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Xceedium Cagey on Comeback

Maker of security appliance reinvents itself, but leaves much unsaid

A VPN vendor with an IT operations twist is reinventing itself after several months' "hibernation."

Xceedium, which started life in 2000 with a secure remote-access appliance for IT operations, is under new management and will be announcing a new product and funding within the next couple of weeks.

The company's latest gear comprises a platform appliance called the GateKeeper, which includes SSL VPN capabilities, but not for front-end access control. Instead, the device provides a single secure port for back-end operations personnel, such as SAN administrators, to enter data center devices using a single console that features a browser interface and can be positioned either in-band or out-of-band.

"We aren't a firewall, and we don't compete with firewalls," says CEO Cheryl Traverse. "We authenticate an IT operations person and audit and track their activities. All tools are under one centralized console, there's no need to go in and out of various consoles."

According to David Van, the company co-founder and CTO, there's a need in the market for this kind of security. Management systems like OpenView from HP, he maintains, alert IT personnel to network problems but don't offer secure access for operations folk to fix the problems. And equipment such as SANs can be vulnerable when a technician or administrator attempts to use point products without central security control.

Van also says the company's latest GateKeeper -- which is being deployed among customers but hasn't been announced -- includes a patent-pending technique that secures access on both a point-to-point and point-to-multipoint basis. It can be used, for instance, by a central administrator attempting to fix or configure equipment in multiple remote data centers.

This kind of solution should attract integrators, supplier support personnel, and others involved in hands-on IT fixes. Indeed, a sizeable portion of these kinds of firms are represented in the customer list on Xceedium's Web site, which includes Boeing, Booz Allen, and CSC.

The news represents a new direction and focus for Xceedium, which went virtually dark for at least six months last year. By April 2005, the company's CEO left for another startup, much of the management team disappeared, and a U.K. office closed.

As to what went down, the new CEO isn't talking. "I wasn't here," says Traverse, who joined the company last December, replacing Sam Balooch (ex-Wingcast). She does acknowledge that Xceedium hit a patch in which it wasn't in growth mode, though she insists customers were still satisfied. Now, she says, things are on the upswing.

"We're in expansion mode," Traverse says. The firm will use an infusion of new capital, details unannounced, to hire and relaunch itself. Xceedium will have at least 40 employees by year's end, Traverse insists, more than it has ever had before.

There is much left unsaid here. Traverse won't say how many employees the firm has now or has had in the past, though she claims Xceedium has more than 50 customers. Funding details are also secret, and despite the presence of two representatives from ArrowPath Venture Partners on Xceedium's board, Xceedium isn't listed in ArrowPath's Website. Also, while Xceedium will be part of the upcoming round, other investors are also included, Traverse explains.

What's more, Xceedium has erased all past news from its Website, including items that touted an integration alliance between Xceedium and Egenera, announced in 2004, and ones that announced use of Xceedium's gateway by Ingram Micro in China and adoption by Canon System Solution in 2003.

Neither Ingram nor Canon appear on Xceedium's Web site, though Egenera confirms that its partnership with Xceedium still exists. "Xceedium still has to do a couple of things to get onto our Web site," reports an Egenera spokeswoman. No word on what those things are specifically.

At least one analyst thinks that Xceedium has a bright future in spite of its disappearing act. "They are in an interesting position, overlapping a bunch of markets," says Andi Mann, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. While competing in part with SSL VPN vendors like Cisco, Xceedium also encroaches on operations management solutions. The combination makes for an intriguing solution in this insecure age.

"There's an increasing concern about internal penetration and open back doors," Mann says. By providing secure, auditable, trackable access for IT fixers, Xceedium should be able to hit a market nerve.

If not, it can submerge itself again and deploy the periscope.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch. Special to Dark Reading

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • ArrowPath Venture Capital
  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
  • Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) (NYSE: CSC)
  • Egenera Inc.
  • Enterprise Management Associates
  • Ingram Micro Inc. (NYSE: IM)