Qwest Jumps Into VPN Fray With CoSine Buy

DENVER (02/10/2000) - By year-end, users will be able to turn to Qwest Communications International Inc. for all things VPN, including services that take the hassles out of setting up secure Internet-based networks and drastically reduce capital costs.

Qwest last week made a deal to buy a rumored $15 million to $20 million worth of virtual private network gear from CoSine that the carrier will use to create VPNs within Qwest's network. Customers will just need to buy an access line to tap in to the VPN services.

While Qwest won't say exactly what its service plans are, a spokeswoman says the carrier plans to announce packages based on CoSine gear, also by year-end.

These services will likely include firewalls, as well as the ability for customers to monitor traffic in real time. Customers would be able to add and delete users from VPNs as well.

"You don't do this just for an experiment, you do this for a rollout," says Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist with Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers who has invested in CoSine and who sits on the board of Qwest.

From the estimated size of the purchase, Qwest will be able to buy 15 to 20 CoSine boxes, enough to roll out VPN services to major cities nationwide, says Michael Howard, an analyst with Infonetics Research.

A big plus for users is that the VPN gear would reside in the carrier network, reducing the amount of investment that customers have to make in hardware when they want to set up a VPN, he says.

In addition, customers should find it easier to set up VPNs with business partners, Howard says. Because Qwest could set up the VPN, customers don't have to spend resources on it, saving time and money.

While a VPN service has its advantages, customers have to trust the security of the access link into Qwest's network because that connection would be unprotected by the VPN. The VPN encryption would create tunnels only between Qwest points of presence, securing data as it crosses the network.

CoSine's gear incorporates Network Associate's Gauntlet firewall, which supports site-to-site as well as dial-up IP Security encryption. The box can also be used to aggregate digital subscriber line traffic from multiple DSL multiplexers and drop it onto core routers or switches.

In addition to the IPSX 9000, CoSine's IP service platform includes service management software called InVision, which gives customers visibility into their VPN and lets them directly control user lists.

Customers could also submit firewall policy changes through InVision, but the change would have to be installed by a technician.

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