This Target-Rich Environment

Did you see those stories about the cyberattack on Estonia? Personally, I wish there were some other prefix that we could use besides "cyber": its modern use, begun by Norbert Wiener in 1948, derived from a Greek word meaning "steersman," and referred specifically to the idea of using negative feedback to achieve automated control.

Since then, "cyber" has become a general label for anything that happens in or around a computer, viz. Gibson’s "cyberspace" or the Six Million Dollar Man and other "cyborg"s. It’s probably too late to salvage the more precise meaning, so I’ll just go with the flow.

"The Estonian Denial" sounds like the title of a Robert Ludlum novel, doesn’t it? Real life would be more interesting, though also a lot more dangerous, if scenarios like Ludlum’s were part of Geek Real Life — but in practice, I thought the best comment on this incident was the /. post that began, "That a whole country could be DOS’d is evidence of someone doing a bad network install." How mundane, but also how true.

Whether on the scale of a nation-state or merely within an enterprise, devising a robust network is harder than it looks — and worth a lot more than a non-specialist might naïvely believe it should cost.

As enterprises move from monolithic applications, each with its own instance of a software stack, to service-oriented architectures with multilateral dependence, the cost of being professional grade is going to be at least in the same ballpark as the benefits. The return on investment is attractive, but that doesn’t mean the investment isn’t substantial.

No matter how high the stakes, though, I don’t suppose we can hope for a summer blockbuster thriller entitled "The SOA Return." Darn.

May 29, 2007