Monday, November 1, 2010

A thought on anti-virus as anti-bodies

Sooner or later the OS and the virtualization layer will become one and the same. They already perform the same function (brokering limited physical resources amongst multiple applications) and while virtualization is a huge step, it just adds overhead to the equation.

In the future, I think each app will have its own little blended OS/virtualization wrapper and it will be able to move around a cloud environment, using what it needs, but not dependent on any single physical piece of hardware. That presents a problem though of securing it against some of the bad stuff that is sure to affect these systems.

This came up in a conversation with a friend tonight who posed the question of applications that today, while they are not required, sit in a shared OS environment with the application...applications like anti-virus software. It's a good question and if the applications are going to be more self-contained, then I don't think it can be answered from a traditional application programming perspective. I think we have to look at the cloud as more akin to a living biological organism rather than a static collection of manufactured processes and compute systems.

And if that is the direction that the cloud takes, one where the location of an application is much more dynamic than in even a traditional virtual infrastructure, then we need a better way to provide these protective functions as part of the "organism". We need an immune system for the cloud.

The first line of defense is the "skin" encompassing your standard perimeter security items such as filters and firewalls. Other layers of defense would be needed if that first layer is breached, apps that act like white blood cells or anti-bodies. Let them flow through the cloud in search of the virus or malware or whatever bad thing is there and then they can go to work cleaning it up. Of course, we'll still have to inoculate and create new vaccines and we'll need the ability to introduce "cures" for the new "bugs" that show up, against which there is not an existing defense, just like with our own bodies.

I don't know that this "organism" model is where we will end up, but something like it should be our end goal. If not, then we'll ultimately end up confined by a great monolithic structure instead of an organic type of thing that can adapt, self-monitor, and heal itself, or that, at the first sign of new symptoms, can be quickly and effectively treated and innoculated against future outbreaks.

Just my two cents and it is still a little rough, but I think the premise is sound. Feel free to comment.

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