Secure64 debuts Itanium server appliance

Colorado start-up hopes its custom software will appeal to those who fear denial-of-service attacks on the network.
Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor
Secure64, a start-up that employs a leading designer of the Itanium processor that Hewlett-Packard and Intel jointly brought to the market, released on Monday its first product: software to build secure network servers.

The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company announced software that combines its customized SourceT operating system for Itanium servers with widely used network infrastructure software. The bundle is geared for attack-proof operation of the Domain Name System (DNS)--the Internet standard that connects Web addresses such as Secure64.com into the numeric equivalents that network equipment uses.

And the company is unafraid of making bold claims about its products. "We've created a hardware platform that is immune to all forms of malware--rootkits, Trojans, viruses and worms," said Mark Beckett, vice president of marketing. In addition, he said, "it protects itself against network attacks, and it's very high performing."

The software runs an HP's lowest-end Itanium server, an Integrity rx2660 with one dual-core Itanium 2 9000 "Montecito" processor that costs about $5,000 to $6,000, Beckett said. The software itself costs $9,995; Secure64 will sell the hardware and install the software if customers desire, but ultimately the company plans to sign up a network of resellers to package the products and sell them to customers.

The chief technology officer at Secure64 is Bill Worley, an Itanium architect from the days the chip began as an HP research project.

Secure64 was founded in 2002, has about 25 employees and now is hiring sales and marketing staff to bring its product to market, Beckett said.

The product is reasonable, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said, but Secure64 might have better luck if it can enlist HP to sell its wares.

"I think a true appliance sold and supported by HP would be their best play," Haff said. "An appliance play is entirely consistent with the way that HP is de-emphasizing Itanium in Integrity. Itanium is a good foundation but not the soul of the product."

DNS is one of many essential Internet services, but servers that handle the translation can be degraded if bombarded with heavy traffic known as a denial-of-service attack. Secure64's technology weeds out such attacks.

Using the company's modified version of the open-source NSD software, Secure64's servers maintain more than 100,000 queries per second even under a denial-of-service attack, the company said. NSD on Linux on the same hardware drops from a top speed of about half that to virtually zero under attack, while the widely used BIND software for DNS drops from about a third at top speed to zero.

Itanium failed to meet its initial promise of becoming a ubiquitous server processor, though it has caught on as a replacement for earlier HP processors. But it has features that make Secure64's software possible, Beckett said.

These features permit a computer, for example, to compartmentalize memory so one application can't access another's data or to prevent specific data written in memory or in the chip's processing "stack" from being executed. In addition, software can be authenticated as the computer boots to make sure it hasn't been tampered with, Beckett said.

It wasn't simple finding a way to bring the company's products to market. "There was a point in time where the big challenge for the company was figuring out what the right business model was," Beckett said.

Secure64's advantages extend to any application running on the SourcT operating system, and the company has tested some of those applications in its labs, Beckett said. SourceT also could theoretically be used as a foundation for a mainstream operating system, though the company hasn't tested that, he said.

The company plans more software this year, Beckett said. "Expect to see enhancements to this (DNS) product and other offerings coming throughout 2007."

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