September 19, 2004 9:01 PM PDT

VMware aims to secure network sharing

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VMware, a maker of software that enables computers to run multiple operating systems simultaneously, is working on a new product to make it secure for corporations to open their networks to contractors or telecommuters.

The EMC subsidiary plans to announce on Monday a test version of Assured Computing Environment, which lets an outside computer run a second instance of Windows that can be locked down to prevent unauthorized copying or network access. ACE will be shipped by the end of the year, said Michael Mullany, vice president of marketing at VMware.

Without something like ACE, a company would have to supply a remote user or contractor with an entirely separate computer, Mullany said.

"It allows you to completely control the user environment at a very fundamental level," he said.

To keep proprietary information from spreading to computers outside a company, ACE can be configured to block access to USB memory devices, floppy drives, printers or other devices that could be used to save or print information stored on corporate networks. In addition, it enables outsiders use a company's approved software collection, making it harder for foreign computers to infect corporate networks with viruses or other dangerous software.

The product serves a useful niche, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said. "They're essentially repurposing VMware workstation technology for a different audience and use. But VMware's ambitions seem modest here. They're not making...claims of new computing paradigms."

VMware competes chiefly with Microsoft, whose Virtual Server product also lets computers run several operating systems at the same time through the use of software called virtual machines. VMware has been expanding to higher-level software such as VMotion, which lets customers move a running virtual machine from one physical computer to another.

ACE can be set to stop working at a specific time--for example, when a contractor's job is scheduled to be finished so no further access to a company's network will be required.

The software is expected to cost about $100 per computer when it ships by the end of the year. It will first be available for Windows computers, with Linux support to follow.

An administration package called ACE Manager, used to configure how ACE PCs will work, will cost more, Mullany said.

ACE beta customers include Arizona State University, whose business school students use it to connect to school resources with their own laptop computers, and AG Edwards, which uses it to control privileges of guest and home computers.

 

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