Forum Systems aims At XML security space

Intel appliance

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

One-year-old Utah startup Forum Systems Inc this week becomes one of the first entrants into the emerging XML security space, when it launches its Forum Sentry appliance. The company is taking aim at government, financial services and healthcare, the traditional early adopters of security products.

The Sentry appliance provides encryption, signing, auditing and routing of XML messages, based on user-set policies. The device will be available in July for $34,495, although a more powerful 2U $50,000 version will be released in the fall, according to CEO Wes Swenson.

Swenson said the Sentry is designed to provide a more secure alternative to SSL for sensitive application-to-application XML messages. "Where SSL is point-to-point, this is end-to-end," he said. By digitally signing the data at the tag and content level, the security lasts until it reaches its destination.

The appliance is usually deployed next to the firewall or application server, "eavesdropping" on outgoing traffic. When it recognizes XML data, it parses it to see if its contents match those in preset policies. These policies can be set to encrypt or sign data if it meets certain parameters, or to route it to a chosen destination.

For example, a stockbroker company could set the machine to only encrypt all trades, but to only sign those with a value over $100,000, or those requested by preferred clients. Similarly, preferred clients could have their data routed to a higher-speed server. The Sentry logs all traffic that passes through it.

The device itself uses Intel Corp's Tualatin processors, and comes equipped with Broadcom digital signature processors that run over 600 sigs per second, and NCipher SSL processors that allow the box to also act as an SSL terminator/accelerator.

Salt Lake City-based Forum faces competition from other young companies including Sarvega Inc and DataPower Technology Inc, which provide XML switching, security and accelerations appliance. But Swenson says the company Forum has gone up against the most so far is Ireland-based Vordel Ltd.

He also expects to face competition from more established network kit vendors, such as Cisco, Nortel and F5. "We do expect them to enter this space," he said. "But we would prefer they come and OEM our software from us, which we are open to doing."

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