Help/Systems Buys Safestone To Boost Power Systems Security
July 9, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
System management, security, and database query software maker Help/Systems has been on an acquisition tear for the past six years, and has done it again with a deal to buy British security software maker Safestone Technologies. The Safestone buy marks the third acquisition by Help/Systems in the past 13 months and demonstrates that the company is serious about extending from its IBM i base out to AIX and Linux platforms.
Safestone has offices in the Yorkshire burg of Sheffield and in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, west of London. Like PowerTech and Bytware, two formerly independent security companies that were acquired by Help/Systems in 2008 as it wanted to expand from systems management to security, Safestone has carved a niche for itself in the Power Systems-IBM i market. The company was founded in 1999 by John Todd, and its core product is known as DetectIT, which is a security, audit, and compliance tool that was created for the OS/400 and IBM i platform and that is used by about 500 different organizations worldwide. Historically, about half of its customers have been from Europe and half from North America. Todd was president and CEO of the company until it was acquired by Help/Systems on June 27.
Safestone has had equity backing from Symantec, MVC Capital, and Oyster Technologies. Being privately held, employee count and financial details for Safestone are not known, and the financial details of the acquisition by Help/Systems were also not made public.
“Safestone’s large customer base and years of experience in security are a great fit for PowerTech and Help/Systems,” explained Robin Tatam, director of security technologies for PowerTech, in a statement announcing the deal. “The acquisition of Safestone allows us to retain a leading-edge technology and deliver the most innovative and comprehensive solutions for our customers’ security needs.”
Speaking very generally, PowerTech’s tools are focused on security and compliance auditing while Bytware focuses on its StandGuard Anti-Virus and a variety of systems management tools, such as MessengerPlus and MessengerConsole. The thing that makes SafeStone DetectIT a good fit for PowerTech and for Help/Systems’ aspiration to be a complete player on IBM Power Systems machines is the fact that the log management and compliance modules of DetectIT were ported to AIX and Linux in September 2010. Help/Systems is not just buying access to this product, but expertise with AIX security.
Neither PowerTech nor Safestone offer security management and enforcement modules for AIX and Linux, but there is every reason to believe that this will be done at some point in the future, based on the expertise from the PowerTech and Safestone techies. This is precisely what Help/Systems has done to create its SkyBot Software and the eponymous job scheduler for Windows, Unix, and Linux platforms that has its heritage in the Robot family of job scheduling and system management tools for the OS/400 and IBM i platform.
Tatam tells The Four Hundred that the plans for integrating Safestone into the Help/Systems family have not all been worked out, but says that the deal was in the works even before private equity giant Summit Partners came back and bought Help/Systems for the second time back in April. And the AIX extensions to DetectIT were key to the deal. “It is easier sometimes to expand the products through acquisition than doing internal development,” Tatam explained.
This is one of the reasons why the SkyBot Software subsidiary of Help/Systems acquired Open Systems Management in May 2011, which is located in Fleet, Hampshire, outside of London. OSM created a set of job scheduling and IT process automation tools for Windows, Unix, and Linux platforms that had over 1,000 customers when Help/Systems did the acquisition last summer.
Moreover, Help/Systems wants to have a larger presence in Europe, so this also made Safestone attractive. That said, Help/Systems has more than 15,000 customers and is arguably already one of the largest software companies in the IBM midrange, so that incremental presence in Europe is probably not as important as AIX knowledge. The company will also have to sort out the three offices it has in England as well, with the OSM and Safestone buys.
The other important thing to consider, says Tatam, is that AIX shops are, like many Unix customers, a bit cocky about how secure their systems are–and they are often wrong, or at least unaware of the security issues their systems have. “They just don’t have some of the benefits we have in the IBM i environment. So there’s certainly a lot of room for growth in that AIX market,” Tatam says.
For the most part, both Help/Systems and Safestone sell their software directly, although they do have some channel pushing as well. This will make the integration a bit easier on the sales front, without complex channel issues. Although nothing has been settled yet, Tatam says that Help/Systems will likely tuck the DetectIT products inside the PowerTech unit and will soon start the task of integrating products and future development roadmaps.