System agent bloat: too many slices

Slices of pizza with different toppings

Many years ago, in simpler times, I was responsible for the security program that included the controls which protected (in theory) against malicious files and programs that were hell bent on causing mischief. We had agents on our servers for virus protection, asset inventory, host intrusion detection, host firewalls an so on. Now, keep in mind that this was before ransomware was even a thing on any sort of scale. Each agent wanted a slice of memory. After a while, the number of slices simply were in such short supply that servers were running into resource constraints. 

I have to admit that it was always amazing to me that I could not purchase a unified agent. It just wasn’t an option. Worst still was that they I could not even obtain a single dashboard to manage all of the products for at least one particular vendor. Eh hem.

One of the operating UNIX systems that we relied upon was Tru64. One particular vendor said that they had agents for Tru64…and Tru32. I cringed and looked that the table in front of me wondering if it would catch on fire and I could safely exit the building. To put a fine point on it, this was their VP. There was no way I could ever contemplate using their server agent. The never ending land grab for system resources had to give at some point.

The particular suite of products which I had to contend with had a slew of different agents for different functions. I was always trying to puzzle out why they did not compile all of the functionality into a single agent. Was it so that they could bill separately for each agent? The pessimistic side of me is leaning heavily to this conclusion. I know, shocker right?

The part that I always marvelled at was the rationale that I would hear from various vendors that, "it only takes 3% CPU" or something to that effect. Every company had an agent that they wanted to sell you. Each one in it's own way wanted to have a nibble of memory and nosh of CPU. Slowly but surely, systems would grind to a halt.

I flash back to my first computer and remember that it was using 4K of memory. That's it. It had a word processor, VisiCalc and some rudimentary games. I was in heaven. Now, I have a laptop that has 16GB of memory. I should be in heaven or someplace similar, right? When we look back at guidance computer that put Apollo 11 on the moon, it had a whopping total of 64kb of memory. That was a computer that was used to send a space ship with humans aboard it a distance of 384,400 km using a mere snippet of memory.

This begs the question, why is it that programs have become so bloated with what I can only assume are "features”? Now as we see more and more organizations pivot to cloud based environments I’m curious if companies are still running afoul of agent bloat on their employee systems such as laptops.

Just a thin slice for me. Pepperoni? Sure, why not.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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