Startup targets security of Web applications

Start-up Sonoa Systems is coming out of stealth mode with a product that improves the security and performance of Web applications in a service-oriented architecture environment.

Sonoa, founded in 2005, says it has almost a dozen customers including Pfizer and Warner Music. Sonoa developed ServiceNet, a hardware and software appliance that is “deployed as a proxy in front of Web services on application servers or other middleware,” according to Sonoa.

The appliance is built like a network router and enforces policies related to security, operations and traffic management, Sonoa says. ServiceNet can provide visibility into and control over data used in enterprise mashups, and reduce the complexity of SOA governance.

Pfizer is getting ready to use the appliance in its corporate intranet to bolster applications used by sales, marketing and development departments.

“We’re looking to use the technology for securing our Web services and for increasing performance of XML-based applications,” says Martin Brodbeck, executive director of strategic architecture for Pfizer in New York. (Compare security products.)

Sonoa will help Pfizer provide security around the SOAP protocol, which is used to exchange XML-based messages over networks.

The Sonoa appliance “can look inside a SOAP message and determine if it has a malicious file … and provide XML caching and acceleration for processing Web services calls,” Brodbeck says.

Brodbeck estimates that ServiceNet will make Pfizer’s applications run about 10 times faster.

Acceleration of Web applications is provided by numerous vendors including Akamai and Riverbed. Like Sonoa, the vendor Blue Coat combines application acceleration and security into one appliance.

Sonoa began shipping its product last year, but for the most part has not sought media attention. One exception was in March when Sonoa announced that it was integrating its product with BEA AquaLogic. On June 23, Sonoa made a more formal launch, with a release highlighting ServiceNet and the customers such as Pfizer and Warner Music.

Heading up Sonoa is CEO Chet Kapoor who was formerly a vice president of content management and search products at IBM, general manager of the integration group at BEA, and CEO of Gluecode, an open source application server vendor that was acquired by IBM.

Sonoa’s has five investors including SAP Ventures, Juniper Networks, Norwest Venture Partners, Bay Partners and Net One Systems.

The Sonoa appliance is an Intel-based machine that costs US$35,000 per server for a dual-core machine and $55,000 per server for quad-core, Kapoor says.

Sonoa will also start shipping a less-expensive, software-only version in July, and will have its technology embedded in the IBM Mashup Center around October, according to Kapoor.

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