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Tempest Creates a Secure Teapot

Written By: M. Reed
Published On: October 30 2000

Tempest Creates a Secure Teapot
M. Reed - October 30, 2000

Event Summary

Tempest Software, Inc. today announced it is shipping Release 3.1.1 of its flagship TMS (Tempest Messenger System) product. The enhanced capabilities in this new release are said to "raise the standards of performance in Internet enterprise application exchange." The new release includes a feature referred to as "TSWEG", or Tempest Secure Web Gateway, which prevents access to the internal corporate network completely.

Using TSWEG, the Web server(s) can be placed behind a firewall that allows no incoming connections whatsoever, securing all database connections, passwords, HTML and scripts. At the same time TSWEG allows developers and administrators to distribute incoming traffic across multiple copies of the Web server, which can run on different machines as needed. This leads to the question "If the firewall allows no incoming traffic from the TMS server outside the firewall, how do the internal systems get access to the data?" The answer is that this is the subject of Tempest's newly patented technology, and the vendor is not willing to discuss the methods employed.

These features permit an increase in scalability, and also provide fail-over support. TMS 3.1.1 has a set of features that can be deployed across a wide range of environments and integrated seamlessly into existing internal and third party systems. The product enables companies to rapidly develop e-marketplace, e-business and e-commerce solutions, while meeting time-to-market deadlines.

Awarded U.S. Patent No. 6,088,796 in July 2000, TMS places databases and database connections behind a firewall that allows no incoming traffic. The product physically eliminates a major security risk by permitting clients' enterprise applications to interact with the applications and data of their trading partner(s) without the "firewall holes" (TCP/IP ports which have been made accessible to all or specific IP addresses or segments) normally required for such Internet-based communication. By enabling secure and rapid data transport, TMS facilitates the true integration of e-business enterprise applications among partners across the Internet.

This version of the product supports both the Netscape Server API and the Microsoft IIS API, and fully supports Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.

Market Impact

One of the major challenges for Enterprise Application Integration vendors, (and most of the vendors are relatively new to the market and privately funded), is making sure that the transactions between corporations, suppliers, and customers are secure (see Enterprise Application Integration, the Latest Trend in Getting Value from Data).

The vendor's method of achieving these secure transactions is common in many messaging systems. It is basically designed as an asynchronous "store and forward" system (the TMS server "accepts" the message and delivers it at the proper time, while the sending application moves on as if everything was completed).

This could eliminate a formerly common practice used by many corporations of duplicating their databases outside the firewall and then keeping them synchronized, so the suppliers and customers only "see" the copy. This led to large additional expenditures in hardware, software, and replication tools; any product that eliminates the need for this approach will be well received.

User Recommendations

If a company is moving into extended supply chain, e-commerce, B2B e-commerce, or any other application requiring interaction with external sources, TMS 3.1.1 should be considered. The tradeoff between explicit message acknowledgement and the use of an asynchronous model should be carefully considered in the context of available network bandwidth and the level of confidentiality of the transactions. Synchronous (near real-time) communications have their good and bad points also, and are very often not necessary for the application's requirements.

One other issue to question Tempest about is the scalability of the TMS server. EAI products are very new and there are no established benchmarks to compare to. Since the TMS server serves as the only point of entry to the entire system from the outside, Tempest must address the issues of scalability (number and complexity of transactions), load balancing, and fault tolerance. They talk about what can be done in these areas on the inside of the firewall, but not on the outside.

 
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