Is it time to unify endpoint management and security?

Modern management makes sense, and the industry is reacting. Will enterprise organizations jump on the bandwagon?

Is it time to unify endpoint management and security?

Yesterday, VMware announced its intention to acquire E8 Security and integrate the technology into its Workspace ONE platform. This makes sense, as Workspace ONE collects, processes, and monitors data about users, applications, networks, and endpoints. Add E8 Security, and you can use this very data to fingerprint devices, build models around normal usage patterns, and identify anomalies in real time.

Beyond VMware’s plans, this announcement supports a logical, albeit slowly moving trend: management tool unification into a modern management platform. 

Here’s the thing: Every large enterprise has management tools for mobile devices, endpoint devices, data protection, security, etc. Each of these management tools has its own agents and management consoles. Each one must be tested, deployed, and operated. Each management tool requires administrator training. 

Now, in my humble opinion, this model is about as legacy as you can get, rooted in the 1990s when PCs and LANs were new and innovative. Back then, it was all about technology, so this was understandable.

What should be included in a modern unified management platform

Now that all the baseline technology is mature, however, it shouldn’t be viewed as individual piece parts but as an end-to-end system for user productivity and business enablement. As such, this system should be managed for:

  • High performance and resiliency. The end-to-end system must be available at all times by supporting the ability to work around problems (i.e. security problems, natural disasters, etc.). Furthermore, the system should be self-aware to maximize performance from source to destination. As part of this process, devices should be configured and administered continually to ensure performance and resiliency. 
  • User access control. The end-to-end system should enforce policies that provide secure access based upon the user’s role, device type, location, and other risk factors.
  • Data security. Sensitive data should be safeguarded at rest and in flight. Furthermore, a central management system should know where the sensitive data resides, who has access to it, and what they are doing with it.
  • Device security. Modern management should be instrumented to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber attacks of all kinds. This includes hardening systems and configuring them for least privilege use and communications, as well as detecting/blocking exploits and malware.
  • Troubleshooting and remediation. Modern management must also provide intuitive analytics that help administrators find and fix any type of problem quickly.

Now, I know what some of you grey hairs (like me) are thinking, "Haven’t we tried this before (i.e. CA Unicenter, HP OpenView, IBM/Tivoli, etc.)?" Yes, we did. But those efforts also happened in the 1990s, and I would argue that technology was the limiting factor. These days, we have public clouds, big data technologies, open source, artificial intelligence, etc. In other words, modern compute, network, and storage technologies should be able to overcome the challenges we faced 20 or more years ago. 

Clearly, VMware understands the need for management unification. Workspace ONE brings the end-to-end data together, and now E8 security will apply machine learning algorithms to the data for security purposes. Other vendors, such as Citrix, IBM, Microsoft, and Symantec, are also moving toward a unified management model through products, services, and partnerships.

So, the supply side is onboard and will do its best to push modern management to customers, but will organizations be willing to transition from tactical management tools to a more holistic and unified management model? My esteemed colleague Mark Bowker is currently researching this very topic.  Stay tuned, I’ll blog about Mark’s findings in a future post.

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