FireHost, the managed hosting company that makes security its calling card, has changed its name to Armor Defense Inc. and is starting to offer its security tools in other clouds, starting with Microsoft Azure.
Dallas-based FireHost always emphasized security, but you didn’t see it in the name unless the combination of firewalls and managed hosting clicked in your brain. “Armor,” as a name, is more of a blunt instrument. It fit well enough that the company was willing to shell out for the URL armor.com and even armour.com “It wasn’t cheap,” says Jeff Schilling, Armor’s chief of operations and security.
Armor announced its new name on Aug. 31, in time to promote its new image at the VMworld conference.
All cloud providers say they have security in mind, but Armor is particularly obsessive, having been founded in 2009 with the goal of producing the first truly secure cloud. Customers include Whole Foods Market, Northwestern University, HP (which isn’t listed on Armor’s web site, but you can see the name on a plaque at Armor’s headquarters), and hacker-turned-consultant Kevin Mitnick, whose web site is apparently a very popular target.
The company calls its secure hosting service Armor Complete (formerly the FireHost Virtual Private Cloud), and it’s also available in on-premises form. Tying into the security-minded architecture, the company recently picked VMware NSX as its network virtualization option.
One handicap on the marketing front is that cloud services all sound rather similar. That’s one reason why Armor wanted a name that better stressed the security theme. CIOs would come to FireHost saying, “‘I’m so tired of explaining to my development team that you guys are more than an expensive AWS [Amazon Web Services],'” Schilling says.
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Tools for Microsoft Azure
Armor wants to extend tendrils into other cloud as well, offering its level of security running on someone else’s infrastructure. That service, now called Armor Anywhere, got officially launched in mid-August with the announcement of Azure as a partner.
The initial offering provides an Azure virtual machine (VM) with functions such as security monitoring, anti-virus protection, and threat intelligence. On a less glamorous level, it can also handle patch management, which is also a key security function. Armor Anywhere inserts an agent into the VM to send information back to Armor’s facilities for interpretation. (AWS has shown interest in this service as well, Schilling says.)
From the customer’s point of view, Armor Anywhere is like a security porthole right now, a way to check on whether a workload is safe or under attack. That’s not “as ‘cloud’ as we’d like it to be,” Schilling says, so a second version arriving by the end of the year will give customers management capabilities akin to what they’d get from AWS or Azure.
Armor Anywhere is intended to be an intermediate level of security, targeting mainstream customers. Armor Complete remains a higher-end offering for cases where security breaches represent an “existential threat,” Schilling says.