Baltimore Technologies has signed another deal with a Blue-chip company, designed to give the Irish Internet security company more direct selling channels to corporations. Following agreements with companies like Cisco and Compaq, Baltimore said it has completed integration work between Oracle's 9i application server and its UniCERT certificate authority (CA) product.
Baltimore is facing a big challenge in selling its software ? and not just because of the current market conditions. The hype surrounding PKI technology ? which secures communications across the Internet ? reached a peak three years ago, when Ireland's prime minister Bertie Ahern digitally signed a communiqu?ith US president Bill Clinton using Baltimore's cryptographic software. Since then, Baltimore's market capitalization has dropped from a high of 4.5 billion pounds ($6.5B) to below 400 million pounds. While most technology companies have suffered a hammering during the past year, concerns about the cost and complexity of installing PKI technology also played their part in driving down Baltimore's share price.
Baltimore hopes that forming partnerships with big brands like Oracle and Compaq will give it access to corporate decision makers much earlier than it has at the moment. One of the main reasons why companies balk at investing heavily in their Internet security systems ? a PKI can cost millions of dollars for a large enterprise ? is because executives have often already made e-commerce spending decisions before Baltimore is called in to look at corporate security, said Tim Dunn, UK business development manager for Baltimore.
The company also hopes these agreements will help it sell e-security as an enabler rather than an extra expense. Two areas where PKI security show a clear return on investment, according to Dunn, is in shrinking e-procurement procedures and allowing much more complicated, yet usable, levels of user authentication in online banking.
Whether these deals will help Baltimore's battered share price remains to be seen. For one thing, the partnerships are unlikely to change PKI's image of being expensive and difficult to install. The company has always said its share price won't interfere with its ambitious plan to overtake market leaders VeriSign and Entrust. Customers, though, are beginning to use Baltimore's trading position as an excuse to postpone orders. Baltimore said earlier this month, revenues will be more than ?6m shy of previous expectations of over 30 million pounds.
Future prospects for PKI aren't as rosy as they looked even just a year ago. Part of the problem is that the focus of PKI technology over the past four or five years has been on the back-end communications infrastructure to the detriment of user convenience. PKI vendors are beginning to realize that companies aren't going to do that work for them, which is why so many companies are selling authentication and access control products as a means to administer PKIs. Much is riding on Baltimore's ability to sell its SelectAccess authorization software as an interface through which a company can secure and administer all of its applications.
In Oracle's case, the interoperability is between the Internet directory service component of its 9i application server and the advanced publishing module of Baltimore's UniCERT CA product. This will make it easier for Oracle customers to add software to their enterprise portals without weakening security.
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