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Secure64 taunts hackers with 'DNS immunity'

Embiggened by Itanium

Application security programs and practises

Like most vendors in the Itanium realm, Secure64 has come to market slowly and with scaled back ambitions. Nonetheless, the start-up’s initial play - a super-fast, super-secure DNS (domain name service) server - looks promising.

The company this week released Secure64 DNS – the first commercial package available for its SourceT operating system. Not afraid of taunting hackers, Secure64 claims that its DNS server software “is completely immune from rootkits and malware,” while allowing for more than 100,000 queries per second – world-class performance by any standard. If the software lives up to such rich billing, it would wetten the dreams of ISPs, teclos and hosting companies everywhere.

Secure64 is the rarest of breeds – an Itanium software specialist. It came to life back in 2002 and then first started talking up its software agenda in 2004. The company has an impressive list of engineers behind it, including one of the earliest Itanium architects Bill Worley, an HP ex.

The Secure64 team believe that Itanium's security features surpass those of other mainstream server chips, building the foundation for a server appliance capable of withstanding any attack. We went through much of the reasoning behind the Itanium advantage here. But, the short of the matter is that Itanium provides a deeper set of locks to prevent malicious code from interfering with a server. Secure64's SourceT microOS then taps right into those security tools to create a mean, hardened pairing.

In its early days, Secure64 talked a great deal about shipping a wide variety of secure server appliances to hit multiple market segments and even hinted at going after the PC and workstation market one day. While the company still intends on going broad one day, it's settled on the niche DNS realm for a first assault.

“The challenge for the business was to find the right business model,” said Mark Beckett, VP of marketing at Secure64. “We had to create a compelling business opportunity for the company and its investors.”

Just understanding that much is no small accomplishment for a start-up.

With Secure64 DNS, you find the perfect small company play. The software should lessen the very serious security problems faced by large data center operators and do so at a price/performance level not seen in the market to date. We're talking focus and game-changing speed, in theory.

Secure64 sees most DNS vendors offering little more than BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) on Linux with a pretty GUI on top. The only real difference between the products comes from the management console.

“Most of the commercial products are focused on ease of management rather than performance,” Beckett said.

Running on a one-way (dual-core) HP Itanium server, Secure64's software (a modified version of NSD or Name Server Daemon) appears to crush similar software cranking away on a two-way (four-core) Opteron-based system. The company has run tests bombarding both machines with TCP Syn Flood and UDP Reflected Flood attacks and shown that the Itanium-based system can handle more than 100,000 queries while under assault, while the Opteron-based systems running NSD and BIND collapse.

Such performance could prove key as service providers ship out more VoIP applications and web services packages and as DNS servers prove an increasingly attractive target for hackers looking to make a big splash.

“There are a lot reasons why what we've used to date is not going to be good enough moving forward,” Beckett said. “DNS is coming under attack more and more because it's really easy to bring down and can really disrupt a business. There are also a bunch of new technologies coming out that will put an increasing load on DNS systems.”

At the moment, Secure64's DNS software only runs on one of HP's lower-end Itanium servers – the Integrity rx2660. Secure64 will sell you the box plus its software and hopes to line up resellers to do the same. Over the long haul, Secure64 will get out of the direct sell business and leave the dirty work for partners.

You can find out some more information on independent tests done on Secure64's gear in this PDF. ®

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