Sometimes we analysts have an "all sizzle and no steak" reputation. We come up with high falootin' concepts, write reports and columns, and get quoted in the media, but we don't really "do" anything.
Former executive vice president of marketing for EMC, Bob Ano, once put it to me this way: "If I make a bet on your latest 'vision' and you turn out to be wrong, I lose my job and reputation. You simply change a few PowerPoint slides and move on."
With this as background, I am proud to say that I actually helped with the execution on one of my analyst ideas (albeit I played a supporting role at best).
Last summer, I was troubled by some industry activity that I believed might alter the progress of the IEEE 802.1X networking standard. My fear was that businesses' initiatives might actually impede the progress of 802.1X proliferation and thus render networks less secure.
With this in mind, I did what every analyst does: I wrote a bunch of stuff and pitched my ideas to the press. I proposed that the industry get together and develop an open-source version of the 802.1X supplicant in the model of Mozilla Firefox. Why Firefox? It's stable, it runs on lots of platforms, it's widely available, and it's extremely popular.
This time I went a bit further, though. I took my role beyond writing and actually took this idea to the networking and security industry. I found that a lot of folks shared my idea and passion. We all decided to work together to make something happen.
On Monday morning, the OpenSEA Alliance, announced its existence to the world. The OpenSEA Alliance is comprised of six security and networking vendors (Extreme Networks, Identity Engines, Infoblox, Symantec, TippingPoint and Trapeze Networks), along with Ukerna/ja.net, a U.K.-based organization focused on high-speed networking for the U.K. academic community. The group will collaborate on delivering a stable, multiple-platform, widely available 802.1X supplicant based upon the existing Xsupplicant work done at the University of Utah.
While I did play a part in the genesis of this project, the six companies and Ukerna/ja.net really stepped up and worked diligently to create an open-source foundation. As I mentioned, the group is focused on an 802.1X supplicant today but will consider other open-source networking and security projects in the future. The group welcomes other vendors, government organizations, academic institutions and individual contributors to join in its efforts. More information is available at the OpenSEA Alliance Web site.
On a personal note, I learned a lot about open-source software, project management, and cooperation during this process. Cliff Schmidt of the Apache Software Foundation was instrumental in this effort and deserves a lot of credit. We also received a lot of advice and support from folks at Mozilla, the Eclipse Foundation and others in the initial phases of the project when I was completely green.
I wish the group continued success. With today's threat landscape, all technology users benefit when the industry works collectively on security and privacy safeguards. Hopefully, the OpenSEA Alliance will help make this happen.