Officials at IronPort Systems announced "defense in depth," a partner alliance initiative Monday to integrate its hardware-based, e-mail security gateway with software from companies throughout the industry.

The San Bruno, Calif.-based company also expanded its relationship with Symantec , signing a four-year OEM deal to use the company's anti-spam and anti-virus engines in IronPort servers.

"IronPort is the only e-mail security appliance to have a multi-year OEM agreement with Symantec," said Scott Weiss, IronPort president and CEO, in a statement. "This agreement means that the world's largest ISPs and corporations can rely on IronPort and Symantec for industrial-strength e-mail security for years to come."

Company officials want to make their products more than just an e-mail gateway. They say the best way to do that is to include support for other essential security services within the enterprise.

As such, the company is bringing anti-spam/anti-virus, encryption, archiving and digital rights management (DRM) vendors together to form the partnership alliance. So far, the company has signed Authentica, PGP Corp., PostX, Sigaba Sophos and Veritas.

The end goal of its defense in depth strategy is to create a one-stop security shop under one hardware platform, taking the best-of-breed software from many different vendors and integrating them at the source.

That, said Peter Schlampp, IronPort senior director of product management, is the reason for its partnership alliance. Customers want the protection advantage multiple vendors have over just one type of security vendor.

The strategy includes not just one layer of defense (i.e. one anti-spam vendor and one encryption vendor), but many; Schlampp points to viruses or Trojans that are picked up by one security vendor but not another. With two vendors, he said, you increase the chance your network won't be compromised.

"If you allow a single vendor to protect your network, you're actually doing yourself a disservice," he said. "If that vendor somehow misses an exploit that could take advantage of your network, you've basically backed yourself into a corner."

The only problem that remains, of course, is to license the engines used by the different vendors and get them incorporated into the IronPort servers.

Schlampp said some of its current partners' products are integrated and developers are working on getting the rest integrated, so customers don't have to maintain a separate server to handle their functions.

IronPort has been in the business of gaining industry consensus and interoperability for some time, most notably through its Bonded Server program.

The program is intended to bring ISPs, customers and companies together to create an effective white list, an accredited, trusted IP address that can pass through a spam filter, called SenderBase by officials.