Aventail Corp. has announced Version 2.0 of its Aventail.Net virtual private network service, adding new directory and user management features intended to ease VPN administration chores.

The company also added features that improve security for VPNs accessed via public kiosks or shared computers and added an API that makes it easier to tie the VPN into existing applications.

Aventail.Net was launched in 1999, when Aventail changed tacks from offering VPN software to become a managed services company. While Aventail had success selling its software to some large companies, most companies had trouble getting their VPNs up and running in a timely fashion, says Sarah Daniels, VP of marketing for the firm. Issues ranging from setting up security policies to load balancing, provisioning, monitoring and handling ongoing support led the company to believe there was a market for managed VPN services that would relieve customers of such chores.

Now Aventail promises to get customers up and running on Aventail.Net within 10 weeks, Daniels says. Because its implementation doesn't require software to be preinstalled on client machines, Aventail can offer access for users located anywhere, using devices ranging from laptops to wireless PDAs.

One of the new features in Version 2.0 is delegated administration, which lets a centralized IT organization enable distributed business units, departments or business partners manage access rights for local users. Also new is an end-user, self-service system that lets users enroll in the VPN, download software and change passwords on their own via the Web, further easing the administrative burden.

A new Managed Directory service, based on a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory from iPlanet, gives users a common authentication engine and data store for employee, partner and customer profiles.

Aventail has also added a Meta-Directory service, using technology from Siemens that allows users to synchronize the Aventail user repository with other enterprise LDAP directories. This obviates the need to replicate data from existing directories. The Meta-Directory also makes it possible to sync directories in different countries, which improves security by ensuring that a change such as a user access revocation is reflected in all directories, Daniels says.

For users accessing an Aventail.Net VPN from a public kiosk or shared computer, Aventail added features that automatically time-out the session after a specified time and eliminate the caching of data that can leave behind valuable information.

As with the previous version, Aventail.Net 2.0 includes load-balancing features that improve reliability, scalability and performance, Daniels says. If one Aventail node fails, sessions will transfer to other nodes without interruption, she says. This lets the company promise 99.9% reliability.

Aventail also recently announced that it received $7 million in private funding from SAIC Venture Capital Corp. and other investors, bringing the total of its Series E funding round to $55 million.

Pricing for Aventail.Net is based on a per-user, per-month model and varies depending on volume. All the features included in the new version will be available by March 2002.