SmartPipes came into being four years ago with the aim of easing the management of IPSec VPNs. The idea was to supply a user interface that let network administrators set security policies for specific VPN links, for example, and then translate those policies into commands to specific routers. The user would set the policy in concept and the software would do the grunt work of contacting each device involved in setting up the needed links.This would not only save people work but also reduce the chance for error that always comes when a technician has to manually configure a device using multiple commands. The more lines you have to fill out, the greater the chance that you will make a mistake.SmartPipes initially set up its software to work with only Cisco gear, but now it is supporting NetScreen VPN equipment as well. This means customers can use SmartPipes' IP PolicyPro software to configure VPNs based on equipment from Cisco or NetScreen, or a hybrid network.In addition, SmartPipes is shifting the way it sells IP PolicyPro. Back in 2001, the company sold a service to service providers. The providers would offer managed VPN services to customers based on Cisco VPN gear, then hire SmartPipes to configure and manage the actual devices installed at customer sites. WorldCom and FiberLink signed up for the service.Late last year, the company expanded that model so businesses could register their VPN sites to directories within SmartPipes' network and gain access to IP PolicyPro to manage their own VPNs using SmartPipes' infrastructure.Now, the company is considering offering a third option called Managed SecureSite. Rather than customers tapping into SmartPipes' network to manage their VPNs, SmartPipes would manage the VPNs for the customers. Customers would still own the actual VPN equipment.The company is still figuring out how to price the service, but says it will be a flat fee based on variables such as whether the service includes access lines and the equipment that sits at customer sites.