In computing, security has always been something that has been added on top of systems that are generally designed to be open. It’s hard enough to assemble and configure complex computing systems when they are designed to be open, why design them to be closed?
Anyone who has assembled their own desktop will know what I’m talking about at a very basic level – it can often be cumbersome and frustrating to get the underlying components of a system to work in harmony, and they are all explicitly designed to be open and accessible to each other. Remember configuring the boot process on your home-assembled Windows 98 desktop way back in the day? I can’t be the only one who went through these trials and tribulations, and I’m sure many readers can recount the systems even prior to these ones.
Luckily, we have made substantial progress towards designing for compatibility and automating many of the lower-level setup tasks required to get a compute system functional. Vast driver libraries come pre-loaded into major OSes for desktops and laptops. Pre-integrated software suites come pre-installed and preconfigured. Keyboards, Mice, and other accessories no longer ship with CD-ROMs containing compatibility files, readmes and other unnecessary software that almost always ended up being more trouble and hassle than they were worth.
Firewalls, anti-viruses, and other security products, formerly sold separately (in cardboard boxes!) now mostly come built into the OS, or via distributed cloud services such as OpenDNS or SkyHigh.
The trend is quite clear – what we are witnessing is a gradual yet continuous simplification and convergence of different systems into their final form, which makes it easier, faster, and safer to use them. Today, in the consumer compute world, Apple has seen enormous growth as a company for its philosophy of simplicity to the user. Their products are designed to be intuitive, stable, safe, and effective. The Macbook pro that I’m writing this on barely seems to be related to the Windows 98 PC that I assembled, configured, and used nearly two decades ago.
This trend is happening in many types of technology. Cars used to require after-market audio systems. Elevators used to have manually-operated doors and require full-time operators. Watches used to require daily winding. In each of these scenarios, the product has been made more usable in less time with this philosophy.
In enterprise computing, this trend has been visible as well, however since the scale of the compute requirements, as well as the diversity of the types of needs, are so diverse, it has been difficult to boil all needs of enterprise compute users into one form factor. Many compute needs can be met with a Data Center, which requires purchasing and assembling large quantities of servers, routers, switches, storage, firewalls, and many other raw materials.
As the value and interconnectedness of these compute installations increase, complexity has also increased commensurately if not disproportionately. This complexity issue is not an easy thing for IT departments to grapple with, and it is certainly not easy to build security into.
This has led to a fundamentally troubling issue with IT security today: if companies are spending more of their budgets on better technology, why major breaches getting worse in terms of both frequency and severity?
Could the same philosophy that led Apple to grow into one of the largest companies in the world be applied to enterprise compute? Would it be possible to start to build a system that had all of the necessary software components for functionality, visibility, control, and security, built in from the outset? If so, wouldn’t that system be dramatically easier to setup and use, and much safer?
In our experience, the answer is yes. So much of the security and usability issues that make enterprise compute so difficult are a result of the enormous complexity of the most basic operation of the resources. Human error is the number one most likely culprit of many of the breaches that we have seen shake the enterprise world, and that is with good reason – these systems are deeply complex.
The philosophy at Skyport is that convergence is a good thing. A very good thing. Our servers ship as much more than just servers – we have converged OS, hypervisor, security functions such as firewall, visibility, and audit, and hardware security, all within one cleanly packaged and cloud managed server chassis.
Not only does this make the compute resources that this server can offer much easier and more nimble, but you would be surprised to see how dramatically more secure they are as well.