When Armor5 introduced its software last year, it was aimed squarely at helping companies cope with the BYOD phenomenon, by offering a solution that allowed people to securely access corporate data via their mobile devices. Unlike many products geared to this market, Armor5's software virtualizes the user experience and puts the security function in the cloud, isolating it from the device and the network.
The executive team quickly discovered a "BYOD maturity curve," said Armor5 CEO Suresh Balasubramanian. That is, many companies only wanted to protect company email, calendar and contact information. And most solutions on the market employed a traditional endpoint management approach borrowed from the PC days.
"You get control through the device, and at a sign of trouble you can push a button, wipe the device and pretend nothing happened," he said. "The BYOD demand is still largely around a PIM (personal information management) opportunity managed through native device clients."
Armor5's solution is geared instead toward protecting corporate data contained in cloud applications like Salesforce.com and is accessed via a browser. So the company decided to tweak its marketing and began positioning its software as a broader cloud security solution rather than a BYOD product.
It attracted a customer that became a business partner, SoftBank. The Japanese telecommunications giant offers Armor5's solution as an added incentive for security-conscious customers considering its White Cloud computing service. SoftBank uses Armor5's product as the security layer that sits between cloud services and SoftBank's single sign-on infrastructure, Balasubramanian said, noting that the Japanese company's target market is enterprises with tens of thousands of users.
In addition to SoftBank, Armor5 has signed contracts with more than a half dozen managed services providers that will also sell its solution, Balasubramanian said. Because of this, "2014 will have a channel bias to it," with Armor5 focused on training staff from its partners rather than on building a direct sales channel.
Armor5 also got a vote of confidence from IBM, which added the company's solution to its IBM Cloud Marketplace, which also offers customers its BlueMix platform-as-a-service and access to more than 100 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.
Armor5's staff includes professionals with impeccable security pedigrees, said Balasubramanian, himself a veteran of Adobe. For example, CTO Sunil Agrawal was the primary architect of Adobe's Flash Access technology, used by Hollywood studios to securely deliver content.
The company is in the right place at the right time, he believes.
"Companies no longer talk about 'if' they are going to the cloud, they talk about 'when.' Cloud economics are enticing, but security is still what stops them," he said. "First they want to get the infrastructure to where they are comfortable with it, next apps and then data. I feel infrastructure and apps are getting there. Security is a big component before companies move over their data. We are catching the beginning of the wave."
Quick Facts about Armor5
Founded: late 2011
Co-founders: Sunil Agrawal, Naveen Ramaiah, Praveen Banoth, Andrei Sheretov
HQ: Santa Clara, Calif.
Funding: $2 million seed round, with investors Trinity Ventures, Nexus Venture Partners and Citrix Startup Accelerator
Customers: SoftBank, which is also a partner, having signed an agreement to offer Armor5's solution to its customers.
Ann All is the editor of eSecurity Planet and Enterprise Apps Today. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.