Skyport Systems Emerges From Stealth With Hyper-Secure Converged Server

Skyport Systems, a Silicon Valley-based startup formed two years ago by a group of Cisco and Juniper veterans, came out of stealth mode Tuesday to reveal a "hyper-secured" enterprise server with advanced security features built into its core architecture.

Sensing a market opportunity for trusted computing systems in an age of heightened corporate anxiety over data breaches and cyberattacks, Skyport is rolling out over the next month a fully managed, converged system with advanced security technologies and best practices integrated across the entire stack, from the physical case, to the hardware architecture, to the networking and application layers.

The system, SkySecure, aims for midmarket and small enterprise customers. Skyport plans to sell SkySecure only through a recurring annuity model, and exclusively through a channel it is currently developing, Corporate Vice President Douglas Gourlay told CRN.

[Related: Cisco Gets Serious About Security, Calls Out Palo Alto, Check Point]

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"The concept was, how do we build a really, really secure server that’s purpose-built for critical infrastructure systems," things like control points for an SDN, DNS servers, big data systems or mission-critical cloud servers, Gourlay said.

Those "key-to-the-castle" workloads might run only in a small part of the data center, but their protection and health are vital to the well-being of the entire business.

Currently, the only way to harden servers that run critical workloads, or operate in hostile environments, is to integrate multiple unique pieces of technology across the stack, Gourlay said.

An integrator might have to work with a dozen vendors to implement all the software elements and ensure hardware manufacturers block access to physical ports, BIOS, devices and components -- all in line with a complex litany of best practices. It's remarkably difficult to do right, Gourlay said.

What happens too often is "you cut corners and people make mistakes and you have what appeared in the newspaper all of this last year," he said of the multiple high-profile data breaches at places like Sony, Home Depot and Target.

SkySecure is "secure by default," he said.

The system is powered by two 8-core Intel Xeon processors with 128 GB of memory. For storage, it comes equipped with two SSD drives, each 960 GB.

What the system lacks is any physical ports -- ensuring it's physically hardened and tamper resistant.

SkySecure's integrated software implements most major security functions, including application segmentation, system auditing, packet mirroring, encryption, network traffic monitoring and threat detection analytics.

The company's founding team comprises heavy-hitters from networking giants Cisco, Juniper and Arista.

Sutter Hill Ventures and Intel Capital invested in a Series A round, and Index Ventures led a B round, for a total of $37 million in funding.

Sutter Hill has made a big bet on the Mountain View-based startup, the kind the venerable Palo Alto venture capital firm likes to do maybe twice a decade. Reflecting that commitment, a Sutter Hill partner and former engineering manager at Juniper, Stefan Dyckerhoff, was appointed Skyport's CEO.

Dyckerhoff's former colleagues at Juniper -- Michael Beesley, Will Eatherton and Rob Rodgers -- round out the executive management team, along with Gourlay, who worked with those three at Cisco.

When Gourlay hired Phil Alexander, who built the UCS channel program at Cisco, to build out Skyport's channel, he conveyed a three-pronged goal: Every deal would go through the channel, partners would get "significant" residual annuity revenue and Alexander would be named CRN's Channel Chief of the Year in 2016.

"We're going to build the best program possible," Gourlay told CRN.

To do that, the company had to consider the question of pricing, he said.

A high sticker price would leave a large recurring margin for partners. But the system also needed to be affordable enough for MSPs to buy it, add value on top of it, and still offer services that were price-competitive with other cloud solutions.

What they ended up with is a system that will cost customers $2,500 a month, Gourlay told CRN.

Skyport believes it's introducing the technology to a market that is surprisingly underfunded.

Gourlay said that network security infrastructure is about a $7.5 billion market -- not much when compared with the $45 billion market for integrating and managing security services on top of those technologies, he said.

Last week, Skyport started shipping its hardware to a select group of production customers -- a two-rack unit server manufactured in the U.S. and delivered through a secure and verified supply chain. The software components of SkySecure will become generally available later this summer, he said.

Those deals have all gone through the channel. "I told my guys," Gourlay said, "I don't want to take stuff direct."

While the startup's partner program officially launches in June, Skyport's founders have already tapped a handful of solution providers they were familiar with from Cisco's and Arista's channels, Gourlay said.