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Security startup Apani Networks Inc. has enlisted Hewlett-Packard to sell and support its data-transfer security software, which makes it possible for companies to comply with federal regulations on data protection.

The agreement between the two companies calls for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. to carry Apani’s INS (In-depth Security) system and provide related compliance consulting and on-site client services.

The HP partnership is key to Apani’s efforts to market its technology and build a channel infrastructure. The Brea, Calif.-based startup kicked off its first sales campaign this year, followed in May by the launch of a channel program.

For Apani, engaging HP as a partner so early in the process raises the company’s profile, said David Lynch, Apani’s vice president of marketing. Potential customers are more likely to take Apani seriously with HP on board, he said.

“It takes the services question off the checklist,” Lynch said. “It also helps with credibility. HP doesn’t engage with a company unless they think the company is going to be around for a while.”

For HP, partnering with Apani allows the mammoth vendor to address a serious customer need, said Anthony Clem, HP’s senior security architect. “It fixes a problem a lot of our customers are coming to us for.”

Apani is positioning INS as an integral component of the overall enterprise security implementation required by compliance regulations.

U.S. companies this year are spending an estimated $15.5 billion on products and services for federally mandated regulatory compliance, according to Boston-based AMR Research.

In recent years, Congress has passed a host of measures requiring that companies and agencies protect confidential data, as well as publicly disclose any breaches that occur. A recent example of such a breach involved the potential exposure of the consumer information of 40 million credit and debit accounts.

INS is a centralized security management system that protects data inside the network perimeter. That is what separates Apani’s technology from most other security technology providers, which focus on network access, said Lynch.

The advent of Web-based commerce and technology developments, such as remote access through virtual private networks and wireless connections, have made it more challenging to protect data. Information inside the network has become more valuable and, conversely, data theft has increased, Lynch said.

“The perimeter is getting more and more porous and, over time, it’s getting more stretched,” he said.

Clem said he examined Apani’s technology before HP agreed to the partnership and found INS provided a key security aspect that wasn’t available elsewhere.

“This solution seems to be unique in the marketplace, from what we’ve seen so far,” he said. What makes the product unique, he said, is its ability to encrypt data in transit together with centralized management and scalability.

“HP has been very carefully picking solutions in security to provide the right solutions to customers, especially for compliance issues,” Clem said.

Apani’s IPsec-based technology provides network-wide point-to-point data encryption, and automatically implements and updates policies on network security relationships. Encryption takes place transparently to users and applications, Lynch said.

IPSec, short for IP Security, is a set of protocols for secure exchange of data packets at the IP layer.

INS creates comprehensive audit trails for compliance purposes, said Lynch.

In building its channel strategy Apani needed one global services provider, and that is where HP fits in, Lynch said. The company also plans to sign up regional players who will handle accounts of less than $500 million. A direct sales force handles the largest accounts.

DSH Inc., a government-focused VAR in Sterling, Va., decided to partner with Apani after attending a security conference in February sponsored by RSA Inc., a provider of identity-management technology, said DSH President Jack Fry. He contacted Apani after the RSA conference and proposed a partnership.

Fry saw an opportunity for INS at federal agencies that use VPN software, he said. DSH is already in the early stages of several deals involving Apani software, Fry added.

Clem said HP expects to close its first INS deal within two months.

Lynch said Apani is looking to enlist about 25 channel partners in Europe and 50 in the United States. So far the company has 10 partners, including HP.

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