Software vs. Appliance: Understanding DAM Deployment Tradeoffs

One thing I don’t miss from my vendor days in the Database Activity Monitoring market is the competitive infighting. Sure, I loved to do the competitive analyses to see how each vendor viewed itself, and how they were all trying to differentiate their products. I did not enjoy going into a customer shop after a competitor “poisoned the well” with misleading statements, evangelical pitches touting the right way to tackle a problem, or flat-out lies. Being second into a customer account meant having to deal with the dozen land mines left in their minds, and explaining those issues just to get even. The common land mines were about performance, lack of impact on IT systems, and platform support. The next vendor in line countered with architectures that did not scale, difficulties in deployment, inability to collect important events, and management complexity of every other product on the market. The customer often cannot determine who’s lying until after they purchase something and see if it does what the vendor claimed, so this game continues until the market reaches a certain level of maturity. With Database Activity Monitoring, the appliance vs. software debate is still raging. It’s not front and center in most product marketing materials. It’s not core to solving most security challenges. It is positioned as an advantage behind the scenes, especially during bake-offs between vendors, to undermine competitors. Criticism not based on the way events are processed, UI, or event storage – but simply on the deployment model. Hardware is better than software. Software is better than hardware. This virtual hardware appliance is just as good as software. And so on. This is an area where I can help customers understand the tradeoffs of the different models. Today I am kicking off a short series to discuss tradeoffs between appliance, software, and virtual appliance implementations of Database Activity Monitoring systems. I’ll research the current state of the DAM market and highlight the areas you need to focus on to determine which is right for you. I’ll also share some personal experiences that illustrate the difference between the theoretical and the practical. The series will be broken into four parts: Hardware: Discussion of hardware appliances dedicated to Database Activity Monitoring. I’ll cover the system architecture, common deployment models, and setup. Then we’ll delve into the major benefits and constraints of appliances including performance, scalability, architecture, and disaster recovery. Software: Contrasting DAM appliances with software architecture and deployment models; then cover pros and cons including installation and configuration, flexibility, scalability and performance, and installation/setup Virtual Appliances: Virtualization and cloud models demand adaptation for many security technologies, and DAM is no different. Here I will discuss why virtual appliances are necessary – contrasting against with hardware-based appliances – and consider practical considerations that crop up. Data Collection and Management: A brief discussion of how data collection and management affect DAM. I will focus on areas that come up in competitive situations and tend to confuse buying decisions. I have been an active participant in these discussions over the last decade, and I worked for a DAM software provider. As a result I need to acknowledge, up front, my historical bias in favor of software. I have publicly stated my preference for software in the past based upon my experiences as a CIO and author of DAM technology. As an analyst, however, I have come to recognize that there is no single ‘best’ technology. My own experiences sometimes differ from customer reality, and I undersetand that every customer has its own preferred way of doing things. But make no mistake – the deployment model matters! With that said, there is no single ‘best’ model. Hardware, software, and virtual appliance – each has advantages and disadvantages. What works for each customer depends on its specific needs. And just like vendors, customer will have their own biases. What’s important is what is ‘better’ for the consumer. I will provide a list of pros and cons, to help you decide what will work best. I will point out my own preferences (bias), and as always you are welcome to call ‘BS’ on anything in this series you don’t accept. Perhaps more than any other series I have ever written at Securosis, I want to encourage feedback from the security and IT practitioner community. Why? Because I have witnessed too many software solutions that don’t scale as advertised. I am aware of several hardware deployments that cost the customer almost 4X the original bid. I am aware of software – my own firm was guilty – so inflexible we were booted from the customer site. I know these issues still occur, so my goal is to help wade through the competitive puffery. I encourage you to share what have you seen, what you prefer, and why, as it helps the community. Share:

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.