Xcert brings PKI to Web commerce

By Robert L. Scheier, Computerworld |  Security, Network access control

Xcert International Inc. is an independent, public-key infrastructure (PKI) company at a time when many PKI firms are merging with or being absorbed by others. In fact, PKI is so expensive and complicated to implement that it can be hard to sell and deploy, leading many vendors to broaden their offerings through mergers and acquisitions.

Xcert International Inc.

Location: 1981 North Broadway, Suite 330, Walnut Creek, Calif. 95696

Telephone: (925) 274-9300

Web: www.xcert.com

Niche: PKI software and services

Why it's worth watching: Offers easy-to-use, scalable and open PKI platform and services.

Company officers: Patrick Richard, founder, chief technology officer and director; Sandy Sutherland, vice president of engineering; J.T. Hardy, vice president of professional services; Ed Murrer, senior vice president of sales and marketing

Milestones: 1996: Company founded, first product released - January 1999: Introduces Sentry CA 3.5, Sentry 4.5 PKI software for ASPs

Employees: 180; 220 by the end of the first quarter

Burn money: $40 million, including $31.5 million from Marconi

Products/pricing: Bundle of Sentry CA, a Web-administered certificate authority; WebSentry, a plug-in module to PKI-enable Web servers; and Sentry RA, which enrolls high volumes of users, prices start at $45,000 for 1,500 users.

Customers: T. Rowe Price Group Inc., General Electric Co., American Bankers Association

Partners: TidePoint Corp., CitX Corp., Newbridge Networks Corp.

Red flags for IT: Xcert is a small player up against much larger, public companies in a consolidating market. PKI requires extensive planning up front and expensive ongoing administration.

But Xcert plans to remain independent. The Walnut Creek, Calif.-based company claims that its PKI tools are easier to use, more scalable and more easily adaptable to Web commerce than those of its rivals. What's more, it says it sees application service providers (ASP) as another major market. Xcert's scalability is proven by the response it's getting from ASPs that may serve thousands of users, says Patrick Richard, the company's founder, director and chief technology officer.

Any ASPs that need to run PKI shouldn't have to look anywhere beyond Xcert [for their PKI needs], says Richard. "We're on our third generation of [Web-enabled] tools," which can scale "an order of magnitude greater" than competitors' products and can be installed in as little as 20 minutes, he claims.

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