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IBM offers hardware-based encryption for x servers

IBM is calling its VAULT hardware-based encryption tool the first of its kind and says the price point should appeal to small and midmarket companies.

IBM is introducing a hardware-based encryption tool for small and midmarket companies to lock down data on its line of System x servers.

What I think customers will find interesting is that the Vault tool offers a solution to some particular issues around the server end-of-life.
Charles King,
principal analystPund-IT Research

Called the IBM System x VAULT, the tool walks a person through encrypting data on a hard drive and setting a security key. It offers four levels of security and according to Big Blue, the tool is easy to install and costs about $1,200.

The new tool works by setting a secure key, enabling the encryption. A password is then set to allow access to the data. It has two modes of operation. Unauthenticated mode allows access to the data when the server boots up. If the drive is physically removed it is fully encrypted, IBM said. Authenticated mode requires a password to access the data.

Although the tool is an entry-level product and lacks the features seen in enterprise products, it should appeal to smaller companies with server-centric environments and limited IT resources, said Natalya Yezhkova, a research manager with the storage systems program at IDC.

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"For companies concerned about a broad datacenter security, it doesn't provide a replacement for enterprise-level security implementation, but it's a nice addition allowing to secure data on individual servers or disk drives to add protection in the case of a product disposal, necessity to repair, or loss," Yezhkova said.

While encryption has been getting cheaper to deploy, so far the options for companies have been mostly software-based, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc. Hardware-based encryption helps companies protect data in storage and ensures a discarded hard drive is protected from hackers.

"What I think customers will find interesting is that the Vault tool offers a solution to some particular issues around the server end-of-life," King said. "Every company has to deal with the issues of how to make sure that the information encoded on a disk does not become a source of embarrassment or legal weakness of litigation to them after it's disposed of."

Last year, Seagate Technology LLC extended full-disk encryption to all its enterprise-class hard drives. The hard disk maker is also working with IBM and storage vendor LSI Corp. to develop standards for hard drive encryption in storage systems. Two standards bodies, The Trusted Computing Group (TCG), and the IEEE 1619.3 are establishing a security protocol for communicating with self-encrypting hard drives and creating a key management standard to ensure interoperability between the vendor products.

IBM has been making a push into the midmarket with its x server line. Hewlett Packard Co. and Dell Inc. have a larger share of the server market, but aren't offering hardware-based encryption King said.

The VAULT tool will be made available later this year and works for IBM System x models x3650, x3400 and x3500.

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