What’s Behind Syncsort’s Rebranding As Precisely?
June 1, 2020 Alex Woodie
Syncsort, the company that merged with Vision Solutions three years ago and acquired several IBM i security firms, has changed its name to Precisely. According to chief executive officer Josh Rogers, the new name is a better reflection of what the company has become following its acquisition of Pitney Bowes’ data and software business: laser-focused on data integrity.
The name change has been a long time in coming, according to Rogers, who took the helm at Syncsort in 2016. While the Syncsort brand has been around for 50 years, the company’s focus has shifted considerably from the early days, when Syncsort was synonymous with batch data integration tools for IBM mainframes.
“The mainframe solutions are incredibly important to the business. They continue to be growing products for us, an area of investment for us, and a distinguishing capability that we have,” Rogers tells IT Jungle. “At the same time, we were getting feedback from customers, including mainframe customers, saying a new brand would actually be helpful for us because people want to invest in modern technology to help them get more value out of data, but they don’t want to invest necessarily in mainframe environment.”
When the big data phenomenon was in full swing in the early 2010s, Syncsort developed a version of its DMX software that ran natively on Apache Hadoop, enabling its mainframe customers to save millions of dollars per year by offloading batch data processing jobs to Hadoop clusters running on commodity X86 servers. In fact, Syncsort became a significant contributor to the open source Hadoop code as a result of changes it made to Hadoop to improve how DMXh ran.
The company bolstered its data chops in 2016, when it acquired Trillium, which developed data quality and master data management (MDM) tools designed to help companies clean up their data for analysis.
Then in 2017, it completed a whirlwind week of deals that saw Syncsort being acquired by the equity capital firm Centerbridge Partners and then merged with Vision Solutions, which Centerbridge had also just acquired a controlling stake in. To complicate the deal, Vision simultaneously announced its acquisition of Enforcive, the provider of IBM i and mainframe security software that previously was known as BSafe Solutions.
This kicked off the “Big Iron to Big Data” stage of Syncsort’s development. With Vision’s collection of high availability and data replication software for IBM i (and the new security tools), as well as its existing offerings for System z and MVS mainframe customers, Syncsort suddenly had a plethora of big iron tools. It would go on to acquire Trader’s, the French provider of IBM i HA tools, as well as nab Cilasoft’s IBM i auditing software and Townsend Security’s well-regarded encryption software for IBM i.
Following Syncsort’s $700 million acquisition of Pitney Bowes’ location analytics software and location data business, the company realized it needed a new name. Precisely fit the bill because it reflected the company’s focus on precision data, Rogers says. (Pitney Bowes, which has a 100-year history, was not available.)
“If you think about the types of products we have and what workloads we execute for customers, we’re all about delivering high quality, precise data so systems can run efficiently and analytics can happen,” the CEO says. “It’s nice because it fits across the portfolio. You think about the IBM i solutions and HA – you need a high level of precision to support HA between mission critical transactional applications. That system has to be hugely precise in the way it does replication, in the way it handles failovers, etc.”
Precisely will retain the Syncsort name for the line of mainframe data integration tools, under the Integrate name. But moving data from one place to another is just one part of the company’s story at this point, thanks to a larger focus on ensuring the data is ready for analysis.
“If you look across the whole chain of Precisely’s product categories, including Integrate, Verify, Locate, Enrich, precise and precision are key distinguishing characteristics of the types of software we’ve been delivering to the market and the system they’ve been supported over the last couple of decades,” Rogers says.
The market for Hadoop has imploded, thanks to the availability of easier-to-use data lakes running in clouds. But Precisely has no intention to discontinue the Hadoop software, which has become a legacy platform at this point (not unlike the term used to refer to mainframe and IBM i systems, ironically). Precisely has moved with the market forces, and now connects customers’ data to cloud-based analytics systems like Snowflake and Databricks, not to mention Splunk and Cloudera, the last remaining Hadoop distributor, which has pivoted strongly to the cloud.
Precisely has inserted itself smack dab in the middle of an emerging chain of tools for moving data from source systems to analytical systems, and it figures to be a profitable one. This wasn’t a fluke, but the result of working with customers, understanding what their needs are, and realizing where the market for big data analytics software is headed.
“The way I look at the supply chain of data, if you will, is you have transactional systems that are operating, and those are things that are generally producing the company’s data assets,” Rogers says. “We don’t sell applications in the transaction processing space. We also don’t sell analytics system. We have partner like Databricks, Splunk, Cloudera, and others that help you store and analyze that data. What we do is we deliver data into those systems. Our goal is to deliver as high a quality of data as possible.”
A growing part of the big data integration game is enriching the data, which is where the Pitney Bowes and Trillium data and software comes into play. “It’s not just about the transaction records that come off your source system that we can help clean up and move into an analytic environment,” Rogers says. “It’s also that we can improve that data by adding additional context through data enrichment products, selling data products.”
While Rogers does acknowledge that the IBM i market isn’t a rapidly growing market, Precisely has no intention of slowing down in investment in its IBM i HA and security products, he says. The company views the IBM i customers running MIMIX, iTera, Trader’s, Enforcive, Cilasoft, and Townsend products as potential customers of Precisely’s precision data tools.
“We have several thousand customers on IBM i and they all have an interest in analytics. Any business of any scale has an interest in analytics,” Rogers says. “They’re working on how to make better data driven decision and we’re a key provider that can help them take advantage of all that data being created in the IBM i systems.”
In fact, Precisely is doing more work to help customers feed copies of their transactional records into downstream analytics systems through its Connect portfolio, Rogers says.
“We aim to be the go-to provider for those use cases as well . . . whether that be in the systems’ traditional database or a data warehouse, but more and more cloud-based systems for analytics, whether that’s feeding data into Kafka or Snowflake or Databricks,” he says.
Rogers says Precisely will reveal more of its product strategy later this summer. While he didn’t want to share details, the gist of the direction the company is going is making it easier for customers to adopt other products in Precisely’s catalog. The smart money is that the new strategy will bring a big serving of software subscriptions (as opposed to traditional licensing) and will involve a big dosing of cloud services.
“Our objective is to make it as easy as possible for customers to be able to tap into any one of those four domains and multiple capabilities under each of those domains, when they need it, where they need it.”