Q&A: Fortanix Talks Funding, Protecting Cloud Data, and Cloud Security Trends

Q&A: Fortanix Talks Funding, Protecting Cloud Data, and Cloud Security Trends

February 1, 2019 Off By Hoofer

Earlier this week, Fortanix announced that it had closed a sizeable Series B round of funding, which will help the company execute on its bold vision of helping solve today’s cloud security and data privacy problems.  To find out more about the funding news, the company, their technology and partnerships, CloudCow spoke with Ambuj Kumar, the company’s CEO and co-founder.  Kumar also goes into detail about the major trends that he sees in cloud security for the remainder of 2019.

CloudCow:  Congratulations Ambuj on this week’s funding!  Before we go into those details, can you give our readers a quick overview of Fortanix?

Ambuj Kumar:  I would be happy to. Fortanix was founded to solve cloud security and privacy challenges. We allow customers to securely operate even the most sensitive applications without having to trust the cloud. Fortanix provides unique deterministic security by encrypting applications and data everywhere – at rest, in motion, and in use with our Runtime Encryption® technology built upon Intel® Software Guard Extension (SGX). 

We were the first company to recognize the power of protected enclaves to secure enterprise applications and cloud data, and adoption has been growing rapidly ever since. In addition to many Fortune 100 customers around the globe, Fortanix is partnering with and enabling protections in the IBM Data Shield. We have also been working with Equinix to power its SmartKeyTM HSM-as-a-service, and we partnered with Alibaba Cloud to integrate with the Alibaba Cloud platform, enabling them to introduce new levels of security and privacy with our Self-Defending Key Management ServiceTM in the cloud. Those are just a few of the big names I can mention.

CloudCow:  Now, can you tell us more about the funding?  How that all came about and what you will use it for?

Kumar:  Earlier this week, we announced that we closed a $23 million Series B round of funding led by Intel Capital. Our existing investors Foundation Capital and Neotribe also participated in the round. We have been working very closely with Intel since 2016. We were the first commercial application of their Intel SGX technology, and they have been watching our progress and growth very closely, while being an extremely important and supportive partner. 

The new funding will be used to expand all facets of our company, including Engineering, Sales, Marketing and our channel, to meet the increasing global demand for our Self-Defending Key Management ServiceTM and Runtime Encryption® platform. In addition, it will help fuel our rapid acceleration internationally.

I should add that Sunil Kurkure, Director at Intel Capital, will join the Fortanix Board of Directors. We have been working closely with Sunil and look forward to leveraging his wealth of knowledge and support.

CloudCow:  Why was it important to take an investment from Intel Capital?  What does that signify?

Kumar:  This investment signifies a significant milestone for Intel and Fortanix in our continued collaboration to allow the most sensitive applications to run securely in cloud. Intel is a critical partner for Fortanix and it made sense to keep the investment “in the family,” and enable us to expand our great work together. Additionally, the Intel brand carries a lot of weight and all the customers know about them. This funding will further our joint strategy of driving the ability for enterprises to securely move data from on-premise and offsite to the cloud, while expanding Fortanix’s reach in the market.

CloudCow:  You also have some other big-named partners.  How have things been going with the likes of Equinix and IBM?

Kumar:  Our key management offering with Equinix SmartKey saw rapid acceleration in customer adoption across the spectrum of startups to some very large enterprises. We also added new capabilities such as tokenization and KMIP. KMIP allows customers to encrypt their VMware vSAN and vSphere with a click of a button and meet various compliance requirements, all with the convenience of a cloud-delivered SaaS. 

With Fortanix, IBM Data Shield became the only and first cloud provider to offer an Intel SGX-based service where Linux applications can run truly secure and protected from even the cloud provider. This is a marquee offering by IBM and we are very proud to work with them.

CloudCow:  Can you tell us how your Runtime Encryption technology is particularly critical in protecting cloud data?

Kumar:  Nowhere else is Runtime Encryption more critical than in protecting cloud data, and Runtime Encryption is fundamentally helping establish trust in cloud computing. This is because our technology creates a portable security envelop that runs signed applications in completely protected states. We keep cloud apps and data completely protected while in use from external and internal threats, OS-level hacks and network intruders. Fortanix Runtime Encryption technology delivers unprecedented levels of protection.

With Runtime Encryption customers know that no matter what happens, their data remains cryptographically protected. No amount of zero-day attacks, infrastructure compromises, and even government subpoenas can compromise the data. Runtime Encryption uses hardware as a foundation to provide deterministic security needed for the most sensitive cloud applications, at the performance demanded by modern Internet-scale applications.

CloudCow:  What major trends do you see for 2019 around cloud security?

Kumar:  The number one concern cited by enterprises in their move to cloud continues to be security. Development of protected enclaves is giving sensitive applications a safe place to be protected from today’s infrastructure attacks. This year, enclave-based security will become mainstream for sensitive cloud applications as customers demand definitive protection from infrastructure threats. Already we are seeing how Apple uses protected regions of hardware to secure personal data on iPhones. 

Also, data is recognized as critical in driving AI functions, and AI is moving to a state where it will impact many more things we do. New types of privacy-aware frameworks are emerging this year to protect all this data. For example, a healthcare business will be able to securely use AI and ML with the most sensitive patient data, providing new insights in the fight to cure diseases, while helping with highly personalized drug discovery.

Finally, we see trends around the line between IOT and edge-cloud getting blurred. With IOT devices’ increasing capability, they will face stronger scrutiny from a security and privacy perspective. For example, more states will follow the lead of California in demanding IOT devices provide “reasonable security” and privacy. IOT devices today have the capability to do everything from crash cars and regulate blood-flow – and regulations on how they are secured will be needed.

CloudCow:  And what can we expect to see from Fortanix in 2019 now that you have this infusion of funding?

Kumar:  Well, I mentioned this funding will fuel the growth of every facet of Fortanix, and expand our ability to further penetrate our markets and discover new markets. We look forward to working closely with Intel and leveraging our existing partners, and building new partnerships to solve cloud security and privacy issues altogether! As we move forward in the year, you will see us support even wider classes of applications, on an even wider array of computing platforms.

CloudCow:  It’s been great speaking with you, anything else you would like to share in wrap up?

Kumar:  It’s been my pleasure to talk to you. Fortanix has the bold mission of solving cloud security and privacy. We now have all the fundamental building blocks to deliver on our promise. Our mission may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It looks impossible only because it’s not been done before.

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