The Internet Engineering Task Force has produced a draft of a new standard for the enabling of secure data paths over the internet, dubbed Virtual Private Networks (VPN). The new draft looks to combine the two current standards – PPTP Point to Point Tunneling Protocol and Layer 2 Forwarding – into the new Level 2 Tunneling Protocol standard. Microsoft Corp, 3Com Corp, and Ascend Communications Inc backed the PPTP standard, with Layer 2 forwarding backed by Cisco Systems Inc, Northern Telecom Ltd, and Shiva Corp. The original standards came from two different niches of the virtual private networking market, with PPTP aimed at secure dial-in connections, and L2F was intended to provide secure data pipes over the internet, to replace physical corporate private networks. The full standard, and the first equipment to use it, is expected to become available by the end of the year.