Aventail: Knocking Out Kinks
Aventail customers commend the companya pioneer in the SSL VPN spacefor 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 configurefor 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."
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