April 22, 2019

PureMessage Raises E-mail Admin Standard

ActiveState's Perl of a Product

  • September 2, 2003
  • By Rob Reilly

Spam has a real and terrible cost burden that it places on systems administrators around the world. Viruses trying to pass through to unsuspecting Windows desktop users are the bane of IT's existance.

But as early as 1997, two men saw the coming storm and started their own company to create a line of products that would protect systems from the deluge.

The men were Dick Hardt and Tim O'Reilly (of the highly successful O'Reilly tech book series). The company was ActiveState.

ActiveState's flagship product to administer e-mail and filter out the junk is PureMessage, which recently won the Best Systems Administration Tool award at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco.

By rolling the results of several different anti-spam techniques into an industry unique composite scoring value, PureMessage was designed to filter messages and take specific actions to deal with spam. Using the anti-virus, policy, and central support modules, system managers can also bring some sanity back into e-mail administration.

In the mid 1990s, Dick Hardt and his development team were working on porting Perl to Windows. At an Open Source conference, Hardt met O'Reilly while O'Reilly was discussing one of his hugely popylar Perl books. After some productive conversations, he two saw an opportunity to provide tools and support around Perl and in 1997, ActiveState was born.

Hardt saw many opportunities for the future and over time expanded the company to provide support and productivity tools for other open source programming languages. The team also recognized early on the market for email/sendmail filtering.

The company's first efforts towards this kind of solution was called Perl MX. The October 2000 release of Perl MX 1.0 provided basic email filtering capabilities, worked with sendmail, and had a $500 per license price tag. The first anti-spam specific release occured in April 2002 with Perl MX 2.0. The original heuristic development for the product was a combination of OSS SpamAssassin and internal ActiveState expertise.

In November 2002, the Perl MX product was renamed and released as PureMessage 3.0. Key release features included supporting major audio/video vendors and introducing an administrator web interface. Release 3.0 also incorporated end user "digests" (personal list of quarantined email with the ability to release individual messages) and phased out the remaining SpamAssassin heuristics.

PureMessage 4.0 was released in May of 2003. Key features included a new policy-builder Web interface, a new suite of security protection features (like denial of service protection), and a centralized management console (for administration of multiple PureMessage installations, their policies and their reporting).

Today, PureMessage continues to cater to the large organizational customers.

According to Chris Kraft, ActiveState's PureMessage Program Manager, "The primary clients for PureMessage are financial, educational, high tech, or government organizations with tens or hundreds of thousands of users." He added that 100% of PureMessage customers purchase the product for the anti-spam capabilities. Additionally, 50% buy PureMessage for virus protection, while 35% buy it for the policy package.

So how does PureMessage do its job?

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