Security continues to dominate IT discussions, so much so that some of the biggest names in the industry were on the speakers list at this week’s RSA Conference.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Cisco’s John Chambers and Sun Microsystems’ Scott McNealy took turns at the annual security event to lay out their visions for the future of IT security. Not surprisingly, each man had his own version of the best approach to protecting the network.
But they overlapped in the sense that each believes security has to be built into the computing environment, as opposed to the current approach of add-ons and patches that often amounts to little more than a finger in the dam.
Cisco is pushing the concept of a self-defending network with automated protection of routers, switches and client devices. Sun executives believe security must be built into the network infrastructure through software based on open standards. Microsoft, meanwhile, is working on integrating myriad security features into the operating system.
That last one is particularly significant because, when you really think about it, the reason the need for IT security has become so acute is largely because Windows is as porous as SpongeBob. With that in mind, you should take the tequila approach to the company’s promise of a more secure future version of the operating system—with a generous sprinkling of salt.
For channel partners, this intense focus on security represents opportunity. None of this stuff is going to effectively get into customer sites without the able involvement of partners.
But it’s not a free opportunity, for it requires having the requisite skills to install, service and manage the security infrastructure. VARs, integrators and service providers that already have a security practice have a leg up, but those that have not done anything beyond anti-virus and firewall updates need to formulate a viable security services strategy.
Are passwords passé? Click here to read what Bill Gates had to say about them at the RSA Conference.
For some it may revolve around forging partnerships with security providers, and that is a valid option.
It is, in fact, what Cisco is proposing to those partners that lack the requisite skills to service the company’s Security Management Suite. For Cisco partners, security is not only an opportunity but really more of a mandate.
The networking vendor is telling partners that if they sell network infrastructure technology, they also must secure it.
“Today it’s not enough to just install the infrastructure for businesses that are more and more dependent on their networks,” Alex Thurber, security director for channel and data center applications, told The Channel Insider. “Being able to provide protection and network needs depends on having an integrated story.”
Cisco’s mandate makes sense, but it’s hard to tell how much investment is backing it up.
One of the most common deterrents to technology adoption by channel companies is lack of resources. Training takes money and time. Time in the classroom cuts into billable hours. And with that in mind, vendors should subsidize partner training as much as reasonably possible.
Everybody wants secure computing. And no one wants it more than the end user. But if we are going to achieve the nirvana of reasonably secure computing, it will take effort from many quarters.
Every channel company should have a security strategy, whether it revolves around in-house competency or partnerships. And vendors that are working toward a more secure IT infrastructure must keep in mind that a critical part of their investment involves helping channel partners get up to speed.