ActivIdentity 4TRESS AAA
Strengths: Easy on administrators, with a good interface
Weaknesses: C-language API could require some recoding of applications
Verdict: Easy to install and easy to use, this product works well for overburdened IT staff
ActivIdentity's 4TRESS AAA offering is - as its name implies - an 'authentication, authorisation and accounting' offering. It is Radius based, but not Radius specific - it uses Tacacs+ as well. As a result, any Radius or Tacacs+ compliant application or device can use this authentication server.
The 4TRESS AAA is software based and works with most two-factor authentication devices including USB tokens, key fob tokens, calculator-style tokens and smartcard authentication. The server also supports a software-based client.
The 4TRESS server provides a C language-based API that allows users to customise applications in order to take advantage of the two-factor authentication mechanisms offered.
The 4TRESS server works as a pseudo-Radius proxy that passes the authentication mechanisms to the Radius server for a grant/deny access. The product provides both centralised logging and reporting, as would be expected from a Radius AAA server.
The installation of 4TRESS was as easy as can be expected. The product can leverage existing SQL or Oracle databases but ships with its own SQL MDSE database, which we used for testing. The software installs a server module and a console module into two components. The console module was among the better ones we tested. Its layout was logical and easy to use, even for the novice, with easily comprehensible commands.
If you have worked with a Radius server, the 4TRESS server should hold no surprises. We found the interface to be intuitive.
The documentation comes in the form of indexed and searchable PDF files. It too is logical and easy to follow, although most administrators won't even need to use it.
As for technical backup, the web portal appeared to be the primary method of support for these products and was a bit disappointing. The knowledge base droplist required a specific product name and the 4TRESS offering was not listed. A search for 4TRESS yielded no result.
Pricewise, 4TRESS starts at £39 per seat, which was in the mid-range. Its many useful features, more than justify the cost.