As companies increasingly pursue e-business strategies that call for linking distributed systems and applications, ensuring the security of the systems and the communications channel between them becomes a critical priority.

With this problem in mind, Hitachi Computer Products' Software Solutions Division developed its Enterprise Application Security Integration (EASI) framework, which is meant to provide security to heterogeneous, distributed environments. Hitachi has now updated a key EASI component with the debut of Hitachi Security Service (HSS) Release 4, which provides centralized, policy-based security for applications across multiple Solaris and Windows 2000 servers and even between companies.

Whereas previous versions of HSS worked only with applications that ran on Hitachi's TPBroker, the new edition adds supports for applications running on Borland's VisiBroker 4.x platforms.

HSS lets users centrally manage security policy, detailing who can access what applications under what circumstances. As a business develops partnerships and collaborative exchanges with other businesses, HSS allows administrators to grant each partner access only to appropriate applications.

Users employ the HSS Administrative Console to add to or modify individual users, roles and policies. The policies and user data are then stored in the HSS Manager, which grants or denies each application access request. Users only need to authenticate themselves once to access various applications.

"Our customers use HSS 4 to carefully control access to sensitive corporate information and the procedures that operate on that information," says Hans Riemer, business developer for Hitachi Computer Products.

EASI controls the distribution of, and access to, information across all three tiers of an enterprise: Web server, firewalls and DMZs; application servers and middleware infrastructure; and legacy applications and data.

HSS security libraries are available for applications written in C++ and Java. The libraries are executable files that simplify the integration of HSS 4 with existing applications.

HSS 4 runs on Solaris 2.6 and 2.7 but works best on Solaris 8, Hitachi says. It also runs on Windows 2000, but is not recommended with Windows NT. The software can be split to run on separate systems, with the Manager, for example, running on Solaris and the libraries on Windows.

Pricing for HSS Release 4 consists of two parts, the Master and the Runtime Services libraries. The Master is priced in five tiers, based on the number of users, starting at $50,000. The libraries are based on a per-CPU basis, starting at $3,500. There is no additional charge for the Administrative Console.