Whether it be due to cloud computing, last year’s economic mess, or just the general cyclical nature of the Tech Industry, Consolidation has been a huge focus of IT departments of late.  Data Center consolidation, hardware consolidation, staff consolidation and tech sector consolidation to name a few.  I remember the days of single purpose boxes that did one thing well.  In fact, a decade ago at Exodus, that was one of my positioning points for BIG-IP over such LB units as Alteon, ArrowPoint and LocalDirector since they were switched/hardware-based appliances.  I’d say something like, ‘It’s a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping while the BIG-IP is software based, focused only on Load Balancing.’  Boy, times have changed.

Single purpose appliances, while still big business for their particular specialty,  are becoming fewer and fewer – just look at the handheld your using.  The printer was one of the first to go that route becoming printer/copier/fax/scanner in an effort to make them more useful and appealing to the customer.  Ads tout, ‘No more bulky equipment to buy – it’s all here in this great new thing that you must have!!  All for the incredibly low price of…..’  IDS graduated to IPS and now we have IDPS units and UTM (Unified Threat Management) systems or the Next-Gen Firewalls.  They have firewall, anti-virus, spam controls, web filter, IDS and more.  We are in a multi-task society and expect our devices to behave the same.  For a while, adding more and more functionality to a piece of IT equipment would either slow it to a crawl or make it very difficult to troubleshoot.  The processing power available today allows multi-function appliances to dedicate resources to ensure all the functions run smoothly.

dashboard Having multiple point solutions, interfaces and GUIs also makes it difficult to manage the various entities, especially if it’s a security device.  Managing multiple points of entry and enforcing a consistent security policy across the board can be challenging.  You got users connecting and requesting application access via VPN, some over the air on Wireless and others hooked right to the LAN.  They also are probably using various types of computing devices; from IT issued laptops, to home/personal machines to mobile devices.  You might have a specific policy for each type of access method/device or you enforce the same security, no matter what the connection.  Why wouldn’t you do a host check on LAN users similar to the scrutiny your remote users must pass?  In many cases, that might involve a NAC type controller and I thought we were trying to reduce the number of power suckers in the data center.  Today, IT needs a single management interface and policy enforcement point that’s easy to navigate and quick to deploy.  During a crisis, like a potential intrusion or breach, you can waste precious time trying to get to all the different appliances to assess the situation.

As consolidation continues, and more functionality is added to these multi-dedicated appliances, management of such an infrastructure especially if it’s part of a cloud, will continue to be an important driver for IT.  So, as you consolidate and are able to dedicate, that will enable you to eradicate costs, multiple management interfaces, multiple point products and with the right device, eradicate many of the threats that appear every day, the CDE way!

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