Start-up serves up secure hosted nets

San Francisco-based start-up SilverTech Inc. is targeting an offering it calls a private Internet engine (PIE) service at security-conscious vertical markets that need to tightly control network access to sensitive applications and information.

El St. John, SilverTech’s founder and CEO, says PIE is based on a patented technology that includes “a combination of hardware, software, configuration and design to keep information safe and secure for those markets that require it.”

Ingredients incorporated into PIE include a connection to an off-Internet backbone through a provider such as PSINet, a server farm hosted at a secure third-party data center, firewalls, VeriSign Inc. certificates for authentication, AppGate for application access control, 156-bit encryption and client-side software that allows users to directly dial in to the data center through the off-Internet backbone.

Once a company or government agency signs up with SilverTech and establishes its secure server farm and applications, end users who need access will be given a CD-ROM containing secure dialer software. End users will install the dialer onto their workstations and connect with the browser associated with the dialer, rather than their usual Internet software, to access the secure server farm.

PIE isn’t a virtual private network, extranet or filter, St. John says, although it incorporates elements of all three.

“What we’re trying to do is bring information off the Internet and through these multiple layers of security so we can get to C2 certification,” St. John explains.

C2 is a security standard required by some government agencies and private companies.

SilverTech is already using PIE to host eKIDS Internet, a private network for children. eKIDS takes content off the Internet, and after ensuring it is appropriate for children, removes any advertising and serves the content back up over its own network.

The service is free for six months and costs US$12 per month after the free period.

SilverTech’s technology partners include Hewlett-Packard Co., Cisco Systems Inc. and hosting firm AboveNet Communications Inc. HP and Cisco also provided start-up funding.

Clients signing on with SilverTech will have their applications housed on HP servers and their network connections handled by Cisco switching gear.

St. John says SilverTech will use a variety of hosting partners so it can house a client’s servers in a geographic location appropriate for the client.

PIE is available immediately. Prices will start around US$580,000, St. John says, but she expects most builds to cost more than US$1 million. The vendor is willing to take over full management responsibility for a client’s server farm, but St. John adds that because of security concerns, many clients may not want to hand over full control.

If clients don’t want SilverTech to manage their PIE, the company will make other arrangements, St. John says.

SilverTech can be reached at