Any gamers in the audience?
I sure used to be one. In my first post on complexity, titled “Complex ≠ Secure”, I briefly cite the example of my old self-built Windows 98 desktop computer, which was cutting edge at the time of its completion, yet caused many headaches due to the highly complex nature of assembling many distinct products. In that post, I conclude that PCs became more useable when they became more converged by design, and that security also became much easier to implement and enforce.
What I did not explain in that post, however, was the reason I decided to build this computer in the first place. I will now confess: my sole motivation for teaching myself how to do assemble computers stemmed from my very strong desire to play cutting-edge computer games. Perhaps I was a bit bashful when writing that post since being a video game geek is not something I had planned on writing about in this very serious enterprise security blog (*said with tongue partially in cheek), but it is the real reason I did it. I taught myself all sorts of things about building and running computers, I saved up enough money for the expensive components, and built that first computer simply because I very badly wanted to play cutting edge computer games.
Now let’s think about this for a second: I had a very tough time getting together the equipment, learning how it all fit together, learning how to install everything, configure it, and run it, and then maintaining it all with up-to-date drivers and patches so that it all worked in harmony and I could happily play my games. I was constantly aware of issues that needed to be attended to and had an ongoing burden of maintaining and patching it. I was also consistently confronted with disappointment – I couldn’t seem to ever get everything working seamlessly or combat the bugs that emerged constantly. I had to be ever vigilant regarding security; new bugs and malware were released constantly that my antivirus software hadn’t updated to cover yet. I wanted the end result of a capable video game platform so badly, I pushed through all of this friction to get my computer to play the games I wanted it to.
This friction I’m talking about existed across the board, and it kept a great majority of the people who wanted to play video games from getting what they wanted. Video games, at first, were restricted only to the most dedicated users, since they were not trivial to access or use and required expertise, patience, and money.
Millions of people wanted to play video games – they are fun, cutting edge, and very engaging. However, the majority of this demand went uncaptured since it was simply too cumbersome and complex to set up for most potential customers.
How did this change?
Consoles emerged. They emerged slowly at first, since even the earliest consoles were not as capable as gaming PCs. For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on the XBox as an example, since it is really the first console to truly become a networked platform and arguably won the ‘battle for the living room’ by having the best experience and opening up to third-party apps. As a result, it is among the most popular game systems of all time, and is a leading media hub of the connected living room for millions of families.
The XBox purpose built from the beginning to play video games in a networked and secure way. By strictly restricting the apps that could run on the platform to XBox-formatted games or apps, it could keep the delivery mechanism from having too many edge-cases or permutations which allowed the system to be more streamlined and stable. By including hardware that was specifically designed for the system, there were never compatibility issues. By networking the consoles into a purpose-built and console-specific management regime, the platform could stay patched, updated, and easily accessible and interoperable with other consoles, apps, and services which were designed to operate in the XBox environment. By tightly restricting the types of access that were permissible within the network, and building software security into all of the apps and consoles, malicious behaviour was reduced, and by building security into the hardware itself, it was entirely eliminated.
The XBox platform is now highly intuitive, entirely unintimidating to set up and use, and extremely effective at doing what it is designed to do: play media and video games in a networked way. There are over one hundred million XBox consoles out in the world today, and there have been zero meaningful breaches to date, despite payment and other valuable personal information being stored on the platform and the relatively tech-savvy set of users.
Let’s take a look at enterprise compute needs. Many different types of technology products and solutions must be researched, learned, purchased, installed, integrated, operated and then maintained. IT is highly complex, easy to accidentally leave open or insecure, and often disappointing in terms of overall performance and ease of operation. It is expensive in terms of both money and time, since specialized elements come as distinct products, which must then be learned, integrated, and maintained over time. It is also often much more insecure than most people may hope, as made highly visible by the embarrassing slew of major breaches that seem to be occurring with all too much regularity.
At Skyport, we did not explicitly set out to create the XBox for enterprise software. However, the further along on our mission we went, the more we started to realize the similarities. At Skyport, we started with a hardware platform that was purpose built to work in a networked and secure way. We included many custom hardware components that were purpose built to accommodate the networking, security, and app performance needs that were required in today’s enterprise IT environment. We converged functionalities that normally needed to be manually set up, and we restricted communications within and across the platform to Skyport-specific formatting and protocol. We converged all maintenance and patching that needed to happen into that same Skyport-specific management network.
The result is a compute platform that is highly secure, unintimidating to set up, use, and operate, and powerful.
The parallel is imperfect, but striking enough to warrant calling attention to. If only enterprise compute could be as alluring and engaging as the world’s leading video game platform! Imagine if using enterprise software were as simple and secure as an XBox game? It is a stretch to get all the way to that degree of simplicity, but we have brought it much further in that direction than it ever came close to before. We are excited to usher in a new method of enterprise compute that resembles this shift that happened in video gaming, and although you may not be able to shoot hoops with Michael Jordan or defend Earth from invading aliens, you will certainly get a rush at how much of an improvement our product is compared to the previous reality of enterprise compute.