Do You Understand the ABC's of the OSI Model?

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

The IP network is the platform for all things "security" in the future. That was the message John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, delivered at The Security Standard show on September 7th in Boston. I had the pleasure of watching him deliver his Safety & Security presentation for the second time in six months. While I knew what was coming from a demonstration standpoint, it is what Chambers says between the slides that generates the most interest for me. Cisco is on the leading edge of the security convergence market. They back up their words with countless millions in new acquisitions to position their core technologies as the "plumbing" for an IP-centric platform that will deliver voice, video, and data combined with mobility. Security convergence is a target market.

Cisco also made headlines at the event by announcing an agreement with Microsoft to make their access control products interoperable in the coming MSFT Vista release in 2007. The gorillas are congregating around security convergence campfire, and I don't see too many traditional physical security players in the circle.

To give the IT perspective of how these huge companies are positioning themselves in the security convergence space, I will share some of my notes (direct quotes) from John Chambers on the subject. It might be valuable to ask yourself how these statements align with your own sales and support strategy for security convergence moving forward:

"The IP network is the platform for Safety & Security"

"Physical and virtual security will be impossible to separate in the future."

"The days of Silo Security implementations are over."

"Stand alone system security is a bottleneck."

"Security solutions must take a holistic approach in the enterprise."

"The Next Wave of innovation will involve integrating safety and security solutions through collaboration with partners and tele-presence [real time video collaboration]."

You can read many different things into these quotations based on your specific business value, but, the IT industry is betting that IP networking will have the most profound impact on this industry since the introduction of the microprocessor.  In other words, it will change everything.

At the foundation is the OSI model. It is the Holy Grail of all things networking. Developed in 1984 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a global federation of national standards organizations representing approximately 130 countries, it basically provides a standard for data communications. The core of this standard is the OSI Reference Model, a set of seven layers that define the different stages that data must go through to travel from one device to another over a network. If this model is news to you as a security integrator your convergence business is at risk.

I don't mean to be an alarmist but far too many physical security integrators and manufacturers still don't GET IT! The IT vendors are basing their competitive selling strategy around IP networking standards, an area where many physical security integrators and manufacturers are weak. It is also important to realize that the "five years" many of you think it will take for security convergence to gain traction is two product lifetimes for the IT competitors most of you still don't realize you have.

Take a simple networking test. Google the OSI Model and download the picture of the "pyramid" model.  Distribute it to your technical staff and ask them to explain what it means. If they ask you what it is you have two choices; (1) find a buyer for your business, or (2) sign a partner agreement with an IT integrator. The good news is they need your physical security knowledge as much as you need IP networking skills.  The bad news is they only need 20% of your industry to partner with. IT already has a worldwide sales channel and the Fortune 500 customer relationships.

History is not kind to companies that ignore fundamental shifts in the technology landscape. Partnering is the fastest way to get there, so make it your focus during the ASIS show next week in San Diego. My shameless plug is for my session  " Next Generation Convergence" at 4:30 on Tuesday September 26th in room 6B.
Hope to see you there.

Good luck and "get networking".