Aventail: Knocking Out Kinks

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-02-07 Print this article Print

Aventail may have improved features and reliability with recent releases, but at least one customer is still sore over past product glitches.

Aventail customers commend the company—a pioneer in the SSL VPN space—for making its appliances more stable and delivering richer features with recent releases. But at least one customer says older versions of its products gave him major headaches.

Robert Bruce, senior network analyst at Houston law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, says Aventail has "dramatically improved" its Web access features in version 8.6 of its software, released last fall. For example, its appliance now allows someone using a Web browser to connect directly to Microsoft's Windows Terminal Server. "They've been very good about bringing new features to the table," Bruce says.

Aventail's administration screens also are a lot better than they used to be, according to George Sanchez, director of information systems at Blue Mountain Health System in Lehighton, Pa. Older versions, he says, were "a little bit cryptic" to configure—for example, setting up the system previously required a physical serial-port connection, and menus were text-based. Now, says Sanchez, Aventail provides graphical Web screens and remote administrative features.

Not everyone, however, sings Aventail's praises. Michael Smith, manager of distributed computing at propane retailer AmeriGas Partners, is still smarting from what he says were ongoing problems with Aventail products.

After AmeriGas rolled out three EX-1500 appliances in August 2004, Smith found that version 7.2 of Aventail's code did not work with several Web-based applications AmeriGas used, including Macromedia's Breeze e-learning software. Aventail confirms that some Web applications didn't work properly with 7.2, but says version 8.6 fixes these issues.

Smith contacted Aventail technical support, which told him to turn on the appliances' logging feature. He says this actually made things worse, causing lockups about once per week. (Aventail acknowledges that some logging features in 7.2 would "affect the performance of the appliance.") After three months of "agony," Smith claims he contacted Aventail CEO Evan Kaplan for help, at which point the company released a fix; Aventail says it's not unusual for Kaplan to speak with customers.

An Aventail spokeswoman says the company has "tried to go above and beyond" to assist AmeriGas. But Smith is still frustrated. "The product caused me great grief with my management," he says, adding: "They've been maturing their firmware, but there's still a lot to be desired."

Secure Remote Access

808 Howell St.
Seattle, Wa 98101
(206) 215-1111

TICKER: Privately held

Evan Kaplan
President & CEO
Co-founded Aventail in 1996. Previously, he was director of business development and product line manager at WRQ, a mainframe-access software company that merged with Attachmate in 2005.

Chris Hopen
Before starting the company with Kaplan, he was director of network technology for CompuServe's Internet unit and once worked for Boeing.

EX-750 appliance provides SSL-encrypted access to files and applications for up to 25 concurrent users. EX-1500 supports up to 100 concurrent users and EX-2500 supports up to 2,000; both models provide fail-over and load-balancing between two appliances.
Reference Checks

Analog Devices
Don Balunos
Admin., Information Security
Project: Chip maker in Norwood, Mass., uses Aventail appliances to let 1,000 employees and partners access applications and data.

James Richardson International
Paul Beaudry
Dir., Technical Services
Project: Grain and oilseed processor uses two EX-1500s to let 800 employees access e-mail and other information and also provide data securely to five partners.

Amerigas Partners
Michael Smith
Mgr., Distributed Computing
Project: Propane retailer in King of Prussia, Pa., uses three EX-1500s to connect 200 employees in some of its 700 offices.

Blue Mountain Health System
George Sanchez
Dir., IS
Project: Health-care company with two hospitals in eastern Pennsylvania runs an EX-750 to provide physicians access to a Siemens Medical patient information system.

Radiology Ltd.
Ben Armstrong
Asst. Dir., I.T.
Project: Provider of radiology services in Tucson, Ariz., uses two EX-1500s to provide 600 physicians and employees access to billing and transcription systems.

Fulbright & Jaworski
Robert Bruce
Senior Network Analyst
Project: Houston-based law firm with 950 attorneys uses an EX-1500 to give employees access from home computers or other remote locations.

Executives listed here are all users of Aventail's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Annual sales*: $19.6M (Synergy Research Group est.)
Total funding to date: $113M
Investors: Alliance Capital Management, Essex Investment Management, Fidelity Ventures, Focus Ventures, GRP Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Millennium Technology Ventures, Morgan Stanley, Oak Investment Partners, Pivotal Asset Management, Trinity Ventures, XMLFund, Internap Network Services, SAIC Venture Capital, VeriSign
* For 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2005

Financial Services: Aetna, H&R Block
Health Care: Cerner, Mount Sinai NYU Health
Manufacturing: DuPont, FMC, Sanyo
Retail: Circuit City Stores, Office Depot, Petsmart
Service Providers: AT&T, MCI, Sprint

Oxfordshire, U.K.; Frankfurt, Germany; Paris; Bangalore, India; Singapore; Hong Kong; Tokyo; Melbourne, Australia


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