December 11, 2008

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CTOs, Global Cyberwar and Our Collective Future If you are a technologist, please take a moment to download the PDF of the report by the U.S. Commission on Cybersecurity. This report, titled Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency, is the best proclamation of the challenges of cyber I have read. It is also a roadmap that will help any trying to navigate these very tough issues. I've been involved in things cyber for a long time. My deepest involvement began in December 1998, almost 10 years ago to the day. In all that time I've seen lots of studies and lots of papers and many treatments of the issues. But I've never seen one that captures the complexities and the need for specific actions as well as this one. I'd really recommend you read every word, if you want to be considered literate in this field. But if it will be a little while till you get to it, here are some key points: The three major findings are: 1) Cybersecurity is now a major national security problem for the U.S., 2) Decisions and actins must respect privacy and civil liberties, and 3) only a comprehensive national security strategy that embraces both the domestic and international aspects of cybersecurity will make us more secure. The report makes a few points about the Bush Administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). In general the give credit to that initiative, and call it good. I agree, it is a great activity I've previously written about that is led by one of the most effective people in government today and has done great work. But as the comission points out, the work of the CNCI is good but not sufficient. The biggest shock for me in this study: The amount of funding on R&D for cyber security. I have been looking into the many activities underway, and maybe that look made me deceive myself into thinking it was a well funded effort. According to the comission, however, they estimate that the total R&D funding in the federal government for cybersecurity is about $300million. Less than two-tenths of one percent of the total federal R&D. The report has a great section on identity manangement. I am convinced the organizational approaches outlined in the study are the right ones as well. There is only one place in our government where we can lead solutions to this challenge. Where is that? Hey read the report! What else do I recommend CTOs do besides read the report? I think one way we can all help the cybersecurity effort is to think through which standards bodies are the most important to engage with regarding security. A few are here: http://www.ctovision.com/2008/05/standards-organizations-ctos-should-track.html
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The Disruptive Power of Netbooks The idea of light-weight, low-cost, but very powerful laptops designed for a smaller feature set than traditional laptops has been around for a decade or so. But all indications are that something has changed in the market place. Due to a convergence of many factors, netbooks are growing in sales. These factors include the continual improvement in wireless speeds, the more widespread availability of wifi, the continued drop in cost of hardware, the continued increase in performance of open source operating systems and open source applications, the unstoppable move to more thin-client solutions, and the dramatically increased capabilities of cloud computing services (including the entire web2.0 megatrend and of course the continued innovations of Google in the cloud computing and online applications space). I just did a few searches on Amazon and Bestbuy for netbooks devices, and pulled up entries for small notebooks like the Acer Aspire One, an 8.9-inch mini laptop that runs Linux Lite and sells for under $300.00. It has plenty of capability and is very lightweight. It comes loaded with applications, including open source office automation packages (I think I would want to download the most recent version of open office if I purchased this). It also comes with a built in camera and is ready for high end video chat. Will I buy one? There are clearly some of these in my future, I just don't know when. I have a MacBook and I really like it for everything I need in a laptop. I use it around the house and on travel. And, although it is over a year old now, it doesn't need replacement. When it does, however, I'm going to be asking myself why I would want to pay $1000 more for a Mac instead of a couple hundered for a Netbook. So much of what I do I do on the cloud anyway, and the many things I do locally can be done using the free Open Office. If we assume the same sort of trades are being considered by other buyers, a conclusion starts to emerge. Netbooks are going to be a very disruptive force in the market. And what is the market saying so far about this trend? Acer is reporting huge success with their netbooks approach, their sales have been growing significantly. They just reported a 78.8 percent growth rate over the same quarter in 2007. And this is during a huge market downturn. HP and Dell are reporting unit sales growth of 13.5 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. Apple is just about flat. If you are an enterprise CTO, what should you do with this information? For one, you should consider how to use laptops/netbooks like these in your organization. If done right, you can enhance the security of your enterprise by moving more of your data and applications to secure clouds, and you can also add security features to your netbooks and field a significant enhancement to your security posture. And, since the cost of these devices is far less than traditional laptops you can equip more of your workforce and save money at the same time, which is a very virtuous thing in this economic environment. Note: I've previously written about several devices that qualify as netbooks, including: Thin Client Laptops: Functionality, Security, Mobility A review of high end, enterprise quality wireless stateless thin clients using the Sun Microsystems approach; and The Future Is Changing Again A review of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. I also recommend a recent article at Economist.com called Small is Beautiful. And, thanks to a friend on Twitter, I just got pointed to a post at GigaOm titled: Why Netbooks are Greener Than Laptops