Clearpath Targets SMB Market with a New Approach to VPNs

Says affordable, network-based services provide better quality of service

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ClearPath Networks is touting a network-based VPN that it says gives solution providers a competitive advantage in the hot SMB market.

The company, which also recently launched a channel program to back the service, uses a nationwide ATM/MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS) fiber backbone to transport data, voice and multimedia communications.

"It's a turnkey private network solution that's very affordable for small businesses," said CEO Cliff Young, who founded ClearPath earlier this year.

The company's iVPN services provide better quality of service and are more affordable than traditional IPSec-based VPN solutions, Young said. ClearPath's iVPN services start at less than $100 per site, per month.

IPSec uses the public Internet and is less useful for mission-critical applications or converged applications, Young said. This type of VPN also requires devices at each client site, which is difficult for small businesses that can't afford IT managers, he said.

"On a network-based VPN, traffic runs on a backbone, so we can control the quality of service and back it up with a service agreement," he said.

In the ClearPath environment, VPN management is done at the core of the network by ClearPath and delivered through a broadband connection. The iVPN solution works in any WAN environment and can use dial-up, ISDN, DSL, frame relay, T1 and Ethernet access technologies.

"From a VAR's point of view, we believe it's a competitive advantage for them because we bring that network-based VPN connection out to the VAR, so VARs can manage all these [client end points from their locations," Young said.

In addition, ClearPath provides a managed firewall in its network that VARs can modify for each client location, he said.

Meanwhile, ClearPath's channel program,dubbed iVAR,offers sales representation, technical support and market data.

Young said about 30 percent of ClearPath's sales go through the channel, but he expects that to increase to 70 percent. "We think long term, our growth will come principally through the reseller channel," he said.

Ed Somerville, president of Electronic Representative Sales Consulting Organization (ERSCO), Reston, Va., said the firm recently partnered with ClearPath and plans to offer videoconferencing solutions over its iVPN services.

"[ClearPath's iVPN meshed nicely to complement my offering in the marketplace," Somerville said.

Other solution providers that partner with ClearPath on its Internet and network-access services, which include DSL and frame relay, said they're interested in the VPN solution.

"Based on their performance on the DSL, you can be assured I will give them a try on the VPN," said Lawrence Ott, owner of Bits and PCs, a Los Angeles-based solution provider.

"They took the work off my plate and got the job done efficiently for me. Chasing after carriers to get this stuff done is nonproductive and time consuming," Ott said.

Mark Ruef, partner at California Access Communications, a solution provider based in Galt, Calif., said he's been pleased with ClearPath's responsiveness and competitive residuals.

"We have a chance to look at several providers for VPN services, but [ClearPath would be at the top of our list," he said.

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