Splunk, Sophos finally make the cloud work for you

Nick Booth reports on how vendors such as Splunk and Sophos are pioneering services that begin to make the cloud a truly revolutionary force

It’s pointless to describe anything as ‘revolutionary’ these days, because marketing vandals have rendered the word meaningless. Not content with destroying your chances of happiness, with their constant time-stealing intrusions, these selfish hooligans are now laying waste to the English language.

Which is a shame, because cloud computing actually is a champion of the oppressed. It has reversed the dynamic in one of the longest power struggles in business – the battle between man and machine. For decades machines had the upper hand and we were forced to work around their limitations. Mankind was let down by traitors in its midst – the IT nerds – who worshipped the inanimate object and hated the complex emotions of the human. So they created systems where we – the humans – had to dance to the computer’s tune, adapting our working day and our thought processes to the intransigent machines.

So we worked late, travelled for miles and were forced to learn unlimited pointless languages and protocols and stupid operating systems. As soon as we thought we’d mastered one version of Microsoft Office, the nerds would swiftly hide our cheese and we’d have to start the search all over again. We sacrificed productivity on the altar of their blooming stupid protocols.

Virtualisation has proved an agent provocateur in the fight between man and machine. It’s the Tom Paine of the human declaration of IT independence. It was thanks to this secret weapon that the power base of the computer, the marriage of software and hardware, was broken up. Now, software defines how computing, storage and networking runs. None of this depends on the hardware, and that lack of reliance has rendered hardware powerless. It’s now a mere commodity. Ha, ha! Up yours, hardware!

As a result of this, we can get apps to work however we want them to. And wherever we want them to – because we’ve got the hardware in the palm of our hands – as tablets, iPhones and Galaxies. There’s probably an app for jumping through hoops.

Who’s the master now, eh?

That, to me, sounds like a revolution. Once we lived in fear of the computer, which was an intransigent obnoxious jobsworth that refused to come out of the glasshouse and only worked when it felt like it. Now when we want something done, we talk to the hand. Well, the gadget in the hand. And most of the time, it does what we ask.

But there’s no room for complacency, as the machines won’t take this defeat lying down. Already, there are networks of machine to machine communications ruling vast territories and the M2M world is quietly gathering momentum. It’s too quiet; they’re up to something, I’m sure.

There are enemies in our midst – not just the IT manager and the obsessive nerds. In the world of big data, Apache’s Hadoop has shown signs of duplicity. An open system, you would expect it to make life easier for us humans in the constant battle against the machines. But, as analysts at Gartner pointed out, Hadoop soon became the source of a trough of disillusion. Like many an IT invention before, it proved hard to get it working and the only people who knew how to coax a performance out of this prima donna wanted way too much money.

Now Splunk, which seems to be a useful ally against the machines and the nerds who collaborate with them, has won another important victory for humanity. Splunk Analytics for Hadoop means that anyone who knows how to use a Pivot table in Excel can effectively use the power of Hadoop to analyse big data. No matter what the machines are getting up to, the easy to use Splunk interface and tools make intelligence gathering easy, because whole petabytes of information can be ingested and digested in no time.

It’s quite empowering for the channel too, says Matt Davies, Splunk’s director of product marketing. “The channel can now run big data and Hadoop as a service for clients,” says Davies. Installation and management of Hadoop is still beyond most companies, but Hunk for Hadoop (the Splunk platform for Hadoop) certainly won’t be beyond the channel.

Soon Splunk will do the same for the NoSQL database pioneers, such as NuoDB, who are freeing us from the tyranny of the centralised, intransigent, authoritarianism of traditional relational data bases. NuoDB has just launched version 2.0 of its software, so hopefully the day of SQL RDB’s are numbered, and all its horrible henchmen will be on the way to the guillotine. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in cyberspace, the cloud is striking another blow for humanity. For decades, security has been made up of point products that showed little inclination for communal spirit. Any intelligence that gateways picked up about intruders was never passed on to its peer systems that were protecting mobile devices and endpoints. Which is pretty poor, given that all security products should have a unity of purpose.

That is changing now, thanks to the cloud. Security vendor Sophos, which has the complete smorgasboard of point products, has just launched its cloud strategy, which aims to bring all security products together, across the cloud, and share their collective knowledge to create an integrated security policy.

The idea, says Sophos CTO Gerhard Eschelbeck, is to simplify the provision of blanket security by its partners. “We sell entirely through channel partners so its important to improve the level of intelligence that we are pushing out. It was dumb for the industry to have security products working in isolation. It also made the job of creating policies for the security machines a massive burden. Now they can talk to each other and service providers can create a consistent policy for clients,” said Eschelbeck.

In the early days of the cloud, it wasn’t possible to successfully launch such a policy, because the products on offer weren’t designed for the cloud era. Now, everything that is launched is tailored and built for the cloud. So the tables have turned and products work around people, by making blanket security easier, instead of involving some poor IT or security manager rushing round providing updates on each point of the network. Now the cloud works around the way humans work, not the other way around.

There must be a word for this turning of the tables. Revolutionary? No, tragically, that word’s been done to death. Damn those marketing shysters – they’ve devalued our precious language with their infectious hype. They’re the next ones we should target.

This was last published in October 2013

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