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Top Questions Regarding Guardium Acquisition

By Adrian Lane

I spent about 8 hours on the phone yesterday discussing the Guardium acquisition with press, analysts, security vendors, and former associates in the Database Activity Monitoring space. The breadth of questions was surprising, even from people who work with these products – enough that I thought we should do a quick recap for those who have questions. First, for those of you looking for a really quick overview of Database Activity Monitoring, I just completed an introductory series for Dark Reading on The ABCs of DAM and What DAM Does. Here are some specific questions I have gotten pertaining to the acquisition, in no particular order:

  1. What does this mean for the remaining DAM vendors? It means lots of good things. It means that a major firm has placed a big bet on Database Activity Monitoring, spotlighting the technology in a such way that a wider set of customers and competitors will be paying attention to this technology. That means more press coverage. But most importantly it means IBM will now advocate the suitability of DAM for compliance. Additionally, the remaining DAM players will be furiously tuning their marketing materials to show competitive differentiation.
  2. What did IBM want to accomplish and how will the software group roll this out? and What does this say about IBM’s security strategy? These are great questions and will require a more in-depth examination of IBM’s security strategy. I will tackle this in a future post.
  3. Is this justification for DAM as a compliance platform? Yes it is. IBM provides validation in a way that companies like Fortinet and Netezza simply cannot. DAM has never had a single “must have”, killer application, and may never. But with thousands of Global Services personnel trained on this technology and out educating customers on how it helps with security, operations management, and compliance; I expect a big uptick in acceptance.
  4. How does this fit with existing IBM products? Great, poorly, and both. Philosophically, it’s a great fit. IBM has a handful of auditing technologies for every one of their database platforms, and they have the SIM/Log Management platform from the Consul acquisition, so there are some complimentary pieces to DAM. In many ways, DAM can be used as a generic database event collection and analysis engine. It can fit a lot of different purposes from real time security analytics to detailed forensic analysis. On a more practical level this is a poor fit. The Guardium product is not on an IBM stack (Websphere, DB2, Tivoli, etc). IBM really needs a comprehensive vulnerability assessment product to fill in compliance gaps even more than it needed DAM. This is one of the reasons many felt Application Security Inc. would have been a better fit. And despite what was said at the press launch, Guardium is still viewed as a hardware firm, not a software vendor. I am going to get hate mail on these last two points, but I have spoken with enough customers who share this perspective that IBM has more to worry about than my opinions.
  5. Does the mainframe database security market needs a facelift? OK, no one really asked this specific question, but was behind several different questions on DB2 security. Mainframe database security is old school: Access controls (ACF2, RACF, Top Secret), small numbers of administrators with SOD, use of tailored audit trails and physical isolation. Encryption to secure backup media is fairly common. While the use cases for mainframes continue to grow as companies look to leverage their investments, the security model has changed very little in the last 10 years. Monitoring provides the capability to verify usage, near-real-time analysis and non-database event collection. These all advance the state of mainframe DB security.
  6. Is this an internally-facing deal to serve existing customers or is there a genuine security global strategy? It’s a little of both. I do not believe what was said in the press call: that this is all about heterogenous database security. They have it and they will use it, but the focus will be on existing IBM customers. IBM Global Services will absolutely want support for every database environment they can get because their customers have everything, but the rest of IBM will want mainframe support first and foremost. I know firsthand that there were many in IBM pushing for iSeries-AS/400 support, and a smattering who wanted Informix capabilities as well. I imagine for the time being they will continue with the current support matrix, provide deeper and more seamless mainframe monitoring, and then service the squeakiest of the wheels. I am not exactly sure which that will be, but believe the first efforts are introspective.
  7. Does this mean that DAM is mature? DAM products have been reasonably mature for a while now. Once the vendors fixed their gawd-awful UI, had appropriate compliance and security policy bundles, and offered multiple data collection and deployment models, it became a mature product space. Visibility and a must-have use case have been elusive; so DAM has not gained the same kind of traction as DLP, email, and web security.
  8. Who is going to be bought next? Probably the most common question I got and, really, I don’t know. You tell me who the interested buyer is and I can tell you who the best fit would be and why. But as [shameless promotion] product and market analysis is how I make my living [/shameless promotion], I am not sharing that information unless you are serious.
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IBM’s Guardium acquisition
By acquiring Guardium at such a significant multiple, IBM has validated the database security, risk and compliance marketplace. However, this acquisition adds yet another point solution to their already disparate database tools portfolio, and such an “rfp check box” architecture approach will not satisfy the integrated platform requirements of serious customers seeking enterprise wide data governance.   

- John Ottman, President & CEO, Application Security, Inc.

By John Ottman


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