Sunday, July 4, 2010

Security – a forgotten message?

My tastes in reading material are diverse – I read just about everything. While it’s well-known that my subscription lists include many auto magazines, my enthusiasm for magazines goes beyond Motor Trend and Road and Track, and even Architectural Digest and the Robb Report. Included in my reading list are more sedate publications such as Money, Fortune, Time, as well as The Connection and InformationWeek.

This weekend, being the July 4th holiday in the United States, I caught myself plowing through pages of The Economist and trying to catch up on back-issues that have piled high on top of my coffee table. While it did cross my mind whether it was an unpatriotic activity to be reading the lengthy tomes of this British, and very non-American in its tone publication, for many years now I have found this magazine a regular source for material on topics I so often write about. And the July 3rd issue of The Economist proved to be no exception with its cover story being “Cyberwar – the threat from the internet!”

Within the paragraphs under the headline of “The spy who spammed me” the journalist quotes a senior FBI agent, Steve Chabinsky as the source for the observation “given enough time, motivation and funding, a determined adversary will always – always – be able to penetrate a targeted system.” Key to the concerns of so many government agencies is the role the internet has played, as expedient and cost-effective as it has become, so many of these agencies and departments have connected important systems to them without a second thought. But it was the same journalist who only a few paragraphs earlier had observed how “the internet was designed for convenience and reliability, not security. Yet in wiring together the globe, it has merged the garden and the wilderness. No passport is required in cyberspace.”

I started a discussion in the LinkedIn group Pyalla Techologies where I asked the question “Has HP Marketing got more to do for NonStop?” and have been surprised at the number of comments posted – now some 50 plus! Former ITUG and Connect board member, Joe Ramos, responded with “I believe that HP should be marketing the strengths of the NonStop” before adding a somewhat unique perspective on the strengths of NonStop “Cost effectiveness with the new NB5000c (blades) TCO; Availability / Reliability; and Security / Data Integrity,” suggested Joe.

Promoting NonStop as a secure platform is nothing new, but Joe’s comments did generate a response from Thomas Burg of comForte “I have a presentation on file which does compare NonStop with other platforms in terms of security and - BIG SURPRISE! - NonStop fares rather well. I'd be happy to give that presentation to HP NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) marketing at any point in time!” However, I don’t think that HP NonStop has been caught completely off-guard when it comes to how secure NonStop servers have become.

At this year’s HPTF we heard the message about convergent infrastructure and with it, the emphasis placed on Converge! Transform! Innovate! HP described servers, storage, communications, manageability, and security as traditional silos that had hindered convergence in the past. They also highlighted the NonStop presence in the overall converged infrastructure strategy. While few executives like being drawn into the discussion on the strengths of NonStop, few can ignore how NonStop has never been “hacked” – there’s never been a recorded incidence of malicious intrusion into an operational NonStop platform. Yet NonStop is rarely associated with the rock-solid, secure, and fortress-like servers most of us envisage in the center of too-secret computer installations.

While the FBI may exhibit the best of intentions, and when it comes to other platforms caution everyone that they can be penetrated, the robustness and history of NonStop suggests that it is a platform quite unlike the rest! HP NED is not taking any chances though, and we’ve heard in Randy Mayer’s presentation that the SSL and SSH will become a part of the operating system: this will provide out of the box encryption for traffic between the NonStop platform and client devices.

Perceptions can weaken and in time, associations can change. Some of us, whenever we talk of security have no issue with security being best addressed by NonStop! So, why do we remain as quiet as we are about this unique strength of NonStop? Apart from the rather obvious reasons – in case it’s true, why would HP executives want to chance it? As well as there being only so many features that need to be highlighted – extending the list serves little purpose in helping a product’s credibility! But in the coming months I get the sense that this is all about to change!

As a car guy, there are always cars that I associate with actors. Whenever I think of Sean Connery, I associate him with Aston Martin. When I hear of Steve McQueen, I recall Bullitt and the dark green Mustang coupe. There are also those of us who recall the Australian roots of Mel Gibson and will forever associate him with Mad Max and a wicked mutant Ford Falcon GT! It usually takes many years and follows frequent references, but these associations once formed, prove very difficult to shake. Will we see a time come that whenever we discuss security, we will immediately associate with NonStop?

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