Perimeter
3/27/2012
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A Single 'Pain' Of Glass?

Is the often-pitched 'single pane of glass' a benefit to security monitoring tools or yet another point of contention?

Promising the coveted "single pane of glass" for all levels of the organization to leverage, vendors are hoping to bring their products to bear in support of the entire business stack -- from the entrenched security practitioner at the bottom to the executive branch of the organization.

One problem with a single pane of glass is that (marketing analogy aside) glass is fragile and is likely to shatter should someone or something apply too much pressure or weight upon it. If one were to straddle a large pane of glass between two tables and begin piling boxes upon it, the glass would inevitably shatter when it could no longer manage the weight. Another problem with the single pane of glass analogy is that, on one hand, it provides visibility into the mountains of collected data and subsequent intelligence (such as alerts, reports and tickets), but on the other hand, it also generates a much larger field upon which to focus.

Think of a small glass bottom boat that allows you to view the ocean floor. If it's a relatively small pane of glass you can easily focus your gaze on what's important -- tropical fish, coral, and maybe even a shipwreck. Now take a cruise ship and give it a glass bottom. Not only will it be difficult to focus on particular items of interest, but you may also have to push other cruise-goers out of the way to see the same item.

Vendors must be wary about bolting on features and functionality haphazardly lest it result in their customers being impaled by shards of broken (and painful) glass.

The ideal solution: A dashboard-like analytics interface that allows the end user to represent the data that THEY care about with as much or as little visualization as THEY deem appropriate or relevant. Though vendors believe canned dashboard widgets ultimately help the end user (and in some cases they do), a user can dull the "pain of glass" if presented with a tool that allows for the massage of the data into the widgets or data presentation elements that are dynamic, easy to manipulate, and highly configurable for the organization.

Vendors need to start caring less about canned widgets and more about malleable data presentation capabilities.

Andrew Hay is senior analyst with 451 Research's Enterprise Security Practice (ESP) and is an author of three network security books. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/andrewsmhay

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