Hello, Security, My Old Friend

Back before software-defined networking, I spent time promoting a different “SDN”: “Self-Defending Networks”. That was Cisco’s marketing tagline for their Security portfolio. At the time that I joined, they had just brought together security-related products from different BUs as the Security Technology Group, under Jayshree Ullal.

Now, Self-Defending Networks wasn’t something that held up under even the lightest technical scrutiny. All of the products except for NAC were acquired, so each had its own element manager with its own policy schema, and none of them really talked to each other. And it’s kind of hard to run an effective security team if each member speaks a different language and operates from a different rule book, regardless of how individually skilled they may be. That’s why I find the possibilities of having a common layer of abstraction (a la ODL) so compelling: you can’t have reliable security without holistic, end-to-end management (too many gaps), and if you have good holistic, end-to-end management, you can spend less time and energy on security.

I’m joining Skyport Systems because it resolves a lot of these challenges in a very streamlined way. It also manages to simultaneously address many of the reservations people have about entrusting sensitive data to external cloud providers, while also providing a consumable Security-as-a-Service offering that eliminates a lot of those security tool integration challenges. That’s a pretty good trick, in my opinion.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve worked with several members of the team before. (Fun fact: I accepted the Skyport offer during Back to the Future week. I think I’ve identified the team’s Doc, too.) It’s an intense, high-energy crew, but importantly, one that is generally pretty strong in the Sense of Humor department as well. The leadership team members each have both startup experience and successful track records in large companies, meaning that they’re not afraid of getting their hands dirty, but also have the mindset and rolodexes to scale the company.

One other consideration I had, as a marketer: technical realities aside, I liked that Self-Defending Networks was a fundamentally positive, hopeful vision to strive for. Too much of security marketing (in IT and in modern politics) is all about instilling fear–which often skews perceptions of and responses to risk in wasteful and even counterproductive ways. I prefer a more positive message: providing a foundation of trust. I think Skyport has the right bones to support that.

More soon.

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Notes from ONS 2014 Day 0: SDN Market Opportunities Tutorial

Yes, I’m crazy enough to get up early on a Sunday to go to an SDN conference. I won’t say that there was a lot of “new news” in this session yesterday, but it certainly validated a number of hypotheses. I wound up taking many pages of notes even so, and I’ll summarize the main themes and highlights here.

Open Source and Standards Bodies

While it shouldn’t be a surprise at the Open Networking Summit to hear attendees and speakers beat the open source drum, it was interesting how completely dismissive of traditional vendor implementations most of the speakers were. Prodip Sen of Verizon, also Chair of the ETSI NFV group, commented matter-of-factly,

“Open source is the new standards body. Equipment manufacturers need to build openness, interoperability and modularity into their products. We’re not interested in vertically integrated stacks—that day is gone.”

I could caveat that by noting that even the “enterprise” speakers (from Ebay/Paypal) were rather Web 2.0-flavored and so not completely representative of the broad mass of non-tech enterprises and their needs, but the general direction is pretty unmistakable.

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