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Encryptors Could Boost IT Services

WAN security vendor SafeNet Inc. (Nasdaq:
SFNT) won a multi-million-dollar contract this week, while (NYSE/Toronto: NT) showed a prototype encryptor embedded in a Sonet switch. (see Nortel Encrypts Transmission and SafeNet Wins DOD Contract.)

Both events highlight a growing focus on how carriers guarantee security on their facilities, as end users look harder at managed storage, security, and hosting services.

In SafeNet's case, the vendor announced yesterday a $150 million contract to furnish the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with Sonet encryptors. (See SafeNet Soars, Hifn Sags.) SafeNet is so far the leading commercial provider of encryption appliances capable of operating at OC-192 rates of up to 10-Gbit/s.

It may not be alone for long. Nortel picked the iGrid conference in San Diego this week to demonstrate a prototype 10-Gbit/s encryptor loaded into its OME 6500 optical networking switch. Nortel says the demo shows that when integrated with a switch, fast encryptors can handle multiple channels at different speeds up to 10-Gbit/s.

Nortel's demo involved the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption of 12 distinct "streams" of images from Chicago, Ottawa, and Amsterdam -- all running at about 700-Mbit/s -- combined into one 10-Gbit/s OC-192 link in Chicago, and then sent to a display in San Diego.

The vendor gives no timeframe for turning its science project into a product. Clearly, though, it's got an agenda. Rod Wilson, director of advanced technology research at Nortel, claims that compared with standalone solutions like SafeNet's, a switch-integrated encryptor can save operational costs in cabling, power, and data center real estate.

SafeNet isn't fazed. "We don't have our encryptor embedded in a switch, because we need equipment to be compatible with Nortel, Cisco, and others," says Chris Fedde, SVP of enterprise security division. And if Nortel's boasting, it should get its story straight on encryption, he says. AES alone isn't enough to qualify equipment for top-secret government networks.

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