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IBM, RIM Drafted By Defense Department

With money pouring into U.S. Department of Defense coffers in order to upgrade technology in the wake of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, technology companies are seeing the government as a more and more favorable market for their products.

Two of those companies are IBM and Research In Motion . IBM Monday announced it won DoD certification for its UNIX, lowering the bar for winning future contracts and allowing it to win a contract to supply UNIX servers for the government's missile defense program. RIM, on the other hand, will supply the National Security Agency (NSA) with its BlackBerry wireless e-mail device.

Big Blue Monday said its AIX 5L was the first UNIX operating system certified by the DoD to run COE Version 4 (Common Operating Environment), a user interface which utilizes the same commands regardless of what operating system is running on the server. The DoD began developing the COE in the mid-1990s, aiming to create a common look and feel across all its systems, allowing it to save millions of dollars on training costs.

To achieve the certification, IBM spent a year and more than $1.5 million to review and port about 875,000 lines of code and compile 1,500 pages of supporting documentation, followed by government testing of its software on AIX using 29 validation procedures.

But the effort opened new doors for Big Blue, allowing it to win a contract to supply 66 of its high-end 32-processor eServer p690 "Regatta" systems running AIX and eServer workstations for the DoD's Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program. Boeing, the prime contractor on the missile defense system, will use 20 of the servers to run tests and simulations. TRW will utilize the remaining 46 systems for Battle Management Command and Control.

"The compliance certification demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the government sector and opens up a great market opportunity in the Department of Defense," said Anne Altman, IBM managing director for U.S. Federal. "Being selected by Boeing for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program highlights the power and reliability of the eServer p690 and AIX."

Meanwhile, RIM, looking to extend its market beyond the enterprise, has been working with the National Security Agency (NSA), to meet DoD's security standards by supporting S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) on its BlackBerry platform. The S/MIME protocol utilizes public key cryptography to provide writer-to-reader security, including confidentiality, message integrity and sender authentication, allowing for secure communications between individuals in different organizations.

RIM said it will provide the NSA with a customized version of the BlackBerry software with S/MIME support. The NSA, in turn, will deploy the standard on BlackBerry Wireless Handhelds used by various government organizations, including DoD. RIM said it will receive incremental licensing revenue on a per user basis.

"The BlackBerry wireless solution is popular among organizations today because it provides back-end integration and meets the strict security requirements of IT departments," said Don Morrison, chief operating officer at RIM. "The BlackBerry platform already supports end-to-end Triple DES encryption for corporate customers and has been awarded the FIPS 140-1 security validation for government customers. With today's announcement, RIM will now be able to meet the Department of Defense requirement for S/MIME and PKI support."

While the deal marks RIM's first foray into working with the NSA, the company said it and the NSA plan to continue working to address the security requirements of organizations like DoD.