By Heather Clancy
April 14, 2015

Most companies use firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other so-called ‘perimeter’ security defenses. Far fewer can effectively detect malicious software that has breached that wall.

Two-year-old startup Illumio, which counts Morgan Stanley and Plantronics as reference accounts, wants to help security teams concentrate more closely on activity within the data center.

Although it emerged from stealth only six months ago, the Sunnyvale, California, company’s early sales momentum just helped it close a $100 million Series C financing round. Illumio also forged a high-profile partnership with F5 Networks, giving it even more credibility as an emerging data center security option.

Illumio’s high-level mission is to “reduce the surface area of attack.” Its technology monitors sanctioned relationships between different applications and databases, and sending an alert when something acts out of the norm. That means short-handed security teams aren’t stuck manually analyzing reams of data in search of potential threats.

“This is now a board-level issue, it’s a company-level issue, and it has a dynamic that it has never had in the past,” said Illumio co-founder and CEO Andrew Rubin. “It’s required in order to enable them to do business, it’s also unbelievably important in terms of managing their risk. Security as a whole is becoming completely rethought.”

That mantra apparently has widespread appeal. The funding round disclosed Tuesday includes new investors BlackRock and Accel Partners, along with existing backers Formation 8, Andreessen Horowitz, and General Catalyst. Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang also participated.

“The wide range of investors supporting Illumio reflects the company’s strong traction with Fortune 500 customers, the innovation of its policy and enforcement approach, and the magnitude of the problem it solves,” said Thompson, who is an Illumio board member.

The infusion will fund research and development, a sales team expansion, and a branding campaign. The 100-person company already has offices on both coasts, and is planning offices in Chicago, Boston and the Raleigh-Durham corridor in North Caroline. Illumio also plans to build a presence this year in Asia and Europe, doubling its workforce by the end of 2015, Rubin said.

Illumio’s technology works across cloud services such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, or within more traditional data centers. Given the complex nature of most corporate computing environments, that’s important.

“The more heterogeneous their approach, the more this makes sense,” said Alan Cohen, Illumio’s chief commercial officer. “You’d be shocked by how many Windows servers are still in production.”

The latest round brings Illumio’s total funding so far to $142.5 million. Rubin brushes off questions about its valuation: “nobody inside of Illumio today is doing this for any other reason than to be a standalone platform and public company, period.”

Along the way, it will face competition from the likes of vArmour, which also monitors server-to-server traffic for better security insights. That company is backed with $42 million.

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