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DevOps platform JFrog acquires AI-based IoT and connected device security specialist Vdoo for $300M

JFrog, the company best known for a platform that helps developers continuously manage software delivery and updates, is making a deal to help it expand its presence and expertise in an area that has become increasingly connected to DevOps: security. The company is acquiring Vdoo, which has built an AI-based platform that can be used […]

JFrog, the company best known for a platform that helps developers continuously manage software delivery and updates, is making a deal to help it expand its presence and expertise in an area that has become increasingly connected to DevOps: security. The company is acquiring Vdoo, which has built an AI-based platform that can be used to detect and fix vulnerabilities in the software systems that work with and sit on IoT and connected devices. The deal — in a mix of cash and stock — is valued at approximately $300 million, JFrog confirmed to me.

Sunnyvale-based, Israeli-founded JFrog is publicly traded on Nasdaq, where it went public last September, and currently it has a market cap of $4.65 billion. Vdoo, meanwhile, had raised about $70 million from investors that include NTT, Dell, GGV and Verizon (disclaimer: Verizon owns TechCrunch), and when we covered its most recent funding round, we estimated that the valuation was somewhere between $100 million and $200 million, making this a decent return.

Shlomi Ben Haim, JFrog’s co-founder and CEO, said that his company’s turn to focusing deeper on security, and making this acquisition in particular to fill out that strategy, are a natural progression in its aim to built out an end-to-end platform for the DevOps team.

“When we started JFrog, the main challenge was to educate the market on what we saw as most important priorities when it comes to building, testing and deploying software,” he said. Then sometime around 2015-2016 he said they started to realize there was a “crack” in the system, “a crack called security.” InfoSec engineers and developers sometimes work at cross purposes, as “developers became too fast” the work they were doing was inadvertently led to a lot of security vulnerabilities.

JFrog has been building a number of tools since then to address that and to bring the collective priorities together, such as its XRay product. And indeed, Vdoo is not JFrog’s first foray into security, but it represents a significant step deeper into the hardware and systems that are being run on software. “It’s a very important leap forward,” Ben Haim said.

For its part, Vdoo was born out of a realization as well as a challenging mission: IoT and other connected devices — a universe of some 50 billion pieces of hardware as of last year — represents a massive security headache, and not just because of the volume of devices: each object uses and interacts with software in the cloud and so each instance represents a potential vulnerability, with zero-day vulnerabilities, CVEs, configuration and hardening issues, and standard incompliances among some of the most common.

While connected-device security up to now has typically focused on monitoring activity on the hardware, how data is moving in and out of it, Vdoo’s approach has been to build a platform that monitors the behavior of the devices themselves on top of that, using AI to compare that behavior to identify when something is not working as it should. Interestingly, this mirrors the kind of binary analysis that JFrog provides in its DevOps platform, making the two complementary to each other.

But what’s notable is that this will give JFrog a bigger play at the edge, since part of Vdoo’s platform works on devices themselves, “micro agents” as the company has described them to me previously, to detect and repair vulnerabilities on endpoints.

While JFrog has built a lot of its own business from the ground up, it has made a number of acquisitions to bolt on technology (one example: Shippable, which it used to bring continuous integration and delivery into its DevOps platform). In this case, Netanel Davidi, the co-founder and CEO of Vdoo (who previously co-founded and sold another security startup, Cyvera, to Palo Alto Networks) said that this was a good fit because the two companies are fundamentally taking the same approaches in their work (another synergy and justification for DevOps and InfoSec being more closely knitted together too I might add).

“In terms of the fit between the companies, it’s about our approach to binaries,” Davidi said in an interview, noting that the two being on the same page with this approach was fundamental to the deal. “That’s only the way to cover the entire pipeline from the very beginning, when they go you develop something, all the way to the device or to the server or to the application or to the mobile phone. That’s the only way to truly understand the context and contextual risk.”

He also made a note not just of the tech but of the talent that is coming on with the acquisition: 100 people joining JFrog’s 800.

“If JFrog chose to build something like this themselves, they could have done it,” he said. “But the uniqueness here is that we have built the best security team, the best security researchers, the best vulnerability researchers, the best reverse engineers, which focus not only on embedded systems, and IoT, which is considered to be the hardest thing to learn and to analyze, but also in software artifacts. We are bringing this knowledge along with us.”

JFrog said that Vdoo will continue to operate as a standalone SaaS product for the time being. Updates that are made will be in aid of supporting the JFrog platform and the two aim to have a fully integrated, “holistic” product by 2022.

Along with the deal, JFrog reiterated financial guidance for the next quarter that will end June 30, 2021. It expects revenues of $47.6 million to $48.6 million, with non-GAAP operating income of $0.5 million to $1.5 million and non-GAAP EPS of $0.00 to $0.01, assuming approximately 104 million weighted average diluted shares outstanding. For Full Year 2021, revenues are expected to be $198 million to $204 million, with non-GAAP operating income between $5 million and $7 million and an approximately 3% increase in weighted average diluted shares. JFrog anticipates consolidated operating expenses to increase by approximately $9-10 million for the remainder of 2021, subject to the acquisition closing.

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