Start-up gets backing of e-mail pioneers

IronPort Systems, a year-old start-up, today announced a new proprietary operating system that it says will revolutionize Internet messaging.

In addition, the company, in a statement, said it has raised US$3.9 million in financing mostly from Internet messaging pioneers such as Hotmail CEO Sabeer Bhatia and chief technology officer Jack Smith; X.Com Corp's PayPal CEO Peter Thiel and CTO Max Levchin; and eVoice Inc. founder Wendell Brown.

IronPort spokesman Tom Gillis said the company's AsyncOS operating system can send and receive e-mail about 10 times faster than any existing software.

Gillis said IronPort is developing a family of Intelligent Messaging gateways, which are next-generation devices dedicated to the specific function of sending and receiving e-mail. He said most companies run their e-mail systems using Sendmail, a free gateway program that runs on a standard operating system. Those gateways don't provide the level of security and scalability needed by large enterprises, he said.

IronPort can handle 500,000 e-mail messages per hour per server, compared with the 30,000 or 40,000 that a server running Sendmail can process, Gillis said.

"We can replace 10 boxes with one, [reducing costs]," Gillis said.

Fifteen companies, including Palo Alto, Calif.-based PayPal, are testing IronPort's system, which is scheduled to be released in the first quarter at a targeted price of $50,000, Gillis said.

"E-mail is probably the most important Internet application by any reasonable measure, but we don't think about it until it isn't working," said Peter Christy, an analyst at NetsEdge Research Group in Los Altos, Calif. "While it is an important application for all of us, for companies it is business critical."

Christy said most companies use available free software like Internet gateways for their e-mail applications. He said that while that might seem like a good deal, it really isn't, because businesses will spend more on operational costs to manage the increased number of servers needed to run the free software.

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