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Hifn Hitches Storage to Security

Vendor boils encryption and iSCSI SANs into a hardware/software combo

6:00 PM

By James Rogers
News Editor, Byte and Switch

Hifn is looking to encrypt data at rest by fusing iSCSI SAN software with data acceleration cards, aiming the combined solution at storage OEMs.

Launched last month, the DR 250 and DR 255 acceleration cards -- basic building blocks of the new solution -- contain AES 256-bit encryption and are designed for VPN vendors looking to speed up their wares.

“We have been using [the cards] in the communication space; now we’re using them in the storage arena,” says John Matze, Hifn’s vice president of business development, explaining the recent decision to bundle the cards with Hifn’s Swarm iSCSI software. “We’re putting security on our iSCSI targets. As the data is written to disk, we encrypt it, so all the data is encrypted in case the system is lost or stolen." The bundle is geared toward “your typical tier one and two” storage OEMs.

Matze confirmed that the vendor is in discussions with a number of potential OEM partners, but was unwilling to name any of the firms involved. ”I am allergic to orange jumpsuits,” quipped the exec, but he added that the software/hardware bundle will eventually be targeted at end-users looking to lock down data in branch offices.

FalconStor, Sepaton, and HP already OEM adapter cards from Hifn, and Cisco OEMs the vendor’s network processing chips.

This could be a shrewd move, according to Ben Woo, vice president of enterprise storage systems research at analyst firm IDC: “One of the things that we have recognized is that the mid-market has finally opened its eyes to the benefits of storage networking. Having security through something like encryption becomes paramount.”

Hifn’s iSCSI SAN rival LeftHand Networks also offers encryption on its flagship SAN/IQ offerings, although this is software-based, unlike the Hifn accelerator card, which contains a security processor.

”Software encryption comes with a performance overhead,” says IDC’s Woo, explaining that it makes sense to shift this work to a piece of silicon. “At the end of the day, encryption is a compute-intensive activity -- if you can offload that somewhere else, then you leave the rest of the computer to do something more interesting or more valuable.”

Hifn’s Swarm software, which is based on technology from the vendor's acquisition of Siafu last year, was previously sold as part of an appliance, something which Matze feels limited Hifn’s OEM opportunities.

”I am not going to sell a hardware box to HP, for example,” he says.

Opening up new routes to market will certainly be easier said than done, according to IDC’s Woo.

The big challenge is ‘Hifn who?’” he says, explaining that the vendor lacks name and brand recognition. “Even where they do have brand recognition, they are recognized as a component provider, not as a solution provider.”

Hifn’s storage/security bundle is available now, priced from $4,995.

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  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)
  • Hifn Inc. (Nasdaq: HIFN)
  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)
  • IDC
  • LeftHand Networks Inc.
  • Sepaton Inc.
  • Siafu Software LLC

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