Sendmail officials Tuesday announced Mailstream Content Manager, the first application of the company's Advanced Content Engine. The new middleware product sits between Sendmail's Mailcenter e-mail server and end-user Intelligent Inbox.

The product is part of a new initiative by Sendmail, a software company known more for the role it plays in the e-mail server industry. Sendmail is a commercial offshoot of the popular open source mail transfer agent (MTA), also called Sendmail, which was created in 1981.

The Emeryville, Calif., company has OEM agreements with Cloudmark and McAfee to provide integrated anti-spam and anti-virus features to go with the software suite, though Sendmail's Web site states Mailstream will interface with most third-party software products.

Mailstream incorporates spam filters, anti-virus protection and policy management capabilities; officials plan to provide similar controls over other types of message traffic, like instant messages and video chat sessions, in the future.

Built into the software is a policy management engine, which lets IT managers set business rules to any incoming or outgoing e-mail, protecting leaks of intellectual property or other confidential information, in addition to setting spam and virus guidelines.

Mailstream is a plug-and-play kind of platform for message control: Customers can elect to "plug" in an anti-virus or anti-spam program to the suite, and officials say the Content Engine is extensible, which will allow upcoming applications the same option.

Advanced Content Engine is designed to be the foundation for a line of message processing applications. In addition to support for spam and anti-virus applications, it allows for upcoming e-mail authentication technologies like Yahoo's DomainKeys and Microsoft's Sender ID for E-Mail.

The goal is integrated message control for any existing or upcoming type of message. Officials note statistics published by Osterman Research, which found nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they preferred an integrated e-mail security application approach.

While content scanning is today's most effective solution to spam and virus protection, John Stormer, Sendmail senior vice president of worldwide marketing, sees ultimate protection coming from e-mail authentication.

"Ultimately, the answer is about sender authentication or authenticating domains and being able to filter in messages vs. filtering them out," Stormer continued. "Content scanning is not the long-term answer to spam and fraud; another benefit of Mailstream Content Manager is that it has the very flexible capability to institute policies that we think are going to turn everything on its head."

Mailstream Content Manager, available now, starts at $16,000 for 500 users and a year's subscription to the Cloudmark and McAfee services.