Management Deja Vu

Today's market for SIM tools looks remarkably like the market for enterprise management applications back in the 1980s and 1990s

4:00 PM -- When we're researching cutting-edge, dynamic IT security technology here at Dark Reading, it's pretty rare to experience a feeling of deja vu. But I definitely had that feeling recently as I assembled our latest Dark Reading Insider report: "Security Information Management: Who's Doing What."

In the report, we discuss the latest developments in SIM technology, which is designed to give IT administrators a central view of all of the events that occur in the security infrastructure. The report offers an overview of all vendors and products in the SIM space, and some recommendations on how to evaluate them. (See Security Pros Wrestle With Data Overload.)

What struck me in researching the subject, however, was the parallel between the evolution of SIM and the evolution of the "enterprise management" systems that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In many ways, the two markets could be twins, though one is nearly two decades older.

In the late 80s, network managers were becoming overwhelmed with administrative information. Following IBM's introduction of NetView in 1986, virtually every system and device vendor developed "dashboard" software to tell administrators how their systems were performing. Once starved by a lack of management data, network managers were now overwhelmed with bells, whistles, and alerts, making it difficult to sort the symptoms of a network problem from their root cause.

Today's security managers are in exactly the same boat. Once frustrated by their inability to detect security events, administrators now are inundated with log files, intruder alerts, anomaly reports, and a plethora of computer-generated information about security developments in their infrastructures. The problem, as it was in the 1980s, is sorting through the data to find the real trouble.

Back in the day, networking vendors responded to this problem by developing enterprise management systems, which were designed to collect data from disparate devices and applications and normalize it on a single console. The idea was to put all of the management data in one place, so that administrators could find it, correlate it, and quickly diagnose the problem.

Today's SIM tools do exactly the same thing for security information, putting all of the event data on a single pane of glass. (See SIM: A Single Pane of Glass.)

Enterprise management systems were a good idea, giving rise to SNMP and modern IT diagnostics tools that are standard-issue in today's enterprises. But somewhere in the late 90s, enterprise management vendors got too big for their britches, developing elaborate, expensive "frameworks" that were supposed to help IT find and fix all of their problems, often automatically.

The frameworks failed. They were too big, too complex, and too expensive to become a realistic solution for managing IT. Today, the old enterprise management platforms are still used, but they are tools -- not a remodeled environment for IT operations.

Recently, some SIM vendors have begun to position their products as comprehensive platforms for security and policy management. They're offering a framework for security operations, complete with the software to manage it. Before you buy into those frameworks, however, remember the 80s.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading