Sun offers open-source encryption key management protocol

It's working with standards committees to win acceptance of its protocol

Sun announced Tuesday that it is throwing its hat into the standards arena, proposing that its open-source key management API be used as a universal way to allow encrypting devices to communicate with key management systems.

Sun said its reseller partners can now adopt the open source protocol to handle encryption keys without additional licensing. The protocol is implemented as a complete toolkit and can be downloaded from the Open Solaris Web site.

"This defines the way a key manager exchanges encryption keys with an encrypted device such as a tape drive or a disk drive," said Piotr Polanowski, Sun's encryption product manager. "The market has been pretty fractured when it comes to key management technology and we just want to be able to offer widest availability of that. We believe it benefits our customers, and so it will ultimately benefit us as well." Sun said its API protocol is currently available to customers using the Sun StorageTek KMS 2.0 Key Manager and StorageTek T9840D, T10000A, T10000B tape drives, as well as Sun's HP LTO4 drives shipped in Sun libraries.

"Open Storage solutions allows customers to break free from the chains of proprietary hardware and software, and this new protocol extends this lifeline into the expensive and highly fragmented encryption market, Jason Schaffer, senior director of storage product management at Sun, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, IBM, HP and EMC said they are also working on proposing a new standard, called the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) to make their encryption management software work together. The standard is being proposed through OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), the consortium best known for its development of Web-services standards.

Polanowski said Sun's standard initiative is complementary to the KMIP effort, and he noted that the other vendors included Sun in defining their API. "At this point, we're looking at how our solution fits into the whole framework," he said.

Sun said it will work with standards bodies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1619.3 Working Group and OASIS' Enterprise Key Management Infrastructure technical committee to further develop and formalize the interface as an industry standard.

Sun said RSA is also now developing a solution using this protocol to work with its RKM key manager. IBM's drive division is working on supporting this protocol in their IBM LTO4 drive shipped in Sun Libraries. Additionally, Sun has shared the protocol with other industry partners, including computer OEMs, back-up application providers and disk array and switch manufacturers.

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