10 start-ups to watch: Ping Identity

Location: Denver

What does the company offer? PingFederate, an identity federation server; and PingDeploy, which lets vendors test a baseline level of conformance with the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) protocol. Ping also sponsors SourceID , an open source project for federated identity that supports Liberty Alliance, SAML and WS-Federation specifications.

How did the company get its start? Andre Durand, a serial entrepreneur, founded Ping in January 2002 after spending 45 days on a boat in the Caribbean contemplating his "next move." Previously, Durand founded instant-messaging/presence vendor Jabber and helped incubate the Jabber Software Foundation. He also founded Durand Communications, a provider of client/server products for online databases and applications, which Webb Interactive acquired in 1998 for $10 million.

How did the company get its name? Durand wanted an easy-to-remember, four-letter brand with an available URL. The technical side of "ping me" was an added bonus.

How much funding does the company have? No financial information has been disclosed as of press time, although the company says it expects to make an announcement regarding funding in May.

Who's leading the company? Andre Durand.

Who's using the products to date? Ping has partnership deals with IBM and RSA Security but, to date, has no customer references for PingFederate, which it released last month. Among other vendors, XML middleware leader DataPower uses PingDeploy. And, companies including American Express, Aon, Art Technology Group and the Canadian federal government have conducted 12,000 SourceID downloads.

Why is this company worth watching? In a bold stroke to stoke the market, Ping recently released its first commercial server, PingFederate, for the unbelievable cost of $0. Users get the chance to connect PingFederate to an unlimited number of applications and process as many as 100,000 "identity transactions" before having to plunk down any cash.

Ping calls this program, "pay as you succeed." And success is something Ping already is gulping down as it mingles with the big boys.

The company last year inked a partnership deal with IBM to integrate with its Tivoli Federated Identity Manager and RSA with its Federated Identity Manager. Microsoft is hovering around Ping and its leading-edge identity technology.

"I don't know if there is a more profound construct of technology to be working on than digital ID," Durand says. "It is the first question in every digital conversation: 'Who are you? - and prove it.'"

Durand, who has become a recognized leader in the emerging identity market, helped found the pre-eminent identity conference, Digital ID World, which launched in 2002 (along with a magazine of the same name). Digital ID World has grown from its first incarnation in the lobby of a suburban Denver hotel to its current plans to host 1,000 attendees in San Francisco in May. "The goal has always been to build a very big company . . . the Visa for identity," Durand says.

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