The Expert's View with Michael Novinson

Privileged Access Management , Security Operations

What IBM Purchasing HashiCorp Means for Secrets Management

Hashi Leads in Secrets Management But Lags in Privileged Access. What's Next?
What IBM Purchasing HashiCorp Means for Secrets Management

Security might not be top of mind when thinking about HashiCorp, but IBM's $6.4 billion acquisition will have major implications for the privileged access market.

See Also: 5 Requirements for Modern DLP

Big Blue took a big bite out of the secrets management space with its proposed buy of San Francisco-based HashiCorp, which rivals CyberArk in its ability to authenticate and authorize access to sensitive data. The secrets management market is competitive; CyberArk and HashiCorp are going toe-to-toe from both a capabilities and pricing perspective, benefiting clients but hurting the vendor's bottom line.

"People know Hashi really well for their infrastructure management, but the security pieces of Hashi are also very, very interesting and really important as people navigate these very complex environments with all the worries about people losing secrets and keys and that resulting in ransomware or hacking attacks," IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna told investors Wednesday.

Once HashiCorp becomes part of IBM by the end of this year, how focused will Big Blue be on storing and securing developer secrets? Will IBM double down on the broader privileged access market, or let the technology languish? And how will the sales and marketing firepower behind HashiCorp's Vault product change once IBM is in charge?

IBM has a significant security business of its own, though year-over-year sales fell by 3% in the quarter ended March 31. Security is part of IBM's hybrid platforms and solutions division, which also includes data and AI, Red Hat and automation. The division as a whole recorded $4.1 billion of revenue in the first quarter, up 7% from the previous year. (see: IBM Security GM on Seeing a Target Through the Hacker's Eyes).

"HashiCorp is a great strategic addition to our portfolio, extending Red Hat's hybrid cloud capabilities to provide end-to-end automated infrastructure and security lifecycle management," Krishna told investors Wednesday. "With security top of mind for every enterprise, Vault is a powerful secrets management offering to automate identity security across applications."

How Analysts See HashiCorp's Security Business

Gartner heaped praise on HashiCorp's secrets management capabilities when it included the company for the first time in the privileged access management Magic Quadrant. The analyst firm said HashiCorp has the highest market share for stand-alone secrets management, is well-regarded for its encryption capabilities and ease of integration, and understands the needs of practitioners, app developers and DevOps teams.

But when it comes to the broad privileged access management space, Gartner found HashiCorp lacking. The analyst firm said HashiCorp lacks privileged account life cycle management and discovery and credential management, and its session management capabilities are below average. Gartner said HashiCorp's PAM road map focuses more on DevOps use cases than on easing risk in traditional corporate settings.

Although Gartner classified HashiCorp as a niche player and rated it lowest of the 11 privileged access management providers evaluated in the September 2023 Magic Quadrant, that's still better than Forrester, which didn't even include HashiCorp among the 13 vendors in its October 2023 privileged identity management Wave.

HashiCorp recently debuted secrets management integrations with AWS CloudWatch, Elasticsearch and New Relic, and it launched SaaS-based capabilities that enable organizations to proactively discover unmanaged or unsecured secrets. In the broader PAM space, HashiCorp rolled out target search and filters along with better governance and end user workflows with session recording storage policies.

The company said Vault addresses the multi-tenancy of application teams, operational challenges associated with scale, the security and governance needs of enterprises, and advanced data protection capabilities such as tokenization and key management interoperability. Vault is priced based on the number of user, server or application clients using it, according to HashiCorp.

HashiCorp said it applies an identity-based approach to privileged access management and unifies the controls to a single system, meaning only a single product is needed to establish sessions to sensitive systems. The controls are based on the logical identity of users and applications, which HashiCorp said allows for dynamic and ephemeral cloud infrastructure to be supported without an outsized burden.

Too often, products such as HashiCorp's Vault become neglected in silos in the hands of a technology behemoth that has its attention focused elsewhere, while uncertainty causes key talent to run for the exits.

This deal will be a big test of Big Blue's ability to take advantage of entering the secrets management market.

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

Around the Network

Our website uses cookies. Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing, you agree to our use of cookies.