Syncsort Talks Rebranding, IBM i Product Strategy
May 23, 2018 Alex Woodie
Think you know Syncsort? Who the company is and what it does? Well, you might want to take a fresh peek, because the company that acquired Vision Solutions and a handful of other IBM i software firms is on the move. In fact, it used the COMMON POWERUp 18 conference in San Antonio this week to begin rolling out a long-awaited company rebranding and major product refresh – including its new Fusion unification strategy and several new IBM i products.
First of all, the company will continue to be known as Syncsort. The executives leading the Pearl River, New York, entity (and ostensibly its equity partner, Centerbridge Partners) had considered picking a new name to reflect the fact that it has tripled in size and tripled in revenue over the last 15 months since it merged with Vision Solutions – which itself had grown considerably through M&A over the years.
In the end, continuity won out and Syncsort, which traces its roots back to 1968 when a pair of mainframe programmers developed some ETL software, will be the name of one of the biggest providers of IBM i software – not to mention a major player for mainframe ETL and the Hadoop stage.
Once that decision was made, the rebranding and product strategy began with earnest. Next up: Changing how people feel about Syncsort. According to Syncsort Chief Product Officer David Hodgson, the company is mustering all its product and marketing might around one central theme: data.
“Everything we do is in some way connected to data,” Hodgson tells IT Jungle. “Whether we’re protecting data with backup, whether we’re replicating data, whether we’re moving data from the mainframe or IBM i to Hadoop – it’s all about data.”
Syncsort’s raison d’etre is “to organize data everywhere to keep the world working.” “That’s how we’re expressing our purpose and our unified theme across our strategy,” Hodgson says. “Some of this is how we present ourselves, the image and marketing. But it also begins to shape what we’re actually doing with the products, the story we tell ourselves internally and who we go and look for to go buy next.”
All of Syncsort’s products fit into one of three buckets under Syncsort’s brand architecture: optimize, assure, and integrate. Products in the optimize bucket will help improve the cost and performance of data infrastructure.
Most of Syncsort’s IBM i products will fit in the assure bucket. This includes the collection of high availability products (MIMIX, iTera, OMS/ODS, and Trader’s Quick-EDD) as well as its security software (Enforcive, Cilasoft, Trader’s, and Townsend Security).
Products in the integrate bucket will include DMX-h, an ETL tool that helps users efficiently move data from a number of platforms into Hadoop without the need for Hadoop programming expertise. It also includes Ironstream, a product that moves mainframe data into NoSQL-based Elasticsearch and Splunk environments to perform operational and security analytics.
As part of its rebranding, Syncsort is also starting to roll out its new Project Fusion product strategy. Project Fusion, as the name suggests, is a multi-year effort to create an amalgamation of different products – in this case, a combination of Syncsort’s security and HA offerings.
The long-term plan around Fusion calls for a complete merger of code-bases of all of the IBM i security and HA products. However, that’s down the road a bit. In the meantime, the first glimpse of Fusion will come through the unification of the product’s interfaces around Vision Solutions Portal (VSP), the HTML5-based GUI that Vision has been using for its HA products for the past several years.
“Project Fusion is about taking the functionality of the security and HA product and bringing them together under a single UI, a single install,” Hodgson says. “They’ll be different — you won’t just purchase one gigantic thing from point of view of buying and licensing. There will be chunks. But they will be truly integrated as a business-resiliency solution with as much interoperability between the different pieces as we can build in over time.”
The plan calls for Syncsort to deliver a unified Project Fusion GUI based on VSP by the fourth quarter. The IBM i security projects will be unified first, Hodgson says, followed by the HA products, hopefully in the second quarter of 2019. The idea is to bring forward all of the unique features that make each individual security and HA product good into the Project Fusion product.
That means that Trader’s Quick-EDD users will be able to use the local journaling method if they choose, or they can use the remote journaling that all of the other products use. It will be a configuration item, Hodgson says. The idea is that Project Fusion will be a net additive for all of Syncsort’s security and HA customers. No feature from any individual product will be left out — except perhaps the 5250 green screens.
“There will be a big emphasis going forward on trying to get people to use the VSP interface,” Hodgson says. “Some of the new displays we put out will only be in VSP, not in green screen. That’s probably the way you see us go with improvement in Fusion. We want people to adopt the GUI and we think that’s good for everybody. It just makes the product way simpler to use and fits into the loss of skills on the IBM i platform.”
In other product news, Syncsort announced the release of MIMIX version 9. The big new item with this release is the addition of multi-threading for the apply process. While some elements of MIMIX were multi-threaded, most of the apply process was not, which created a major bottleneck.
Customers have been using early releases of MIMIX 9 for about six months, and the response has been great, Hodgson says. “We’ve seen customers get nine to 10 times the performance in terms of the elapsed time to get changes applied,” he says. “A customer who had a backlog in the queue — no backlog at all now.”
The company is also using the POWERUp 18 conference to talk about its Ironstream for IBM i product. The IBM i version of Ironstream does pretty much the same thing that the mainframe version does, Hodgson says.
“Basically we took some technology from the different products — a lot from Cilasoft and some from MIMIX – and created this Ironstream for IBM i product, which mirrors the z/OS product,” he says. “It will take security data, put it into Splunk and Elastic and also integrate with QRadar, Symantec, and a few others SIEMS [security information and event management products] out there.”
With the acquisition of Townsend Security announced just this week, there is no shortage of activity at Syncsort. Building out a product strategy that has room for growth through organic development and M&A isn’t easy, but the folks at Syncsort are adamant to succeed. When it comes to IBM i, Syncsort is making a real go out of building a successful operation, and that’s good news for the thousands of companies that count on Syncsort as a customer and the rest of the IBM i community, too.
“The overriding message is we’re serious about IBM i,” Hodgson says. “We want to be a leader in IBM i. So we’re pleased with the products we’ve bought in this space. But we’ll continue to invest organically and I think we’re going to make a real difference with this Project Fusion and a unified approach, and differentiate ourselves from the other player in in the market with the way we’re appraising the platform.”
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. Centerbridge Partners owns a majority stake in Syncsort, not Clearlake. IT Jungle regrets the error.