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SSL VPN: The Perils of Popularity

by on October 17, 2012

Lately, we’ve seen a lot of activity at Gotham clients regarding increasing the functionality their SSL VPN. Gotham has installed a lot of this technology and I was thinking about the early days of SSL VPN.

When SSL VPNs first came out, Gotham was one of the first movers in evangelizing what we thought was a great way to simplify access for individual users. During the education process we would eventually find ourselves in the office of whoever was running the traditional IPSEC VPN that was currently in use. The conversation typically went something like this.

VPN Guy: We already have a VPN. We don’t need any stinkin’ SSL VPN. (Points toward the door.)

Gotham: This is better than your current VPN. It’s easier to use.

VPN Guy: I use my VPN all of the time. It’s very easy to use. (Stands up and gestures toward the door.)

Gotham: Does your system have reports?

VPN Guy: Great reports. Terrific reports. Every report I could possibly need. (Begins to walk us out toward the door.)

Gotham: How many people log in on a typical night?

VPN Guy: I don’t know, not many. 20-30 people.

Gotham: And what’s the total percentage of your user population that has ever logged into the VPN at one time or another?

VPN Guy: Probably 3-4 percent of the users. Not many people need to log in after hours. Mostly just administrators and programmers.

Gotham: Listen, I want you to know that this comes from a place of deep respect and well meaning, but that’s just crazy talk. Lots of people would probably love to have remote access. They need it when they’re traveling, when something comes up after hours, or just to work from home once in a while. If only 3-4% of your users are using the VPN, that’s not because of the need, it’s because your service stinks and no one knows how to use it.

Fast forward a few years, and everybody has SSL VPNs. Large populations of our corporate users work from home and access corporate resources all the time from a variety of devices.

So what’s the new shortfall in SSL VPNs?

They’re a victim of their own popularity. The usage continues to increase as well the appearance of more and varied use cases. Increased consumerization and BYOD programs put increased requirements for a seamless login experience and appropriate end point evaluation processes. It’s not enough to just act as a conduit to virtual desktops. More companies are deploying mobile applications with an increased need to address internal application specific servers.

BTW, Citrix has responded to these needs with some great new features in their CloudGateway product. Here’s a recent announcement from the Synergy event in Barcelona this week –

From → Infrastructure

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