Elvis+ strikes out on its own

ELVIS+, the Russian networking company, said it can no longer wait for Sun Microsystems Inc. to ship its strong encryption and is shipping products itself.

ELVIS+, the Russian networking company, said it can no longer wait for Sun Microsystems Inc. to ship its strong encryption and is shipping products itself.

ELVIS+ will launch a reseller program in January. It plans to open both European and Silicon Valley branches so that all sales and marketing will be done outside of Russia, an advantage for a company that sells security. It is also seeking venture capital and alliances with major U.S. and international companies.

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates sought out ELVIS+ President Alexander Galitsky last month while Gates was in Russia. But officials from both companies refused to provide specifics regarding the topics that were discussed.

However, Galitsky did say he does not want to be dependent on anyone."We can sell through the Sun channel, and we hope for this, since Sun customers are almost crying for these products since they are waiting for them too long. We want to be nice to Sun and will urge customers to at least use the Sun platform with our products. But companies don't care about platform -- they care if they promise something and don't deliver it. Our server solution runs on Windows NT. Customers now have choices," Galitsky said.

Sun planned to ship ELVIS+'s products for Windows clients through its international channels last August. U.S. policy forbids the export of strong encryption without key recovery, but is silent on whether a U.S. company can import encryption or sell it internationally.

However, Sun's 10 percent ownership of ELVIS+ attracted scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Sun cannot name a ship date for SKIP E+ (Simple Key Internet Protocol).

"When we announced the products it was a business issue, and now it's a political issue," said Humphrey Polanen, general manager of Sun's Network Security Products Group. "We continue to work with the Commerce Department to make sure they understand the situation."

ELVIS+, meanwhile, is offering a full product line for building secure Virtual Private Networks. To skirt encryption politics in individual countries, ELVIS+'s products have an open crypto library API and tools so resellers can insert the strongest security available.

The company's FortE+ Enterprise is a Solaris-based packet-filtering firewall. FortE+ Branch is software that allows IP network hosts to communicate through encrypted channels with remote corporate sites or desktops protected by SKIP. FortE+ BranchBox has a similar function -- it is a "black box" with a crypto accelerator and the Branch software built onto a a SPARCengine UltraAX motherboard. FortE+ Client protects a single desktop and is available on Solaris 2.x, SCO UnixWare, and Windows 3.11, 95 and NT.

"Our new client is much better than SunScreen SKIP, and I'll give you an example. You walk into a hotel room and you have your configuration inside your computer of whom you need to speak to securely and by what certificate or key. What do you do if you want to leave -- take your computer with you? With our software, when you log off, all your configuration files are destroyed. You keep them on your smart card or on a floppy, or, more important, you can download this configuration. And that means this is very good for corporate policies," Galitsky said.