It has been two-and-a-half years since we last evaluated Syncsort’s strategy and product directions (see here). Since then, there have been major changes in company focus, revenue growth, personnel, and partnerships.
The biggest change we’ve seen since our last company profile has been in the area of “data advancement”. With Josh Roger’s promotion to CEO in January 2016, followed by the promotions of Tendü Yoğurtçu to Chief Technical Officer, David Hodgson to Chief Product Officer in 2017, and Kevin Ruane to Chief Marketing Officer in 2018, Syncsort has altered its approach to the market. It has focused its products and resources on establishing leadership in the Big Iron to Big Data market, a large, growing market for products that help organizations enable data from legacy “Big Iron” platforms, like mainframe and IBM i, to be made accessible to next-generation analytics platforms.
As Yoğurtçu explained: “Syncsort closely monitors emerging technology trends and looks for different avenues in which a company can advance data solutions. With the Syncsort team’s expertise in legacy systems combined with its knowledge of new modern tools, the company’s goal is to provide its customers with the solutions they need to ensure data infrastructure performance; to protect data with availability and security offerings; to integrate data and help ensure its quality; and to advance data with cloud capacity management and data quality offerings – and with offerings that take advantage of IoT and data streaming, artificial intelligence; and data governance.”
In 2015, we reported that the company had grown its products over the years far beyond their original sort product. Since then, Syncsort has expanded its portfolio; and underwent a major rebranding effort in May 2018 to better articulate the focus and value of its growing product portfolio. As a result of this rebranding – and focus on its mission – Syncsort’s revenue is growing rapidly, and the company is gaining momentum. Last year Syncsort tripled its revenue; its customer base grew to over 7,000 — and the company now has 600+ data professionals distributed throughout the world.
Syncsort’s expansion stems from broadening its product line through a combination of organic growth and several significant acquisition activities. And it comes from a re-focus on core values: Syncsort is now a data-focused company with product offerings that optimize, assure, integrate and advance data across multiple platforms – but especially between mainframes, IBM i and distributed systems.
Who Is Syncsort?
Who is Syncsort? To get a sense of Syncsort’s overall strategy and market position, it is useful to understand the company’s goals, objectives and product offerings.
The Syncsort of old was primarily about sorting and extract/transfer/load (ETL). Over the years the company added products that enabled their customers to sort data, move data, migrate/convert data, format data – and now, manage data. The operative word in the previous sentence is “data.” Syncsort has become a data management/integration company that is dedicated to adopting and creating strategies around emerging technologies to help their clients do the most with their data. The company’s “mission“ is to help its customers bridge legacy data with modern data sources and platforms to help customers garner new insights.
The company organizes its portfolio into four categories with products that help customers:
- Optimize Data – with data infrastructure optimization offerings;
- Assure Data – with data availability and security offerings;
- Integrate Data – with data integration and data quality offerings; and,
- Advance Data – with cloud offerings that help customers future-proof their applications and become cloud agnostic, hosted offerings to manage capacity and improve data quality, and a strategic focus to help them leverage machine learning, AI and predictive analytics, on-premise and in the cloud.
Sorting Syncsort Product Offerings
Syncsort’s data management and integration product offerings are highly competitive with those of other companies focused on Big Data, data integration software, and services for Hadoop, and Microsoft Windows, UNIX, and Linux data integration. The company’s offerings are particularly strong in supporting legacy data integration between mainframes and modern computing environments, and in providing IBM “i” servers with availability, security and data management facilities.
The biggest shift in product development over the last several years has been to enhance and integrate a large number of acquired products (such as Trillium and Vision products) with existing products and internally developed software (such as Ironstream and new streaming CDC capabilities), to maximize the value of combined organic and acquisition growth. Since our last report, Syncsort has made several acquisitions to enhance their data expertise and give customers the tools they need to discover new insights from data in traditional architectures as well as modern digital platforms. With Syncsort acquiring Trillium, Metron, Enforcive, Cilasoft, Trader’s, and Townsend Security’s IBM i data privacy products all in the last two years, in addition to merging with Vision Solutions under Centerbridge Partners in August 2017, Syncsort has greatly expanded its portfolio. And given the company’s rapid growth since embarking on this strategy, we expect this acquisition trend to continue.
Syncsort’s offerings are organized into easy to understand and are segmented based on function:
Syncsort Optimize – The “Optimize” portfolio includes several infrastructure optimization products that include mainframe software such as MFX, ZPSaver Suite, and DL/2 as well as Athene cross-platform capacity management product, including the Cloud. The “Optimize” portfolio is designed for containing costs, meeting service level agreements (SLA’s), overall risk mitigation, and even handling an increase in workloads on both traditional and emerging data platforms.
Syncsort Assure — Syncsort Assure products provide business continuity and data protection for IBM i systems. Offerings include disaster recovery, high availability, data migration, data replication, and security. The portfolio contains Cilasoft, Enforcive, iTERA, MIMIX, and Trader’s Quick-EDD products and enables powerful audit and security capabilities, including Townsend’s data privacy products to customers as well.
Syncsort Integrate — The company’s portfolio of data integration and quality software includes Ironstream for Mainframe and IBM i, DMX-h data integration and Trillium data quality products. Syncsort’s Integrate portfolio helps customers with future proofing applications and deploying across hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environments, running on all major cloud vendors including AWS, Amazon EMR, MS Azure and GCP.
Syncsort Advance – Syncsort “Advance” offerings currently include cloud-hosted capacity management and data quality offerings and focus across portfolio on the organization of data using machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and predictive analytics. Through continued investments in new innovations and testing conducted, Syncsort is aiming to help its customers derive more value from their data.
A New Focus on Predictive Analytics, AI, and Machine Learning
Probably the biggest shift that has taken place at Syncsort over the past few years has been its new focus on predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
According to CTO Yoğurtçu, in order to maximize the analytic potential of data, “Data has to be prepared; it has to be cleansed, matched, and ready for artificial intelligence and machine learning and deep learning.” And this is exactly what the company is trying to do with new predictive analytics, AI and machine learning overlays.
As an example of applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to traditional, static, manual processes, consider Syncsort’s DMX-h offering. DMX-h is a data integration tool that uses machine learning algorithms to make integration decisions based on data structures and system attributes at run time. This gives DMX users the ability to automatically adapt and optimize aggregated data sets, leading to very fast discovery, analysis, and visualization of data. For example, “DMX-h” is high-performance data integration software that turns Hadoop into a more robust and feature-rich ETL solution, enabling users to maximize the benefits of MapReduce or Spark without compromising on capabilities, ease of use, and typical use cases of conventional ETL tools.
DMX-h, with its built-in ETL engine, does the heavy data lifting using Hadoop clusters while running on Apache Spark and MapReduce engines, or on the Amazon Cloud. Syncsort integrated this intelligent execution engine with the acquired Trillium software product and launched “Trillium Quality for Big Data, bringing leading data quality capabilities to big data environments.” Data quality becomes very critical for feeding data into machine learning and AI data pipelines. Bad data results in bad models and insights. Delivering the trusted data sets to power machine learning and AI is a big area of focus for Syncsort.
On the operational analytics side, Syncsort’s Ironstream brings security or IT operations data from IBM mainframes and IBM i platforms to Splunk and Elastic. Users can correlate data sets and leverage machine learning functions within Splunk. This condensed view of service delivery can help streamline IT management by pinpointing issues with log files automatically. Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) can combine big data and machine learning functions, and has the potential to replace mundane work that previously had to be done manually. A few examples of this are monitoring, event correlation, analysis, service management, and automation.
Syncsort capacity management product Athene takes advantage of machine learning and provides predictive analytics. Syncsort continues to invest in predictive capabilities and extend the product offering with deep learning and AI.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club
Problem: Hosting Wimbledon, The All England Tennis Club is in the spotlight, once a year, with by far higher traffic on their systems. Understandably so, the company needed a solution that would guarantee the systems would be up and running at all costs during the two-week annual tournament and the period working up to it. With attendance normally over 450,000 people, The All England Tennis Club was looking at a solution to keep things running smoothly.
Solution: With Syncsort’s assistance, The All England Tennis Club now runs their proprietary ticket management system as well as other crucial applications on IBM System i. With MIMIX Availability, IBM i servers, Geac accounting software, and a custom-built ticketing system, The All England Tennis Club can manage Wimbledon, one of the world’s largest tennis tournaments. All these products working together ensure system availability and maximize customer service and their experiences, while optimizing revenue. With switchover tests, there is guaranteed quality assurance of The All England Tennis Club’s systems. According to a Syncsort case study, “IBM recommended MIMIX Availability from Syncsort and their business partner, REAL Solutions, headquartered in Chessington, England.” During the tournament, Mimix keeps a real-time replica of the entire production database on a backup system. This ensures that if for any reason the primary system were to fail MIMIX would detect and automatically initiate failover and the backup system would kick in. In this case, downtime would be minimal. George Gallant, System Manager The All England Lawn Tennis Club, explains, “the biggest benefit of MIMIX is that if there is a problem, we can be up and running again within five minutes.”
Problem: As a global company, Porsche needed a customer relationship management (CRM) platform which dealers and partners and their customer bases could be organized. If successful, Porsche could guarantee support worldwide pertaining to all back-end customer services, roadside assistance, and warranty systems. Although Porsche decided upon SAP for their CRM solution, they identified that was just one piece of the puzzle. Porsche was seeking a data quality solution that could append customer records with the right address and full names too. To add, the records needed to be in the right language for all countries of operation around the world. This required a smart solution that, for example, could handle local nuances associated with names and address structure, and even sometimes second surnames.
Solution: Porsche feared using a different data quality tool for each country and the costs associated with that implementation. A strict requirement Porsche could not ignore was the tool needed to have SAP certification. Fortunately, Porsche discovered Syncsort’s Trillium. And according to Syncsort, “Trillium Software System is able to detect data structures, apply proper formatting and if applicable, cleanse the data some 10 to 15 times faster than is required for SAP certification.” With reference tables that allow for individual records to be compared via indexing, comparing records between one another is made easy. Trillium offers multiple configuration options, which makes it easier for companies to meet certain business requirements. For Porsche, the Trillium Software System today validates, updates as well as qualifies both address and customer data in a few different ways. It can qualify overnight when other systems submit the information in batch runs, or in real-time when the customer data is entered for the first time. According to Syncsort, “when Porsche or its subsidiaries or dealerships search for a customer in mySAP CRM, the Trillium Software System acts almost invisibly to ensure a full and accurate record is presented.”
Syncsort’s new “innovation” approach — closely monitoring emerging technology trends and looking for different avenues in which the company can advance data solutions – is paying big dividends. This company is solving problems that customers want to be solved using a combination of organic development, acquisitions, and partnerships (including IBM, Microsoft, Cloudera/Hortonworks, Splunk, Dell, Cognizant, CA Technologies, and Amazon Web Services).
The acquisition of Trillium in 2016 was a significant milestone for Syncsort’s future growth adding a powerful data quality platform to their portfolio. With tripled revenue in the last two years, it seems as if Syncsort’s acquisitions and growth did not go unnoticed. With the new Optimize, Integrate, Assure, and Advance segments, Syncsort’s organized portfolio helps customers find exactly what products they are looking for, for their current business needs.
Our assessment of Syncsort’s strategy is that it is well suited toward customers looking for ways to integrate legacy and modern environments. We especially like the company’s new emphasis on using AI, predictive analytics, and machine learning to improve systems and data management.
The company is excited over its recent growth – and well it should be. Syncsort believes that its recent success is just the beginning of what can be done with data. And with a strategy that encourages growth through innovation, Syncsort is well equipped with the approach – as well as with the right tools, products, and partners — to help their customers succeed in the constantly changing landscape in the world of data management and integration.