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Mirapoint - the appliance of security?

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Deploying solutions is difficult at the best of times, but what if you need to deploy a highly secured messaging server?

The route taken by many would be to deploy software such as Microsoft Exchange Server and hope that it is as resilient as Microsoft says it will be. Of course, you need to source the hardware, software, and time to deploy the solution and then undertake the regular backups and system maintenance required of such mission critical applications.

What if you were offered a "black box" solution that did exactly the same job but could be configured out of the box by simply plugging it in?

Mirapoint have taken just such an approach with their appliance based solutions.

I have mentioned before about the benefits of appliances when it comes to security, and the success of a number of vendors with a variety of solutions, including database security appliances, is a testament to the general thinking in this area. The move to appliances follows the maturing of various technologies. We started by using appliances in the firewall, then intrusion prevention/detection and now as storage devices.

A lot of the motivation for this has been reduced downtime due to human error. Every time an administrator sets up a server they can never be 100 per cent certain that the software has been configured completely correctly. Friday afternoon server builds have the same poor reputation as Friday afternoon motor car builds.

Of course once a software solution is up and running what on earth do you do about vendor patches? Your previously secure and reliable server is just about to have some new software added that you cannot possibly test to exhaustion. As described in the Bloor paper Securing the Business Infrastructure and the Assured Business (published by Bloor Research October 2006), your previously secure business is one badly applied patch away from being insecure all over again.

Appliance vendors can take most if not all of this pressure away. They can test, test and test again their appliances as the firmware, drivers, operating system, software and hardware is all sitting together in one box removing the huge number of variables that can break server deployed solutions. Even vanilla builds on brand new server hardware have an uncanny knack of going wrong.

Appliance based solutions can be designed so that the software and resources run in the most elegant way on the dedicated hardware. Every process has a separate and protected memory space so that any failures are sandboxed - they won't affect other processes. This also enables services to be upgraded independently, so that an anti-virus engine can be updated without taking down a messaging service.

The Mirapoint RazorGate email security appliance is a very good advert for the benefits of appliance based solutions. Usefully, it has been optimised to reduce LDAP traffic by running a parallel copy of an organisation's directory service on the box.

Why bother?

Well, up to 50 per cent of inbound email traffic is to non-existent accounts. Each time such messages arrive in a conventional solution the poor old directory service needs to work out if that user exists and if so pass the mail on. By using the RazorGate appliance you can take away the burden on the directory server and allow these requests to be dealt with on the mail server.

This and many other features make the Mirapoint appliance based approach to secure solution deployment worthy of some long and serious consideration if you are in the market for a secure enterprise infrastructure.

Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com

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