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IoT Security Is Next Chapter for Syniverse

Iain Morris
6/25/2018

Long gone are the days when Syniverse could rely for sales growth on its roaming systems business, which basically facilitates transactions between different mobile operators. With roaming and related services in decline, Syniverse generated revenues of $634 million last year from what it calls "mobile transaction services," down from $749 million back in 2013.

Its response, as chronicled by Light Reading last year, has been to funnel resources into its much perkier "enterprise and intelligence services" (EIS) unit, which has been developing a range of analytics and messaging-related products for corporations like Macy's, Western Union and restaurant chain Chipotle. The effort has paid off. After growing just 1.5% in 2016, EIS revenues soared a fifth last year, to $159 million, and Syniverse Technologies LLC reported its first increase in annual sales since 2014. The addition of a new security offering to the EIS portfolio, branded Syniverse Secure Global Access, may augur well for 2018 and beyond. (See As Its Roaming Empire Declines, Syniverse Gets Enterprising .)

Promised since August last year, that offering is designed to fill a major gap in the market and give some much-needed impetus to the broader "Internet of Things" (IoT) market, according to Mike O'Brien, Syniverse's global vice president of corporate development and strategy.

"There is tremendous focus on securing end points, whether the device or the cloud itself, and on the core network for operators, but the transport from the operator back to the cloud is in many cases going over the public Internet," he says during an interview with Light Reading. "That is what we are saying needs to be locked down, secured, isolated and protected."

Syniverse brings to the party what it claims is one of the world's largest IP backbones. That can be used, says O'Brien, to bypass the public Internet's addressing scheme and provide security guarantees that have not previously been available. Without a public address, cybercriminals cannot carry out a distributed denial-of-service (or DDoS) attack, which works by flooding a known network address with requests.

This is potentially a multi-billion-dollar opportunity, as far as Syniverse is concerned. In O'Brien's view, security worries have been holding back the development of the IoT, especially in highly regulated markets such as the energy sector. "The cost of not securing data could be staggering," he says. By providing a spur to IoT, the latest service might lead to additional non-security business for Syniverse, too.


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But if it is such a big deal, then why has it been neglected? A degree of complacency may be partly to blame. Organizations have become too reliant on the public Internet, which was designed as an open research network and not for real-time, mission-critical transaction processing, says O'Brien. As he sees it, no company has attempted to do what Syniverse has now done. That means the only secure alternative for an organization is to build and manage a global private network at considerable expense.

When Light Reading first caught wind of the forthcoming security offering in August last year, it was due to be officially announced in the first three months of 2018. It has taken a bit longer than planned while Syniverse has carried out the necessary upgrades to its backbone and made sure there are "proof points" for the new service. According to its official announcement, more than five multinational companies are already customers, although Syniverse is not disclosing more details at this stage.

In future the service could benefit from a partnership with mobile operators to guarantee security on mobile devices. Syniverse is already in discussions about this with service providers, says O'Brien. It will also look at incorporating messaging and identity management features.

If the service is as lucrative as O'Brien suggests, Syniverse investors will expect to see a positive impact on the company's financials. Thanks to modest sales growth last year, Syniverse narrowed its net loss to just $20.8 million, from $65.2 million in 2016. But it has not made a profit since 2010. A service that powers it back into profitability is one Syniverse desperately needs.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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