Security, scale and functionality trade-offs

If decisions about design and modes of operation all involve trade-offs then security, scale and rich functionality have got to be at the top of the feature trade-off list.

I’ve believed for a long time that you really can’t have security + scale + rich functionality in an application, network, solution, whatever, all at the same time, in the same quantity and to any kind of degree.

Instead you can only ever achieve a maximum of two out of the three at any time. For example the following combinations could be possible:

  • Security + scale, but not functionality;
  • Or how about security + functionality, but not scale;
  • And most importantly scale + functionality, but not security.

The last one is the most interesting for me as I believe it best describes the situation that most enterprises are in at the moment. Organisations’ have pushed ahead with behemoth enterprise wide systems that give end users feature rich tools, applications and permissions to perform complex data mining and analysis more so than ever before. Users’ have been liberated to ‘get things done’, but at what cost to good governance?

Over the next week or so I’m going to be breaking down this triad of system characteristics in order to better understand the problems we all face and maybe offer some insights into how to handle these tricky trade-offs.

Next installment……  Scale.