Runtime encryption vendor Fortanix launches both partner program and channel-friendly appliance

Fortanix provides a Self-Defending Key Management Service solution that can be sold either as a service or as an appliance, and is designed to overcome traditional problems with key management.

Mountain View CA-based startup Fortanix is broadening its go-to-market strategy into the channel. The company is announcing their first channel partner program. They are also announcing the availability of the FX2200 appliance, which provides a Self-Defending Key Management Service [SDKMS] solution specifically designed for the channel to sell.

Fortanix is a well funded VC-backed company, with the co-founders of Palo Alto Networks and Juniper also contributing both as strategic advisors. Their trademarked SDKMS is designed to overcome the traditional problems with encryption that have limited its actual use by customers.

“Encryption has typically been a hard sell for the channel in the past because it has been hard to use,” said Ketan Shah, Fortanix’s VP of Products. “Key management has been the weakest chain in the value proposition. Key management solutions were designed 20 years ago, before the cloud era. They have been expensive, and not strong compliance fits.”

One of the issues with key management has been that it is only really effective when data is at rest, Shah stated.

“When data is in use and in memory, it is vulnerable,” he said. “This is what exploits have been targeting. With SDKMS, we are looking to make encryption easy and complete.”

Runtime Encryption – another term Fortanix has trademarked – is the core of SDKMS.

“The underlying foundational technology is Intel SGX, and we leverage that,” Shah said.  They initially went to market with a cloud-ready hardware security module [HSM]-as-a-service offering that provided built-in synchronization, global tamper-proof logging, disaster recovery, built-in tokenization, multi-site and multi-tenant support, and offered both RESTful and traditional APIs. The service offering remains, and Shah said that newer companies are still likely to prefer it, while companies with existing hybrid data centres are more likely to opt for the appliance.

“SDKMS provides hardware security with software flexibility, where nobody else has access to the keys,” Shah said. “That is especially compelling for high value data applications.” He indicated that any customer with sensitive, regulated data should see value of this, and that it has universal value for customers involved in cloud migrations.

“We also don’t charge an arm and a leg extra for features like central management,” he added.

Shah said that while most customers are dissatisfied with the traditional encryption operational model, Fortanix now finds that many are content to rely on software or cloud-based key management solution.

“Many think that these are good enough, and there is a need for education there,” he maintained. “Software key management solution is vulnerable, and needs to be backed by hardware.”

Out of the gate, Fortanix sold largely direct, although they also worked with a few channel partners. The new partner program and the new appliance are part of a strategy to transition to a partner-led model.

“We started selling in July 2017, and our intent was always to expand through the channel,” Shah said. “Going forward we will have a partner-led go-to-market, and enable partners.” That will include VAR and MSP channels, and strategic partnerships. Distribution will be part of the equation, and is being set up now.

“The focus for the next two quarters will be on building a select value channel,” Shah said. “Partner selection will be based on technical competency and experience in selling similar solutions. As we get the machinery rolling, we will eventually expand that.”

Given that the numbers will initially be limited, the Fortanix Partner Program starts with a single tier. Separate contract models exist for both resellers and MSPs, including a referral program for SaaS sales. The usual and expected  programmatic elements are present, including deal registration, and protection including expansionary and renewal incumbency, joint marketing, and hands-on product training.

“We will be in front of partners training them, with a white glove approach,” Shah said.

Sales enablement tools include a partner help desk, sales kits, and demos.

The new 1U FX2200 appliance is specifically designed for channel partners, as a building block for either a private cloud or a managed service.

“It has a scale-out value proposition, so the customer can start small and scale out as their needs grow,” Shah said. “That makes it a great fit for the channel. It’s also attractive because it enables them to provide additional services for maintenance and monitoring.”

“Encryption has been a tough sell in the past,” Shah concluded. “Our mission is to make it really easy for partners to sell.”

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