Innovative cloud service startup Sonrai Security sees strong channel play as they emerge from stealth

Sonrai also has a strong Canadian connection, with one of the two founders and the company’s engineering based in Fredericton N.B., as was the case with their previous company, Q1 Labs.

Brendan Hannigan, Sonrai Security’s CEO

Today, Sonrai Security, led by the same team who built up Q1 Labs and sold it to IBM, is emerging from stealth and announcing their Series A funding round and the availability of their service. That Cloud Data Control service provides cloud-native cloud security and risk mitigation across all clouds, facilitating full visibility of their assets and identity relationships, and enabling compliance. It will also have a channel-friendly go to market strategy right out of the gate.

“We founded the company in 2017, and are formally launching it today, with our service available,” said Brendan Hannigan, the CEO of Sonrai, whose name means ‘data’ in Gaelic.

Hannigan and his co-founder Sandy Bird have done this before. Bird was the co-founder, and Hannigan the CEO, of Q1 Labs, which was based in Waltham MA, but whose engineering was located in Fredericton New Brunswick. IBM acquired Q1 in 2011 and it became the foundation of its QRadar security division.

“Sandy and I have known each other for 16 years,” Hannigan told ChannelBuzz. “After we were acquired by IBM, we helped create their security business. I stayed there four and a half years and Sandy stayed a little longer. Then we landed on this idea.”

That idea is a new service that delivers full data and identity control across all cloud accounts and within any data store. It addresses what has become a growing problem where enterprises often have hundreds of cloud accounts running across AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Many of these are unknown to their IT, which means that the organizations also don’t know what data they contain, or the extent to which access is allowed.

“The cloud has brought about a momentous change in how software applications are built, run and managed,” Hannigan said. “Gartner says that by 2025, 80 per cent of enterprises will have turned off their old data centres – it’s 10 per cent today. Now whether you think that number is too high or not, we still see a big opportunity in helping customers focus on data and connect identity, as they put their infrastructure into the big public clouds. Our objective is to deliver a service that builds a complete risk model of all identity relationships, so that the customer can understand what is happening and where all the data is across all the different cloud providers. It defines mistakes and risk, helps with all the compliance regulations, and increases overall operational efficiency.”

Sonrai’s Cloud Data Control service provides a model for hybrid cloud security and risk mitigation that ties together data and identity, and bridges SecOps and DevOps teams to provide a new level of security, compliance and efficiency.

“We made it fully native for each of the cloud services,” Hannigan stated. “The solution understands, finds and collects data for each of the cloud providers. The unique thing that we have done is normalize that, so that the complexity of any one cloud provider is hidden. This ability to track users and data across all cloud services and data sources is critical, especially when you consider that the average life of a container is a few hours. You need a model to track all people who have access to that data.”

Sandy Bird, Sonrai Security’s CTO

Sonrai’s engineering team, as was the one for Q1 Labs, is based in Fredericton. Not co-incidentally, that is where Bird lives. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation [NBIF] was a participant in Sonrai’s $18.5 million Series A funding round, which is also being announced today. Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures led the round, with Polaris Partners Managing Partner Dave Barrett and TenEleven Ventures Founder and Managing General Partner Alex Doll joining Sonrai’s board.

Hannigan acknowledged that this kind of solution has been aimed at the enterprise historically, but said that its availability as a service, and strong focus on the channel from the outset will expand Sonrai to a much broader audience.

“It will be broader than the enterprise,” he emphasized. “We can bring a company onto this service in 10 minutes. That will help us extend it to the whole SMB market. We have had experience doing this before.  Q1 was mainly channel, and we have a strong expectation here that this will be even more of a channel play.”

Hannigan said that while they know well that just building the service does not mean that the channel will come, he is optimistic that the service’s intrinsic advantages and Sonrai’s channel-friendly philosophy will appeal to partners.

“We know that you have to show the channel success with customers,” he said. “We have done this before. We are growing a sales team now in North America and our cardinal rule is that you must work with channel partners. It is a big part of our business strategy. Our sales leaders are 100 per cent all-in on this. We are making sure sales is compensated in a neutral way to work with channel partners. That’s mandatory for success. We also understand that, initially, we may have to do the heavy lifting on sales with partners.

“The momentous transition taking place with the cloud is also a big change for channel partners, so this service is a wonderful bridge for them,” Hannigan added. “They are already familiar with security, compliance, risk and operational efficiency.”

Sonrai should appeal to a broad cross-selection of all of them, and the plan is to support that, without trying to recruit every security managed service provider out there.

“There are some partners who focus on risk, and others who are more regionally-based ones but who have customers who want to work with them,” Hannigan said. “I believe you have to support both. We would never work with a focused partner exclusively to the exclusion of a regional partner – It’s a balancing act. We also want to have partners who are able to scale, and not just have a partner as effectively a customer. Q1 in its later years had hundreds of partners – not tens of thousands. Some were national, some regional and some local – but they could all scale. For onesies and twosies, they work with distribution, although we won’t yet have distribution out of the gate. We want to build the channel out, but we want to make sure that we can deliver and educate for partners as well.”

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