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September 15, 1998

SOCKS: IS IT READY FOR PRIME TIME?

By CBR Staff Writer

Is internet proxy protocol SOCKS mature enough for industrial- strength applications? NEC believes that it is, and to demonstrate its faith in the protocol, is hosting the world’s first SOCKS Summit in Santa Clara, California this week. SOCKS issues that have yet to be resolved include the overhead imposed by redundant security when SOCKS runs on networks already equipped with the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP), IPSec or Secure Sockets Layers (SSL). IPSec in particular is seen as duplicating key SOCKS functions. The matter was slated for an interactive discussion over lunch. ComputerWire’s suggestion that the pro-SOCKS party be armed with rolled-up socks while IPSec’s partisans threw frozen peas was well received, though sadly not taken up. SOCKS also disconcerts sysops by not forwarding Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) applications such as the almost- universally used Ping. Firewalls can be equipped with ICMP proxies to get around that little problem. More worrying is the question of SOCKS and multicasting. SOCKS establishes virtual circuits for every session, which makes it hard to conserve bandwidth by sharing data. Work is under way on a solution.

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