Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Incomplete Thought: Virtual/Cloud Security and The Potemkin Village Syndrome

August 16th, 2012 3 comments

Portrait of russian fieldmarshal Prince Potemk...A “Potemkin village” is a Russian expression derived from folklore from the 1700′s.  The story goes something like this: Grigory Potemkin, a military leader and  statesman, erected attractive but completely fake settlements constructed only of facades to impress Catherine the Great (empress of Russia) during a state visit in order to gain favor and otherwise hype the value of recently subjugated territories.

I’ll get to that (and probably irate comments from actual Russians who will chide me for my hatchet job on their culture…)

Innovation over the last decade in technology in general has brought fundamental shifts in the way in which we work, live, and play. In the last 4 years, the manner in which technology products and services that enabled by this “digital supply chain,” and the manner in which they are designed, built and brought to market have also pivoted.

Virtualization and Cloud computing — the technologies and operational models — have contributed greatly to this.

Interestingly enough, the faster technology evolves, the more lethargic, fragile and fractured security seems to be.

This can be explained in a few ways.

First, the trust models, architecture and operational models surrounding how we’ve “done” security simply are not designed to absorb this much disruption so quickly.  The fact that we’ve relied on physical segregation, static policies that combine locality and service definition, mobility and the (now) highly dynamic application deployment options means that we’re simply disconnected.

Secondly, fragmentation and specialization within security means that we have no cohesive, integrated or consistent approach in terms of how we define or instantiate “security,” and so customers are left to integrate disparate solutions at multiple layers (think physical and/or virtual firewalls, IDP, DLP, WAF, AppSec, etc.)  What services and “hooks” the operating systems, networks and provisioning/orchestration layers offers largely dictates what we can do using the skills and “best practices” we already have.

Lastly, the (un)natural market consolidation behavior wherein aspiring technology startups are acquired and absorbed into larger behemoth organizations means that innovation cycles in security quickly become victims of stunted periodicity, reduced focus on solving specific problems, cultural subduction and artificially constrained scope based on P&L models which are detached from reality, customers and out of step with trends that end up driving more disruption.

I’ve talked about this process as part of the “Security Hamster Sine Wave of Pain.”  It’s not a malicious or evil plan on behalf of vendors to conspire to not solve your problems, it’s an artifact of the way in which the market functions — and is allowed to function.

What this yields is that when new threat models, evolving vulnerabilities and advanced adversarial skill sets are paired with massively disruptive approaches and technology “conquests,” the security industry  basically erects facades of solutions, obscuring the fact that in many cases, there’s not only a lacking foundation for the house of cards we’ve built, but interestingly there’s not much more to it than that.

Again, this isn’t a plan masterminded by a consortium of industry “Dr. Evils.”  Actually, it’s quite simple: It’s inertial…if you keep buying it, they’ll keep making it.

We are suffering then from the security equivalent of the Potemkin Village syndrome; our efforts are largely built to impress people who are mesmerized by pretty facades but don’t take the time to recognize that there’s really nothing there.  Those building it, while complicit, find it quite hard to change.

Until the revolution comes.

To wit, we have hardworking members of the proletariat, toiling away behind the scenes struggling to add substance and drive change in the way in which we do what we do.

Adding to this is the good news that those two aforementioned “movements” — virtualization and cloud computing — are exposing the facades for what they are and we’re now busy shining the light on unstable foundations, knocking over walls and starting to build platforms that are fundamentally better suited to support security capabilities rather than simply “patching holes.”

Most virtualization and IaaS cloud platforms are still woefully lacking the native capabilities or interfaces to build security in, but that’s the beauty of platforms (as a service,) as you can encourage more “universally” the focus on the things that matter most: building resilient and survivable systems, deploying secure applications, and identifying and protecting information across its lifecycle.

Realistically this is a long view and it is going to take a few more cycles on the Hamster Wheel to drive true results.  It’s frankly less about technology and rather largely a generational concern with the current ruling party who governs operational security awaiting deposition, retirement or beheading.

I’m looking forward to more disruption, innovation and reconstruction.  Let’s fix the foundation and deal with hanging pictures later.  Redecorating security is for the birds…or dead Russian royalty.

/Hoff

Enhanced by Zemanta

Why Is NASA Re-Inventing IT vs. Putting Men On the Moon? Simple.

August 26th, 2010 4 comments
The NASA insignia.
Image via Wikipedia

I was struck with a sense of disappointment as I read Bob Wardspan’s (Smoothspan) blog today “NASA Fiddles While Rome Is Burning.”  So as Bob was rubbed the wrong way by Alex Howard’s post (below,) so too was I by Bob’s perspective.  All’s fair in love and space, I suppose.

In what amounts to a scathing indictment of new areas of innovation and research, he laments the passing of the glory day’s of NASA’s race to space, bemoans the lack of focus on planet-hopping, and chastises the organization for what he suggests is their dabbling in spaces they don’t belong:

Now along comes today’s NASA, trying to get a little PR glory from IT technology others are working on.  Yeah, we get to hear Vinton Cerf talk about the prospects for building an Internet in space.  Nobody will be there to try to connect their iGadget to it, because NASA can barely get there anymore, but we’re going to talk it up.  We get Lewis Shepherd telling us, “Government has the ability to recognize long time lines, and then make long term investment decisions on funding of basic science.”  Yeah, we can see that based on NASA’s bright future, Lewis.

Bob’s upset about NASA (and our Nation’s lost focus on space exploration.  So am I.  However, he’s barking up the wrong constellation.  Sure, the diversity of different technologies mentioned in Alex Howard’s blog on the NASA IT Summit are wide and far, but NASA has always been about innovating in areas well beyond the engineering of solid rocket boosters…

Let’s look at Cloud Computing — one of those things that you wouldn’t necessarily equate with NASA’s focus.  Now you may disagree with their choices, but the fact that they’re making them is what is important to me.  They are, in many cases, driving discussion, innovation and development.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, neither is a Saturn V.

NASA didn’t choose to cut space exploration and instead divert all available resources and monies toward improving the efficiency and access to computing resources and reducing their cost to researchers.  This was set in motion years ago and was compounded by the global economic meltdown.

The very reasons the CIO’s (Chief Information Officers) — the people responsible for IT-related mission support — are working diligently on new computing platforms like Nebula is in many ways a direct response to the very cause of this space travel deficit — budget cuts.  They, like everyone else, are trying to do more with less, quicker, better and cheaper.

The timing is right, the technology is here and it’s an appropriate response.  What would you have NASA IT do, Bob? Go on strike until a Saturn V blasts off?  The privatization of space exploration will breed all new sets of public-private partnership integration and information collaboration challenges.  These new platforms will enable that new step forward when it comes.

The fact that the IT divisions of NASA (whose job it is to deliver services just like this) are innovating simply shines a light on the fact that for their needs, the IT industry is simply too slow.  NASA must deal with enormous amounts of data, transitive use, hugely collaborative environments across multiple organizations, agencies, research organizations and countries.

Regardless of how you express your disappointment with NASA’s charter and budget, it’s unfortunate that Bob chose to suggest that this is about “…trying to get a little PR glory from IT technology others are working on” since in many cases NASA has led the charge and made advancements and innovated where others are just starting.  Have you met Linda Cureton or Chris Kemp from NASA?  They’re not exactly glory hunters.  They are conscientious, smart, dedicated and driven public servants, far from the picture you paint.

In my view, NASA IT (which is conflated as simply “NASA”) is doing what they should — making excellent use of taxpayer dollars and their budget to deliver services which ultimately support new efforts as well as the very classically-themed remaining missions they are chartered to deliver:

  • To improve life here,
  • To extend life to there,
  • To find life beyond.

I think if you look at the missions that the efforts NASA IT is working on, it certainly maps to those objectives.

To Bob’s last point:

What’s with these guys?  Where’s my flying car, dammit!

I find it odd (and insulting) that some seek to blame those whose job is mission support — and doing a great job of it — as if they’re the cause of the downfall of space exploration.  Like the rest of us, they’re doing the best they can…fly a mile in their shoes.

Better yet, take a deeper look at to what they’re doing and how it maps to supporting the very things you wish were NASA’s longer term focus — because at the end of the day when the global economy recovers, we’ll certainly be looking to go where no man and his computing platform has gone before.

/Hoff

Enhanced by Zemanta