocket Inc. $23M WG 2000 300 150 (3DES) 40-60 $11,500 3
WG 1000 100 30 (3DES) ~5 $6,000 3
Cranite Systems Inc $15M WirelessWall Access Controller-1500 Not specified Not specified 150 users �Similar to VPN prices� 2
WirelessWall Access Controller-500 Not specified Not specified 50 users �Similar to VPN prices� 2
Fortress Technology Inc. $13M AirFortress 1100 Not specified Not specified Not specified $1,494 2
AirFortress 6500 Not specified Not specified Not specified $4,864 2
ReefEdge Inc. $28.8M Connect Server 100 100 85 (3DES) 20 $7,500 3
Connect Server 50 100 40 (3DES) 4-6 $6,000 3
Edge Controller 25 Not specified 6 (3DES) 3-5 $1,000 3
Edge Controller 100 Not specified 85 (3DES) 30 $3,750 3
Edge Controller 200 Not specified 200 (3DES) ~90 Not disclosed 3
Vernier Networks Inc. $34.75M Integrated System 6500 300 Not specified 40-60 $7,995 3
Control Server 6500 300 Not applicable $6,495 3
Access Manager 6500 300 40-60 $3,695 3
Source: Company data, reseller price lists, Wireless Oracle estimates

Ironically, given their current success, these vendors do not see security as their core long-term value proposition and therefore are not concerned about the emergence of the WPA and 802.11i security standards based on the 802.1x authentication protocol.

“At the link-layer it’s right to have standard security mechanisms, and it’s to our benefit that standards are taking over encryption,” Evan Sohn, vice president for marketing at ReefEdge, told the Wireless Oracle.

Instead, these vendors are talking up their wireless network management capabilities such as class-of-service bandwidth allocation, granular access permissions, and enabling users to roam among access points without losing their connections -- all of which, they claim, gives them significant advantages over any other solutions.

“VPNs do have a lot of security and control mechanisms,” explains Martin Cassidy, marketing director at Bluesocket. “But no VPN gives you mobility between subnets. We’re talking secure mobility.”

To date, the market would seem to agree. One vendor claims that revenue growth is running at 40 percent quarter-on-quarter and is expected to accelerate through 2003, while other anecdotal evidence from recent customer wins also suggests these products are poised for a period of rapid expansion.

The full report is available now for $400. An annual subscription to Wireless Oracle is ordinarily $1,250 but is currently available at the special introductory price of $899. For more details, including subscription information and research examples, visit www.wireless-oracle.com.

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

Editor’s note: Neither Light Reading nor Unstrung is affiliated with Oracle Corporation

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