Reflections: Paul Kangro, Novell

"I saw more pennies drop in 2005 to lower the cost of data center computing by using Linux over proprietary Unix systems." -- Paul Kangro, applied technology specialist, Novell

Q. What were the top three most important industry developments in 2005?
The first is identity management. Whilst this is not exactly a new concept, the major development has been the inclusion of the term in the average IT manager's lexicon. I have personally been talking to organizations all around this region for years about the need and importance of identity-based computing which places a greater emphasis on making it easier for the "good guys" to get the information they need.

Paul Kangro, Novell's applied technology specialist, picks 3G and RFID as the two most over-hyped technologies of 2005, and lauds the growing influence of Linux

2005 seems to have been a breakthrough year in which most people finally got the message, particularly about how identity is the foundation of building a robust, yet flexible, security architecture. It's conceptually quite simple, if we know who you are and what you are meant to be doing, we can give you the access you need and keep everyone else out.

The second thing is Linux over Unix: I saw more pennies drop in 2005 as companies lowered the cost of data center computing by using Linux over proprietary Unix systems. Savings up to 90 percent just on the upfront acquisition costs are not unheard of. Linux has come along way in terms of clustering support, management, security using Login Server Module and virtualization technologies like XEN. In this region we have seen many large organizations put Linux into production in the data center. Linux has moved from just the network periphery to become the central workhorse of many IT shops.

Which emerging technology was over-hyped, and why?
Although I was only asked for one but two just scream out for comment. 3G and RFID. Both are really nice pieces of technology; they just have not found a home yet.

3G offers such rich content for mobile users--and I have to believe we are going to find better uses for this technology than just the current MP3 and music video clips. Just like the Internet, which brought on cultural and generational changes in how people treat the acquisition and dissemination of information, I think 3G has the power to redefine work as a set of activities rather than simply a place.

Hampered by a lack of clarity with regards to standards and concerns about privacy, RFID still has a few hurdles to overcome.

RFID is another great technology that is looking for a problem to solve. Hampered by a lack of clarity with regards to standards and concerns about privacy, it still has a few hurdles to overcome. But assuming this happens, I see the whole emergence of 'place of presence'--made possible by RFID coupled with identity management--adding the dimension of 'where you are' to Identity computing.

What will be the top security issue in 2006, and why?
Several different government requirements now exist that directly impact IT systems. The one most often mentioned is Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It's not enough to simply try and meet regulations. You need to be able to demonstrate compliance. Compliance will be the critical security issue of 2006. It requires equal parts of business process, identity, security and audit. If done correctly, that folder of policy on the shelf can be translated into immutable process steps with an evidentiary trail. Good security on its own is not enough to stop those intent on doing bad things.

IT needs to be tailored exactly to the process needs of an organization, allowing only valid transactions to take place, at the same time showing strong proof of the approval process. This links directly to the statement that the importance of identity is finally being understood by mainstream IT managers in 2005. Now they need to apply it to be able to demonstrate how they comply.

Which emerging technology has the potential to enter mainstream in 2006, and why?
Having recently had various staring roles on corporate servers, Linux has to date, failed to make a major impact on the corporate desktop. People typically don't just change their corporate desktops without a good reason--usually it's prompted by an expiring lease or a new application.

2006 will be the year that people re-look at desktop operating systems, and this time there is another choice: Linux. Tools like OpenOffice Version 2, Evolution and Gimp have transformed Linux into a workhorse platform for office workers.

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