VPN/firewall hardware that can grow with your needs—that’s the concept behind ServGate’s EdgeForce security appliance. Instead of forcing you to buy more expensive equipment than you need or just enough to get by on until you have to replace it, EdgeForce offers an upgrade path that can help you better manage the cost of securing your network and VPN connections.

EdgeForce’s upgrade modules let you expand its capabilities in steps to minimize budget impact. With its upgrade pricing structure, EdgeForce positions itself as an all-in-one solution, especially for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and branch offices.

EdgeForce’s feature set is aimed squarely at SMBs and branch offices that need VPN/firewall functionality but may not be able to afford many appliances on the market, or need a level of functionality that differs from what is available at a given price point.

“With today’s appliances, it is not easy or practical to grow with a network. You have to swap out appliances when you need additional functionality,” said Dario Zamarian, ServGate’s vice president of marketing and business development.

This process, Zamarian said, results in a higher total cost of ownership for the products currently on the market. “[The EdgeForce] can be deployed at a particular point in time based on needs and available budget, and then it can grow in both performance and functionality,” he said.

Depending on the expansion modules, services, and applications you choose, EdgeForce offers the following features:

  • Firewall
  • VPN
  • Virus scanning
  • Websense filtering support
  • Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

You can upgrade the EdgeForce base unit with what ServGate calls performance and application modules. You can purchase some services al la carte, or you can purchase one of two performance upgrade modules that offer a combination of all typical VPN/firewall functionality. Figure A shows the EdgeForce unit with one of its upgrades.

Figure A
An EdgeForce unit and upgrade module

The virus scanning software included in an optional module for EdgeForce comes from McAfee.

The two available performance module upgrades add to the unit’s ability to support concurrent sessions as well as improve its overall performance. Application modules add functionality, such as virus scanning, URL filtering, Web caching, and local logging.

The Professional Module upgrade adds a 20-GB hard drive to enable the unit to perform many of these functions. Zamarian said you can order the base unit without the hard drive and then purchase the module later, or you can order a unit with a hard drive and then activate it with a certificate at a later time, when you actually need to have the functionality. All of EdgeForce’s modules are unlocked with activation keys, Zamarian added.

The table in Figure B lists performance modules that add to EdgeForce’s capabilities.

Figure B
Performance upgrade options for EdgeForce

You can set up and manage EdgeForce via a Web GUI, serial console, and/or telnet. The Web interface is secured via SSL, and telnet access is protected by SSHv2.

Customers can purchase upgrades at the ServGate Web site (my.servgate.com), which also features a software key license activation system for registering products and enabling add-on functionality. In addition, the site includes online documentation, technical notes, and a bulletin board system.

“What you see as a customer on my.servgate.com is what you’ve bought, what you’ve enabled, and what you can buy later on,” said Zamarian.

He added that users can view information about the box without even looking at the box itself, because all the information is stored on the company’s site.

The idea behind EdgeForce is to empower organizations with limited budgets to purchase the base unit at $800 and then add features over time as finances allow and needs expand. The price for the unit tops out at $2,795 for the EdgeForce with Performance Module 2.

ServGate positions each of the unit configurations against existing products from other vendors. For example, the EdgeForce with Performance Module 2, ServGate says, is comparable to NetScreen 50, SonicWall Pro 200, and WG Firebox 700.

The key benefit of choosing EdgeForce over another product is potential total cost of ownership savings. Organizations can take a more manageable approach from a budget standpoint by planning for smaller incremental expenditures.

Zamarian made it clear that EdgeForce is not intended to be a perfect solution for all situations. It’s simply a more cost-effective solution for organizations that don’t have the budgets to purchase high-end appliances right away but know that they will need high-end functionality down the road. Zamarian said EdgeForce essentially extends the life of the investment in the appliance.