The Art of IT: Get Out of the House

Insular environments can lead to insular thinking. The only cure is to get out of the glass houses we've built for ourselves. This is critically important to guiding our

Art Wittmann

April 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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As I'm sure many of you can attest, a new job comes with unique challenges. My still relatively new job at Network Computing is no different. During my first weeks here, the editors and I have had many discussions about what our magazine needs to deliver to you, our customers, but I've spent just as much time learning the intricacies of NWC's day-to-day business.

Since I wasn't necessarily aware of what had gone on before I arrived on the scene, the exchange of ideas with "the new guy" has been interesting. You hope your ideas are met with enthusiasm, but every now and then, you have to convince people you aren't a complete moron after you propose something they considered and dismissed months ago. The result is that the first few weeks in a new job are spent meeting the people you work with, getting a handle on their procedures and learning to appreciate the nuances of the organization you've just joined. It's energizing and draining all at once.

Shatter the Glass

In this early phase, you can get bogged down in day-to-day operations and the minutiae of business procedures. If you're not careful, they'll consume all your time and attention and distort your sense of what's important and what's not.

Insular environments such as this can lead to insular thinking, and thence to utterances like that of Charles Duell, the U.S. Patent Office Commissioner who in 1899 said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented."The only cure is to get out of the glass house you've built for yourself. This is critically important to guiding our organizations.

So this past week I left my glass house to meet with several readers and vendor start-ups whose efforts bear some attention. One was Consentry Networks, which is developing a NAC-like architecture that not only evaluates nodes before they are admitted to networks, but continues to monitor and evaluate them as long as they're on the network. The company hasn't yet fully implemented its ultimate vision, but even in its current stage, the technology looks compelling--and who wouldn't admire the chutzpa of a start-up that sets its sights directly on Cisco's sweet spot.

The other is Blue Lane Technologies, which calls its technology patch emulation. Blue Lane gets security patches from Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and other vendors, figures out what they do, then emulates that function on an appliance that sits in front of the server farm. The emulated patch addresses the security risk at hand without the need to make changes to production servers. Blue Lane says it can produce an emulated patch within 48 hours of a vendor's release and that the appliance slows packets by no more than half a millisecond. It's the sort of slap-in-the-forehead idea that makes you wonder why no one has done it until now.

Walk Amongst Ideas

In my conversations with IT managers, I find that many IT organizations are just as ingenious as these start-ups in finding unique solutions to their business challenges. But the key to finding creative solutions is getting out of that glass house. In early May, the Network Computing editors will meet for what's become our annual ideafest as we judge the Best of Interop competition. Each year we evaluate dozens of new products and technologies being demoed at Interop Las Vegas.So if you find yourself thinking like Charles Duell, meet us at the show floor stage. We'll have a beer and show you some of the most exciting, creative and innovative ideas of the year.

Art Wittmann is editor in chief of Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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