Identity Engines Starts Ignition

Its first product is an appliance to control who gets access to enterprise nets

November 8, 2005

3 Min Read
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Security startup Identity Engines unveiled its first product today, an appliance to control who gets access to disparate parts of an enterprise network. Though initially focused on the network layer, the company is already planning to extend the technology to back-end storage systems.

The one-rack-unit-high Ignition device links up with firewalls, routers, and switches, as well as user repositories and authentication systems, such as Microsoft Active Directory and RSAs authentication server. By managing these parts of the data center together, companies will have an easier time setting access control policies, say vendor spokespeople.

Roy Chua, Identity Engines’ vice president of marketing, says the startup is already considering extending its Identity device for use with SAN and NAS devices. “Initially, we’re helping at the network level,” he says. “And then, beyond, storage virtualization.” Chua claims Identity Engines is already “talking with a couple of new guys in that space.”

Identity management has become a major headache for IT managers, who are desperate not to see their companies' names plastered across the media due to security breaches. (See ChoicePoint Appoints Independent Exec.) But worryingly, this area has also been identified as something of a technology black hole. At the last Interop event in Las Vegas, for example, lack of effective identity management products was cited as a major problem by CIOs. (See CIOs Face Identity Crisis.)

The CIO at one of Identity Engines’s beta customers, a major U.S. residential real estate firm, who asked not to be named, admits network access is a nightmare. “We have the end-user remote computing scenario from hell,” he says, explaining that about 1,500 real estate agents get access to his network via a range of wireless devices.Problems with this setup prompted the decision to install the Ignition appliance. “When I got here a year ago, the wireless access was essentially unmanaged,” says the CIO. “We started to have some virus outbreaks and network availability issues.”

Now, he says, the Ignition device controls wireless access to his network. This, he adds, has also made life easier for his own staff. “Instead of calling IT, we can have someone from the front desk [of a real estate firm] set the policies.”

Would the CIO consider using this type of device to lock down his storage systems? “Absolutely,” he says, highlighting his industry’s growing use of digital images. “I have issues with being able to manage where that stuff goes and also who is allowed to access it."

As well as images of properties, the exec says his firm also needs to keep digital images of contracts under electronic lock and key. This, he explains, has prompted a major storage shakeup. “We’re in the process of working with Network Appliance to redo all of our storage infrastructure. We estimate that the Ignition device will be used again to push policy across storage.”

Though the market is not exactly flooded with this type of product, Identity Engine’s Ignition device is up against a fierce competitor -- Cisco Systems’ Secure Access Control Server.Why, then, did a major real estate firm opt for Identity Engines ahead of the biggest name in networking? The fact that the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup is based close to the real estate firm’s HQ made all the difference, apparently. “They are really the only supplier we looked at, because they are located here,” says the CIO.

The Ignition device is available now for a list price of $15,000. The CIO admits that he has “talked general pricing” with Identity Engines, but at this point he says he is more interested in the device’s performance and doesn't yet know what his final payout will be.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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