BlueSocket: Easy, Effective, Expensive

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The company's appliance encrypts traffic coming through wireless access points and authenticates users. But it does not come cheap.

Imagine you've just been asked to build a secure wireless local-area network in an office building. Maybe you can sniff out and eliminate rogue access points, but there's no way you can control the variety of laptops and handheld devices from which users will try to log onto your network.

Wireless-network gateways from Bluesocket and competitors are designed to solve that problem. These hardware appliances intercept all traffic passing through wireless access points and can encrypt and authenticate it. Bluesocket's gateways may not be cheap—entry-level enterprise versions start at $6,000, and users say they're still missing some features—but they're relatively effective and easy to deploy. And the best part? Because they don't require client software they work with any laptop as well as any standard access point.

That was a big selling point for Greg Folsom, a vice president at Boston advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. Arnold settled on Cisco access points when setting up a wireless network covering the company's 10-floor main office. But he balked at replacing existing wireless cards in his users' laptops with cards that could work with Cisco's security system. "Cisco cards can cost up to double what other cards cost, and we couldn't see doing that." So Folsom brought in the Bluesocket gateway, which, when linked to the company's NT domain server, could authenticate wireless users regardless of their hardware.

Some network managers, have spotted shortcomings with Bluesocket. Christopher Misra, a network analyst at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst plans to use Blue-socket because its product can accommodate a variety of wireless clients more easily than the Cisco virtual private network he's now using. But, says Misra, the Bluesocket gateway would ease the load on the school's network staff if it could be managed using the university's existing network-management software. Blue-socket executives say they're working on that.

Eventually, wireless-network access-point vendors may agree on a strong security standard. When they and laptop and chip vendors widely support that standard, wireless secu- rity may no longer require an add-on gateway appliance. "We may end up replacing Bluesocket," says Folsom. "But we needed a solution back in June, so we rolled the dice and paid $6,000 for the Bluesocket."

7 New England Park, Fourth Floor,
Burlington, MA 01803 (781) 328-0888

Employees: 70

Eric Janszen
Named CEO in 2001. Previously managing director of Osborn Capital, an angel investment fund. He's also held management positions at Cayman Systems, CenterLine Software and eRoom.

Dave Juitt
Chief Technology Officer
Responsible for assessing customer requirements, building products. Previously CIO of Redwood Investment Systems, in Boston.

Bob Darabant
VP, Worldwide Sales
Manages sales and sales support for 150 partners, system integrators, and resellers in 38 countries.

Bluesocket Wireless Gateway appliances intercept, authenticate, and encrypt traffic moving to and from wireless access points from a variety of vendors.

Reference Checks

Arnold Worldwide
Greg Folsom
VP, I.T.
Project: Advertising firm chose Blue-socket's gateway to accommodate a variety of wireless-access cards used by its staff, and to authenticate users using its existing NT domain.

Lasell College
Deborah Gelch
Project: Uses Bluesocket to authenticate users to the existing protocol for accessing information directories, and to dole out wireless bandwidth.

Morehouse School of Medicine
Marie Johnson
Director, Network Operations
Project: A 50-access-point network authenticates users with a Bluesocket gateway.

University of Texas at Dallas
Doug Jackson
Director of Technology, Customer Services
Project: The 12,000-student school deployed Bluesocket's gateway last year to authenticate wireless users at student apartments.

Harvard Medical School
Joe Bruno
Associate Dean, I.T.
Project: A Bluesocket gateway authenticates users who seek only Internet access. Users who want wireless access to enterprise applications must authenticate using a Cisco virtual private network.

Provo Public Library
Gery Gagnon
I.T. Manager
(801) 852-6650
Project: A Bluesocket gateway provides encryption and authentication.

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

This article was originally published on 2003-11-01
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