Paradigm shifts happen to most of us throughout our lives. We believe one thing to be true, but with new information gathered and embraced, our view of the world can change to become a new reality.
We can almost reinvent ourselves time and again if we’re willing to be open to concepts and ideas. So, it’s in this vein that we consider how the technology industry is perpetually going through paradigm shifts with increasing frequency.
Previously, I wrote an article about why IT professionals may disagree with each other and one of the primary reasons is that many IT professionals may not be keeping up with more recent changes and approaches to how technology can be applied and secured.
Following along these lines, here are a few major paradigm shifts technology has taken in recent years and why they are so important to the future of our computing experience.
Containerization: Not Your Mama’s Virtual Server
I love me some containers! If you’d like an excellent primer on containerization and how it differs from virtualization, I highly recommend you read Curtis Peterson’s excellent article on the subject.
In a nutshell, containers optimize infrastructure server hosting with a much different approach than traditional virtualization allowing existing infrastructure to be used in a much more efficient way.
Containers have been around for some time now, Google’s Kubernetes has been around for years, but in the last two years or so we’ve seen an absolute explosion in containerization thanks to startup rock stars like Docker.
Once the average infrastructure admin was able to create their own free container system and see the benefits, containerization caught on like wildfire. More and more infrastructure began converting to this system and I cannot go to a conference focusing on infrastructure for the cloud that doesn’t have presentations, classes or sessions on containers.
Containers are the quintessential paradigm shift because virtualization has been around years and has been considered the gold standard for server and application hosting.
Some of the largest tech companies in Silicon Valley either specialize in virtualization or have entire divisions focused on offering virtualization alongside their other products. These companies are now offering their own mainstream containerization systems and advertising them to the IT masses constantly. Even Microsoft is getting into the act!
Previously I had written about Microsoft’s new love affair with Linux. Well, it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft and Docker recently have recently announced a collaborative effort to natively integrate Docker into the new Windows Server 2016 platform.
This, in and of itself, is also a paradigm shift in infrastructure thinking. Traditionally Linux has dominated this arena. Microsoft is now muscling into the game in a major way with the support of a major new development community. This potentially a game changer and something to watch for the future.
Our infrastructure is changing and what this means is that providers can potentially slow down their costs for hardware upgrades by making the existing infrastructure more efficient which, in turn, means that consumers may also see a slower increase of cost over time as well. Time will tell on this one, but what is for sure is that our backend will never be the same again!
Next Generation Endpoint Security: A New Approach to Detecting Elusive Threats
I will preach this until the cows come home: Antivirus software sucks! I’ve said this in presentations, quotes in various publications, interviews and even wrote an article about Ransomware detailing exactly why and how this is the case.
Antivirus scanners are the old workhorses that have been around since the 1990s. Everyone buys them and then complains about them when they get spyware infections, ransomware infections and several other kinds of annoyances as the developers of malware can usually bypass the scanners with the greatest of ease.
Enter “Next Generation Endpoint Security.” Cutting through the hype and buzzwords like “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence,” this new technology is a radically new approach to detecting and stopping the latest threats out there.
There are many companies offering these products, even some of the old-guard antivirus software providers have jumped on this bandwagon, but for our purposes, we’re going to focus one of these approaches.
Traditional antivirus scanners are constantly trying to update themselves with virus definitions and patterns in an attempt to see the incoming infection and stop it before it can be downloaded or installed. Next Generation Endpoints take a different approach in that in many cases there is no need for virus definition updates. In fact, many of them, once installed, need no updating at all according to their makers!
Their approach is rather simple: they monitor the operating system’s kernel processes via the metadata it outputs. The endpoint will then, in real time, look for changes or patterns in the processes that are not standard or approved (a.k.a. a ransomware infection trying to install itself) and then shut that process down before it has a chance to execute.
In other words, the ransomware developers can keep making code changes to their malicious software and it’s completely irrelevant because the next generation endpoint will see anything they do as bad at the process level and shut it down. This approach is a major departure from the normal thinking about endpoint protection and has exploded in popularity.
As a cybersecurity expert, I think it’s an excellent new approach to an old problem, however, I can’t help but wonder just how quickly the malware developers will be able to overcome this obstacle by making their products mirror legit processes in the kernel thus rendering the next generation endpoint in its current iteration as useless as a traditional virus scanner. Time will tell, but we’re all hopeful!
Next Generation Firewalls: Leading the Way for a More Protected Future
When cisco (back then the C was lowercase) began the selling the first commercially successful routers in the mid-1980s it was essentially a revolution in networking. Nothing before had supported so many different protocols. Virtually overnight, Cisco became a household name in infrastructure technology.
For decades this technology remained essentially unchanged. Many companies were created that sold routers and each one had some advantage or feature over the other, but at its heart, these units were essentially packet filters running Network Address Translation (NAT) and Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) as the backbone of their defensive posture.
Over the years, we’ve seen more security and threat detection become integrated into traditional firewalls, antivirus, for example, but there was never a completeness of vision in firewalls regarding a total defensive solution. Companies had to purchase various defensive software or appliances separately and make them work in concert to achieve effective defense.
More recently, the Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW) have stormed the firewall market. With the rise of threats, hacking and breaches, these firewalls are now becoming the defensive position of choice for companies ranging from small business up to Fortune 100.
Beyond NAT and SPI, these firewalls have antivirus filtering for internet traffic that is updated rapidly known as Zero Day Updating, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Sandboxing to determine newly created threats and a Unified Threat Management (UTM) system to watch over everything.
Their price point is also much more expensive than traditional firewalls but the effectiveness, by comparison, is huge. Small businesses are replacing their $300-$500 traditional firewalls with $5,000-$10,000 firewalls because they recognize the need for advanced security and do not want the loss of productivity or reputation a serious infection or threat can bring.
This is a complete shift in thinking in that Cybersecurity is on everyone’s mind as of late. Stopping the threats before they actually reach the computers or enter the network is a much better approach than having these infection bypass the first line of defense for the network which is what threats have traditionally done.
If I never see another infection in my life I would be a very happy camper. Next Generation Firewalls help me see quite a bit less than ever before and we don’t really have to worry about the companies that implement them nearly as much as those who have not.
Internet of Things: The Explosion Waiting to Happen
Talk about one of the biggest tech buzzwords of the twenty-tens era! As I wrote in a previous article, IoT will be 34-billion devices strong by 2020. So, how is this a major paradigm shift, you ask? One simple word: convenience.
Humans have traditionally been ok with traditionally normal products. For example, the refrigerator for home use was invented in 1913. We’ve had 103 years of having a box in our homes that does nothing but chill food. Over the years we’ve added a freezer, an ice maker/water dispenser, and the design has improved mechanically, but from the consumer’s standpoint, that’s about it.
If we want to store stuff in our fridge and made sure it was restocked, we had to make a list and keep up with it or make sure everything was consumed before it went bad. Now we no longer have to do that. We can purchase refrigerators that will tell our smartphones if something has gone bad or if we run out of things.
We also have doorbells, door locks, bike locks, garbage cans and many other devices all Internet-connected and ready to make our lives easier. We can literally sit on the couch all day and not have to get up to check on things, order things or even close the blinds.
Our possible future:
I joke, of course, because we all have our fitness bands to keep us healthy and to also tell us just how good we’re doing! That’s not snark — I’m actually wearing a Microsoft Band 2 as I type this just so I know how many calories I’m burning by typing this article.
In most of our lifetimes, we may possibly forget, or nostalgically remember, what it was like to have a paper shopping list, an oversized phone that required charging at least once a day, light switches that required pressing or pushing something, and even unlocking a door with a key. Truly, this will be the biggest technological paradigm shift of everything I have mentioned.
I often wonder what my preschool age daughter is going to marvel at in terms of things her old man had to put up with as a kid. “You mean you had to drive your own car AND get gas?” The future is ever changing. For our sakes, let’s make sure we keep up!
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