Syncsort Acquires Townsend’s IBM i Encryption Software
May 21, 2018 Alex Woodie
Syncsort has acquired the bulk of Townsend Security’s products in a bid to bolster its burgeoning suite of security software for IBM i. The big get for Syncsort (formerly Vision Solutions) is AES/400, Townsend’s well-respected database encryption software for the IBM i platform. Meanwhile, Townsend Security will continue developing and selling encryption key management software for open systems and cloud platforms.
When it comes to database encryption on the IBM i server, there are few options. There are various encryption solutions available from IBM, including Cryptographic Services, which is the mainstream offering today. But when it comes to third-party encryption offerings, there just aren’t many offerings that don’t use IBM’s underlying Cryptographic Services APIs. For example, the encryption offerings from Enforcive, the IBM i and mainframe security software company that Vision Solutions acquired just before it merged with Syncsort, used IBM APIs under the covers.
Townsend Security‘s Alliance AES/400 product is different. The Olympia, Washington-based company took the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cryptographic library published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and developed its own IBM i implementation around it.
The result was a product that could encrypt and decrypt data on IBM i using the powerful AES-256 ciphers much faster than IBM’s own encryption offering could, according to Patrick Townsend, the founder and CEO of Townsend Security. “It’s blindingly fast,” Townsend told IT Jungle last summer. It’s “115 times faster on Power6 and Power7, and even on Power8, which has AES encryption on the chip, it’s 50X faster.”
As a result, the Alliance AES/400 product – which also supports data masking – developed a solid reputation among IBM i shops that need to protect data. It also made Townsend the subject of acquisition speculation over the years, particularly after Linoma Software, which had also developed its own IBM i implementation based on the AES library, was acquired by the security-hungry HelpSystems in 2016.
The Townsend deal, which Syncsort is expected to announce Monday morning, fleshes out Syncsort’s growing security business. In addition to Alliance AES/400, Syncsort gets several other IBM i products from Townsend, including Alliance Token Manager, Alliance Two Factor Authentication, Alliance FTP Manager, Alliance Secure TCP, Alliance XML 400, and Alliance Log Agent, among others. It also gets PGP Encryption for IBM i and z/OS.
Those products come on top of others that Syncsort has acquired in the past year through the acquisitions of two IBM i security software companies, Enforcive (formerly BSafe Solutions) and Cilasoft, in addition to buying Trader’s, which developed security software as well as high availability software for IBM i. Syncsort is expected to begin the process of amalgamating these products together soon (stay tuned for Wednesday’s issue of this newsletter for more on that).
While Townsend’s other products are good to have, Syncsort really had its eye on AES/400. “It was very much the strong encryption product,” said David Hodgson, Syncsort’s chief product officer. “I would have loved to have bought the Key Manager product, to be honest, but I’ll be happy to resell it.”
There will be an on-going partnership between Townsend and Syncsort, not just in the short term as the products change hands, but also in the long term, since because many AES/400 customers use Townsend’s Alliance Key Manager software to manage their encryption keys.
“We’re going to be in lock-step together,” Hodgson told IT Jungle. “He [Patrick] is going to be consulting with us. He’s going to be advising customers on security issues for us as things come up. I’m sure when he goes off and builds the next thing, we might well be interested in selling or buying that thing from him.”
Reached in his office Friday afternoon, Patrick Townsend explained his decision to sell the IBM i products for which his company is known best.
“As you know, for over a decade, we’ve been very active in non-IBM i platforms,” Townsend said. “One thing that’s different about us as a company is we successfully made the transition to become a multi-platform company. We do have an encryption, security, key management products on Windows, Linux, cloud, and VMware. We have that other side of our business, which has been very strong.”
Beginning Monday, Townsend Security’s focus will be solely on developing and selling the Alliance Key Manager product. While that product works with IBM i, it doesn’t run there. So for the first time ever, the company will not have any IBM i software on offer. That actually suits Townsend quite well.
“For us, the IBM i platform itself and products that are there are a legacy platform. That’s not a growth market,” he said. “We’ve been very successful here and we’ve been happy about that. The Key Management product, on the other hand, we feel is an emerging market. Windows, Linux cloud – all of these areas are in growth phases.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. There will be no headcount reduction as a result of this deal. It’s possible that some folks will move over to Syncsort, but that hasn’t been decided as yet. For the Townsend CEO, the decision to finally sell the IBM i security software happened only because he found the right buyer.
“It’s a good company,” Townsend said. “I think they mirror our values in important ways. They’re deeply technical in both those platforms [IBM i and mainframe] and I thought customers would be well served by that. The consolidation in the marketplace has created some power players here and I think customers . . . will really benefit from having a company that is strongly committed to the deep technical fields around these platforms.”
In the meantime, Monday marks a new beginning for Townsend Security. While the company will be in San Antonio for COMMON‘s PowerUp conference, its days of selling IBM i software is over. That doesn’t mean Townsend is completely out of the Power Systems market – some of its products run on Power Linux, including managing encryption keys for MongoDB databases. It will be at next month’s MongoDB World conference in New York City, where thousands are expected to attend.
Townsend has mixed emotions about leaving the IBM i platform. “It’s bittersweet,” he says. “It’s been a very productive space for us to be in. We really love the IBM i platform. We still do. But we’re looking for a different focus as we go forward.”