HP Speaks Key Management

Interoperability's still on the drawing board, but new appliance is a first step

October 30, 2007

3 Min Read
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HP has taken the wraps off an encryption key management solution, but like a growing roster of products on the market, the new offering fails to address the essential customer requirement for multivendor interoperability.

HP touts its four-port Secure Key Manager appliance, a one-rack-unit-high device, as a centralized key management solution. But at least initially, users looking to tie the disparate strands of their encryption strategies together in one box are going to be disappointed.

"The initial rollout is focused on HP StorageWorks enterprise tape libraries," says Patrick Eitenbichler, marketing director at HP's StorageWorks division, adding that this will eventually stretch beyond just HP. "Early next year, we expect some of the switch vendors to start supplying switch-base encryption, so [support for] that will be incorporated, probably in the spring," he explains, adding that other encryption vendors will also be joining the party.

The news shows that HP doesn't want to be left out of the hypefest surrounding encryption key management. The hype is playing off complaints from CIOs and IT managers about the keys used to manage encryption. These users cite the lack of interoperability between different vendors' technologies.

"Encryption is easy, but where is the key when you need the data back?" admits Eitenbichler. "It's like going home and putting your car keys in a different location every night and then trying to find those keys."Decru and NeoScale were among the first to address the issue, and both have already opened up the key management APIs on their encryption appliances to other vendors. However, the actual progress these firms have made remains a question.

NeoScale, for example, acknowledges having had a layoff and change of company focus recently, though the firm declines to be specific. "The situation will be clearer quite soon, but we won't be able to comment before then," writes James Yu, SVP of marketing and business development at NeoScale, in an email today.

Meanwhile, Sun recently revealed plans to open source the key management code related to its enterprise tape libraries. And earlier this month, Microsoft announced plans to let users store the encryption keys for data held on the SQL database on other vendors' key management solutions.

So far, no single vendor has emerged as an interoperability front-runner. "No one is really ahead in terms of heterogeneous vendor and device support," says Forrester analyst Stephanie Balaouras. "I think that the vendors are only now positioning themselves."

HP doesn't want its voice to go unheard in what's proving to be a lucrative segment in the making. "While the HP interoperability might be limited initially, they did need to put an offering out there for their largest clients," Balaouras says. "It's clear that companies are going to use multiple point products for encryption."This interoperability cannot come quickly enough for CIOs and IT managers, particularly in the aftermath of high-profile data breaches at the likes of the Veterans' Administration (VA), TJX , and Marriott Hotels.

"My hope is that, by the end of next year, we will see the start of standards evolving that will facilitate [key management interoperability] across the industry," said Eitenbichler. HP hopes to extend Decru and NeoScale integration to the Secure Key Manager next year. Also, HP hopes to integrate its Data Protector backup software onto the Secure Key Manager in early 2008.

HP's Secure Key Manager will be available in December, priced at $100,000 for a two-node cluster.

HP also took the wraps off its 9000 Virtual Library System (VLS) today. Firms can deploy the 9-rack-unit-high 9000 as a disk backup device that can encrypt data before it is sent off to tape. Pricing for the 30-Tbyte device, which will be available in late November, starts at $227,500.

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  • Decru Inc.

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • NeoScale Systems Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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