Boeing spins off messaging management company

The Boeing Co. has decided not to keep to itself its solution for coping with the huge volumes of e-mail - both legitimate and unwanted - that flow across its network.

The company has introduced a spin-off called MessageGate Inc. that will commercialize the messaging management software the aerospace giant developed internally.

MessageGate's Security Edition product, the brainchild of a former Boeing senior architect named Dean Richardson who now serves as the start-up's vice president of technology, uses pre-defined rules and industry standards to identify and then weed out e-mail containing unwanted, sensitive or potentially harmful content.

The company says that because the technology was developed at Boeing, a major e-mail user, it has been designed to sort through messages in more than an all-or-nothing way.

“There are shades of gray of e-mail, an in-between of wanted or unwanted. The technology is configurable to prevent critical, legitimate e-mail from getting lumped into an unsolicited definition,” says Doug Turner, senior vice president of marketing and business development.

MessageGate relies on a series of software agents on SMTP and internal messaging servers that examine e-mail and act on it according to rules defined via a management console. The console also lets e-mail managers perform analysis and view real-time and historical reports on the e-mail coming in and going out of their networks.

In creating the company, MessageGate's Richardson took advantage of Boeing’s Chairman Innovation Initiative, which gives employees the opportunity to come up with new business ideas from internally developed technologies. Incorporated in May, the Bellevue, Wash., start-up received more than US$5.1 million in venture backing from Boeing as well as Polaris Venture Partners and Northwest Venture Partners.

Despite its well-known parent, MessageGate faces a great challenge considering the crowded nature of the messaging management market. If MessageGate is to seriously compete with companies such as BrightMail and Postini on the antispam front and with Group-Technologies and Legato (being acquired by EMC) in the regulatory compliance technology market, the company needs to do more work in the area of content filtering and storage, says Charles Brett, senior program director for technology research services at Meta Group.

“SEC regulations… require companies store e-mails for three years. MessageGate doesn’t have the storage capacity to archive that much e-mail for large companies,” Brett says. He adds that the company is working with Microsoft to manage Exchange, but should also work with Lotus to better manage Notes servers. And while MessageGate says it monitors internal e-mail exchange among employees, Brett says that with the software agents residing on e-mail servers and not clients’ mailboxes, tracking content will be more difficult.

“SMTP capture is not enough, but their product line is not completely baked. With this release, they adequately address the ‘hygiene’ needs of an enterprise spam filter,” Brett says.

MessageGate says it plans to release a second product, Compliance Edition, at an unspecified time down the road.

The company says pricing for its Security Edition products comes in two flavors, perpetual licensing and subscription licensing, and both models depend on the number of e-mail accounts in customer organizations. Pricing starts at about US$30 per e-mail account, though it varies based on volume and other factors.

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