Forrester Research says that more than half of the enterprises in North America and Europe are implementing official BYOD programs so that companies do not find themselves with hundreds of security leaks because workers are demanding better smartphones and tablets, and simply bring their own in when all they get from IT are three year-old BlackBerrys. And IT services giant Oracle wants to make sure it’s not left out of the action: it has acquired Bitzer Mobile, a 999-day-old startup that has developed a way to create secure enterprise lockers on smartphones that otherwise behave like ordinary consumer handsets.
Or, in the words of Bitzer itself, its product “extends the security of the corporate network, and preserves the fun of mobile devices.”
Neither Oracle nor Bitzer released any official announcement of the deal, but those who happened to visit Bitzer’s website starting Friday were redirected to a page at Oracle.com with the following message:
“On November 15, 2013 Oracle announced it has acquired Bitzer Mobile, a provider of mobile applications management solutions that allow organizations to provide employees access to corporate data and applications from their mobile devices, to address the growing security needs created by the bring your own device (BYOD) movement…The transaction has closed.”
Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Bitzer had raised some $4.83 million before this, with backers including Acero Capital and Chevron Technology Ventures. The latter appears to have been a strategic investment, given that this is the venture arm of an energy company — perhaps a sign of at least one customer of the service.
The deal comes fast on the heels of IBM acquiring Fiberlink, so you can see this either as a move from Oracle to remain competitive in this area, or a sign of how BYOD really is emerging as something that enterprises and needing and demanding from their IT providers — or indeed a bit of both.
Indeed, there are a number of startups that have emerged who are also tackling the mobile security for enterprise and BYOD market. Among them are the very well-funded Lookout and AirWatch. In that context, it’s worth wondering if we will see more consolidation among the smaller-capitalised of these players, and if Bitzer is just a sign of more to come.
Bitzer’s particular approach to mobile security is not unlike what Samsung is doing with its KNOX solution, in offering a route for enterprises to create secure lockers or safes (Fort Knox-style) on devices for business matters, while letting workers continue to use their devices as consumers. Like KNOX, Bitzer covers major areas like authentication, data security, access to apps and data control (including being able to completely wipe data in those lockers remotely). The advantage with Bitzer is that it works across all major smartphone platforms and is not tied to a particular OS or OEM, with the ability to mange HTML5, native and hybrid apps as part of the deal.
This looks like it will be an acqui-hire as well as technology acquisition: Oracle says that Bitzer Mobile will continue to operate and will exist as part of its Fusion Middleware products, and is expected to be a core component to its mobile security strategy. Together, Oracle and Bitzer Mobile are expected to provide organizations with a comprehensive solution to further manage security of enterprise information held on personal and company-owned mobile devices.