Layer 7 Technologies Security in the Cloud

Paul Rochester, CEO, and Scott Morrison, VP Engineering and Chief Architect, of Layer 7 Technologies, dropped by virtually to introduce me to their company's technology and the philosophy behind their products. After a while, I was able to understand the approach they were taking and how extensible and flexible it is.

Paul Rochester, CEO, and Scott Morrison, VP Engineering and Chief Architect, of Layer 7 Technologies, dropped by virtually to introduce me to their company's technology and the philosophy behind their products. After a while, I was able to understand the approach they were taking and how extensible and flexible it is. Thanks for the fun conversation Paul and Scott.

Here's what Layer 7 says about their products

Layer 7 Technologies is the market leader for XML security, SOA Governance and Web services. We offer enterprises, service providers and federal customers a powerful set of XML appliances and software to secure, simplify and scale their applications.

Web services are applications that can expose their functionality to other applications over the Internet using standards based XML data formats like SOAP, REST, AJAX, and RSS. Modern service oriented application integration models and Web oriented application delivery models depend on effectively addressing the performance, security, complexity, reliability and availability issues inherent in sharing Web services with other applications.

Layer 7 Technologies therefore aims to provide the essential application oriented security and networking infrastructure to enable Service-oriented and Web-oriented architectures (i.e. SOA and Web 2.0) that are central to the next wave of Internet and software innovation.

Snapshot analysis

While their description of themselves is bland and buzz word compliant, it doesn't really explain how powerful their idea is or how it could help organizations gain control of their environment. If we boil it down to what is their secret sauce and how that makes the issue of network security and compliance much easier to resolve, the cleverness of their approach shines through.

Layer 7's secret sauce is a a deep understanding of XML and the ability to insert its technology in the middle of XML transactions quietly and efficiently. This means that it has the ability to watch and control these conversations at a very fine grain level. They could easily apply a knowledge of how components of popular software products communicate with one another and lock out intrusions.

The first products based upon this sauce was an XML firewall to increase security. Later, compliance, governance and other functions were added to the company's portfolio. I can easily imagine a large, growing list of other application-specific capabilities appearing over time.

Their story reminds me of that offered by Catbird and a few other security players. These companies have  also taken the approach of monitoring and controling network traffic to enhance management and control.

The key difference, it appears, is the deep understanding of XML Layer 7 brings to the table. Since XML is likely to be at the heart of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) offerings, this expertise places Layer 7 in a very good position to grow as the use of cloud computing grows.

If your organization is using XML-based transactional system, Layer 7 ought to be on your short list.

Unasked for shoot from the hip advice

Layer 7's technology is very, very low in the communications stack and would be easily missed by business, not technology, oriented decision makers. So, Layer 7 needs to get out in front of these decision makers and help them understand why they would be better off building this technology into their cloud computing strategy.

This might be done through a multi-media, multi-mode campaign that introduces Layer 7's appliances in a fun way. I had a vision of them borrowing a page from the "Transformer's" movies by creating videos that introduces a quiet, friendly appliance in a datacenter rack that transforms for each function it performs to protect the environment. While this idea is interesting, it has a big problem. I don't think that the movie producers or the toy manufacturer would take too kindly to Layer 7 "borrowing" that idea. So, they're going to have to come up with something else similar.

The key is that Layer 7 has some very interesting technology and it needs to engage business decision makers and drive them through the awareness-interest-desire-action cycle now.

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