by Dana Gardner, Interarbor Solutions
Listen to this recorded podcast here: BriefingsDirect-Discover the Open Trusted Technology Provider Framework
The following is the transcript of a sponsored podcast panel discussion from The Open Group Conference, San Diego 2011 on The Open Trusted Technology Forum and its impact on business and government.
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.
Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion in conjunction with The Open Group Conference held in San Diego, the week of February 7, 2011. We’ve assembled a panel to examine The Open Group’s new Open Trusted Technology Forum (OTTF), which was established in December.
The forum is tasked with finding ways to better conduct global procurement and supply-chain commerce among and between technology acquirers and buyers and across the ecosystem of technology providers. By providing transparency, collaboration, innovation, and more trust on the partners and market participants in the IT environment, the OTTF will lead to improved business risk for global supply activities in the IT field.
We’ll examine how the OTTF will function, what its new framework will be charged with providing, and we will examine ways that participants in the global IT commerce ecosystem can become involved with and perhaps use the OTTF’s work to its advantage.
Here with us to delve into the mandate and impact of the Trusted Technology Forum, we’re here with Dave Lounsbury. He is the Chief Technology Officer for The Open Group. Welcome, Dave.
Dave Lounsbury: Hi, Dana. How are you?
Gardner: I’m great. We’re also here with Steve Lipner, the Senior Director of Security Engineering Strategy in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group. Welcome, Steve.
Steve Lipner: Hi, Dana. Glad to be here.
Gardner: And, we’re also here with Andras Szakal, the Chief Architect in IBM’s Federal Software Group and an IBM distinguished engineer. Welcome.
Andras Szakal: Welcome. Thanks for having me.
Gardner: We’re also here with Carrie Gates, Vice President and Research Staff Member at CA Labs. Welcome.Carrie Gates: Thank you.
Gardner: Let’s start with you, Dave. Tell us in a nutshell what the OTTF is and why it came about?
Lounsbury: The OTTF is a group that came together under the umbrella of The Open Group to identify and develop standards and best practices for trusting supply chain. It’s about how one consumer in a supply chain could trust their partners and how they will be able to indicate their use of best practices in the market, so that people who are buying from the supply chain or buying from a specific vendor will be able to know that they can procure this with a high level of confidence.
Gardner: Clearly, people have been buying these sorts of products for some time. What’s new? What’s changed that makes this necessary?
Concerns by DoD
Lounsbury: There are a couple of dimensions on it, and I will start this off because the other folks in the room are far more expert in this than I am.
This actually started a while ago at The Open Group by a question from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which faced the challenge of buying commercial off-the-shelf product. Obviously, they wanted to take advantage of the economies of scale and the pace of technology in the commercial supply chain, but realized that means they’re not going to get purpose-built equipment, that they are going to buy things from a global supply chain.
They asked, “What would we look for in these things that we are buying to know that people have used good engineering practices and good supply chain management practices? Do they have a good software development methodology? What would be those indicators?”
Now, that was a question from the DoD, but everybody is on somebody’s supply chain. People buy components. The big vendors buy components from smaller vendors. Integrators bring multiple systems together.
So, this is a really broad question in the industry. Because of that, we felt the best way to address this was bring together a broad spectrum of industry to come in, identify the practices that they have been using — your real, practical experience — and bring that together within a framework to create a standard for how we would do that.
Gardner: And this is designed with that word “open” being important to being inclusive. This is about a level playing field, but not necessarily any sort of exclusionary affair.
Lounsbury: Absolutely. Not only is the objective of all The Open Group activities to produce open standards and conformance programs that are available to everyone,
but in this case, because we are dealing with a global supply chain, we know that we are going to have not only vendors at all scales, but also vendors from all around the world.
If you pick up any piece of technology, it will be designed in the USA, assembled in Mexico, and built in China. So we need that international and global dimension in production of this set of standards as well.
Gardner: Andras, you’ve been involved with this quite a bit. For the edification of our listeners, is this mostly software we’re talking about? Is it certain components? Can we really put a bead on what will be the majority of technologies that would probably be affected?
Szakal: That’s a great question, Dana. I’d like to provide a little background. In today’s environment, we’re seeing a bit of a paradigm shift. We’re seeing technology move out of the traditional enterprise infrastructure. We’re seeing these very complex value chains be created. We’re seeing cloud computing.
We’re actually working to create smarter infrastructures that are becoming more intelligent, automated, and instrumented, and they are very much becoming open-loop systems. Traditionally, they were closed loop systems, in other words, closed environments, for example, the energy and utility (E&U) industry, the transportation industry, and the health-care industry.
As technology becomes more pervasive and gets integrated into these environments, into the critical infrastructure, we have to consider whether they are vulnerable and how the components that have gone into these solutions are trustworthy.
Governments worldwide are asking that question. They’re worried about critical infrastructure and the risk of using commercial, off-the-shelf technology — software and hardware — in a myriad of ways, as it gets integrated into these more complex solutions.
That’s part of the worry internationally from a government and policy perspective, and part of our focus here is to help our constituents, government customers and critical infrastructure customers, understand how the commercial technology manufacturers, the software development manufactures, go about engineering and managing their supply chain integrity.
Gardner: I got the impression somehow, listening to some of the presentations here at the Conference, that this was mostly about software. Maybe at the start, would that be the case?
Szakal: No, it’s about all types of technology. Software obviously is a particularly important focus, because it’s at the center of most technology anyway. Even if you’re developing a chip, a chip has some sort of firmware, which is ultimately software. So that perception is valid to a certain extent, but no, not just software, hardware as well.
Gardner: Steve, I heard also the concept of “build with integrity,” as applied to the OTTF. What does that mean, build with integrity?
Lipner: Build with integrity really means that the developer who is building a technology product, whether it be hardware or software, applies best practices and understood techniques to prevent the inclusion of security problems, holes, bugs, in the product — whether those problems arise from some malicious act in the supply chain or whether they arise from inadvertent errors. With the complexity of modern software, it’s likely that security vulnerabilities can creep in.
So, what build with integrity really means is that the developer applies best practices to reduce the likelihood of security problems arising, as much as commercially feasible.
And not only that, but any given supplier has processes for convincing himself that upstream suppliers, component suppliers, and people or organizations that he relies on, do the same, so that ultimately he delivers as secure a product as possible.
Gardner: Carrie, one of the precepts of good commerce is a lack of friction between borders, where more markets can become involved, where the highest quality at the lowest cost types of effects can take place. This notion of trust, when applied to IT resources and assets, seems to be important to try to keep this a global market and to allow for the efficiencies that are inherent in an open market to take place. How do you see this as a borderless technology ecosystem? How does this help?
Gates: This helps tremendously in improving trust internationally. We’re looking at developing a framework that can be applied regardless of which country you’re coming from. So, it is not a US-centric framework that we’ll be using and adhering to.
We’re looking for a framework so that each country, regardless of its government, regardless of the consumers within that country, all of them have confidence in what it is that we’re building, that we’re building with integrity, that we are concerned about both, as Steve mentioned, malicious acts or inadvertent errors.
And each country has its own bad guy, and so by adhering to international standard we can say we’re looking for bad guys for every country and ensuring that what we provide is the best possible software.
Gardner: Let’s look a little bit at how this is going to shape up as a process. Dave, let’s explain the idea of The Open Group being involved as a steward. What is The Open Group’s role in this?
Lounsbury: The Open Group provides the framework under which both buyers and suppliers at any scale could come together to solve a common problem — in this case, the question of providing trusted technology best practices and standards. We operate a set of proven processes that ensure that everyone has a voice and that all these standards go forward in an orderly manner.
We provide infrastructure for doing that in the meetings and things like that. The third leg is that The Open Group operates industry-based conformance programs, the certification programs, that allow someone who is not a member to come in and indicate their conformance standard and give evidence that they’re using the best practices there.
Gardner: That’s important. I think there is a milestone set that you were involved with. You’ve created the forum. You’ve done some gathering of information. Now, you’ve come out right here at this conference with the framework, with the first step towards a framework, that could be accepted across the community. There is also a white paper that explains how that’s all going to work. But, eventually, you’re going to get to an accreditation capability. What does that mean? Is that a stamp of approval?
Lounsbury: Let me back up just a little bit. The white paper actually lays out the framework. The work of forum is to turn that framework into an Open Group standard and populate it. That will provide the standards and best practice foundation for this conformance program.
We’re just getting started on the vision for a conformance program. One of the challenges here is that first, not only do we have to come up with the standard and then come up with the criteria by which people would submit evidence, but you also have to deal with the problem of scale.
If we really want to address this problem of global supply chains, we’re talking about a very large number of companies around the world. It’s a part of the challenge that the forum faces.
Part of the work that they’ve embarked on is, in fact, to figure out how we wouldn’t necessarily do that kind of conformance one on one, but how we would accredit either vendors themselves who have their own duty of quality processes as a big vendor would or third parties who can do assessments and then help provide the evidence for that conformance.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but there would be a certification authority that would verify that all the evidence is correct and grant some certificate that says that they have met some or all of the standards.
Szakal: Our vision is that we want to leverage some of the capability that’s already out there. Most of us go through common criteria evaluations and that is actually listed as a best practice for a validating security function and products.
Where we are focused, from an accreditation point of view, affects more than just security products. That’s important to know. However, we definitely believe that the community of assessment labs that exists out there that already conducts security evaluations, whether they be country-specific or that they be common criteria, needs to be leveraged. We’ll endeavor to do that and integrate them into both the membership and the thinking of the accreditation process.
Gardner: Thank you, Andras. Now, for a company that is facing some hurdles — and we heard some questions in our sessions earlier about: “What do I have to do? Is this going to be hard for an SMB? — the upside could be pretty significant. If you’re a company and you do get that accreditation, you’re going to have some business value. Steve Lipner, what from your perspective is the business rationale for these players to go about this accreditation to get this sort of certification?
Lipner: To the extent that the process is successful, why then customers will really value the certification? And will that open markets or create preferences in markets for organizations that have sought and achieved the certification?
Obviously, there will be effort involved in achieving the certification, but that will be related to real value, more trust, more security, and the ability of customers to buy with confidence.
The challenge that we’ll face as a forum going forward is to make the processes deterministic and cost-effective. I can understand what I have to do. I can understand what it will cost me. I won’t get surprised in the certification process and I can understand that value equation. Here’s what I’m going to have to do and then here are the markets and the customer sets, and the supply chains it’s going to open up to me.
Gardner: So, we understand that there is this effort afoot that the idea is to create more trust and a set of practices in place, so that everyone understands that certain criteria have been met and vulnerabilities have been reduced. And, we understand that this is going to be community effort and you’re going to try to be inclusive.
What I’m now curious about is what is it this actually consists of — a list of best practices, technology suggestions? Are there certain tests and requirements that are already in place that one would have to tick off? Let me take that to you, Carrie, and we’ll go around the panel. How do you actually assure that this is safe stuff?
Gates: If you refer to our white paper, we start to address that there. We were looking at a number of different metrics across the board. For example, what do you have for documentation practices? Do you do code reviews? There are a number of different best practices that are already in the field that people are using. Anyone who wants to be a certified, can go and look at this document and say, “Yes, we are following these best practices” or “No, we are missing this. Is it something that we really need to add? What kind of benefit it will provide to us beyond the certification?”
Gardner: Dave, anything to add as to how a company would go about this? What are some of the main building blocks to a low-vulnerability technology creation and distribution process?
Lounsbury: Again, I refer everybody to the white paper, which is available on The Open Group website. You’ll see there in the categories that we’ve divided these kinds of best practice into four broad categories: product engineering and development methods, secure engineering development methods, supply chain integrity methods and the product evaluation methods.
Under there those are the categories, we’ll be looking at the attributes that are necessary to each of those categories and then identifying the underlying standards or bits of evidence, so people can submit to indicate their conformance.
I want to underscore this point about the question of the cost to a vendor. Steve said it very well. The objective here is to raise best practices across the industry and make the best practice commonplace. One of the great things about an industry-based conformance program is that it gives you the opportunity to take the standards and those categories that we’ve talked about as they are developed by OTTF and incorporate those in your engineering and development processes.
So you’re baking in the quality as you go along, and not trying to have an expensive thing going on at the end.
Gardner: Andras, IBM is perhaps one of the largest providers to governments and defense agencies when it comes to IT and certainly, at the center of a large ecosystem around the world, you probably have some insights into best practices that satisfy governments and military and defense organizations.
Can you offer a few major building blocks that perhaps folks that have been in a completely commercial environment would need to start thinking more about as they try to think about reaching accreditation?
Szakal: We have three broad categories here and we’ve broken each of the categories into a set of principles, what we call best practice attributes. One of those is secure engineering. Within secure engineering, for example, one of the attributes is threat assessment and threat modeling.
Another would be to focus on lineage of open-source. So, these are some of the attributes that go into these large-grained categories.
Unpublished best practices
You’re absolutely right, we have thought about this before. Steve and I have talked a lot about this. We’ve worked on his secure engineering initiative, his SDLC initiative within Microsoft. I worked on and was co-author of the IBM Secure Engineering Framework. So, these are living examples that have been published, but are proprietary, for some of the best practices out there. There are others, and in many cases, most companies have addressed this internally, as part of their practices without having to publish them.
Part of the challenge that we are seeing, and part of the reason that Microsoft and IBM went to the length of publishing there is that government customers and critical infrastructure were asking what is the industry practice and what were the best practices.
What we’ve done here is taken the best practices in the industry and bringing them together in a way that’s a non-vendor specific. So you’re not looking to IBM, you’re not having to look at the other vendors’ methods of implementing these practices, and it gives you a non-specific way of addressing them based on outcome.
These have all been realized in the field. We’ve observed these practices in the wild, and we believe that this is going to actually help vendors mature in these specific areas. Governments recognize that, to a certain degree, the industry is not a little drunk and disorderly and we do actually have a view on what it means to develop product in a secure engineering manner and that we have supply chain integrity initiatives out there. So, those are very important.
Gardner: Somebody mentioned earlier that technology is ubiquitous across so many products and services. Software in particular growing more important in how it affects all sorts of different aspects of different businesses around the world. It seems to me this is an inevitable step that you’re taking here and that it might even be overdue.
If we can take the step of certification and agreement about technology best practices, does this move beyond just technology companies in the ecosystem to a wider set of products and services? Any thoughts about whether this is a framework for technology that could become more of a framework for general commerce, Dave?
Lounsbury: Well, Dana, you asked me a question I’m not sure I have an answer for. We’ve got a quite a task in front of us doing some of these technology standards. I guess there might be cases where vertical industries that are heavy technology employers or have similar kinds of security problems might look to this or there might be some overlap. The one that comes to my mind immediately is health care, but we will be quite happy if we get the technology industry, standards and best practices in place in the near future.
Gardner: I didn’t mean to give you more work to do necessarily. I just wanted to emphasize how this is an important and inevitable step and that the standardization around best practices trust and credibility for lack of malware and other risks that comes in technology is probably going to become more prevalent across the economy and the globe. Would you agree with that, Andras?
Szakal: This approach is, by the way, our best practices approach to solving this problem. It’s an approach that’s been taken before by the industry or industries from a supply chain perspective. There are several frameworks out there that abstract the community practice into best practices and use it as a way to help global manufacturing and development practices, in general, ensure integrity.
Our approach is not all that unique, but it’s certainly the first time the technology industry has come together to make sure that we have an answer to some of these most important questions.
Gardner: Any thoughts, Steve?
Lipner: I think Andras was right in terms of the industry coming together to articulate best practices. You asked a few minutes ago about existing certifications and beyond in the trust and assurance space. Beyond common criteria for security features, security products, there’s really not much in terms of formal evaluation processes today.
Creating a discipline
One of the things we think that the forum can contribute is a discipline that governments and potentially other customers can use to say, “What is my supplier actually doing? What assurance do I have? What confidence do I have?”
Lounsbury: I want to expand on that point a little bit. The white paper’s name, “The Open Trusted Technology Provider Framework” was quite deliberately chosen. There are a lot of practices out there that talk about how you would establish specific security criteria or specific security practices for products. The Open Trusted Technology Provider Forum wants to take a step up and not look at the products, but actually look at the practices that the providers employ to do that. So it’s bringing together those best practices.
Now, good technology providers will use good practices, when they’re looking at their products, but we want to make sure that they’re doing all of the necessary standards and best practices across the spectrum, not just, “Oh, I did this in this product.”
Szakal: I have to agree 100 percent. We’re not simply focused on a bunch of security controls here. This is industry continuity and practices for supply chain integrity, as well as our internal manufacturing practices around the actual practice and process of engineering or software development, as well as supply chain integrity practices.
That’s a very important point to be made. This is not a traditional security standard, insomuch as that we’ve got a hundred security controls that you should always go out and implement. You’re going to have certain practices that make sense in certain situations, depending on the context of the product you’re manufacturing.
Gardner: Carrie, any suggestions for how people could get started at least from an educational perspective? What resources they might look to or what maybe in terms of a mindset they should start to develop as they move towards wanting to be a trusted part of a larger supply chain?
Gates: I would say an open mindset. In terms of getting started, the white paper is an excellent resource to get started and understand how the OTTF is thinking about the problem. How we are sort of structuring things? What are the high-level attributes that we are looking at? Then, digging down further and saying, “How are we actually addressing the problem?”
We had mentioned threat modeling, which for some — if you’re not security-focused — might be a new thing to think about, as an example, in terms of your supply chain. What are the threats to your supply chain? Who might be interested, if you’re looking at malicious attack, in inserting something into your code? Who are your customers and who might be interested in potentially compromising them? How might you go about protecting them?
I am going to contradict Andras a little bit, because there is a security aspect to this, and there is a security mindset that is required. The security mindset is a little bit different, in that you tend to be thinking about who is it that would be interested in doing harm and how do you prevent that?
It’s not a normal way of thinking about problems. Usually, people have a problem, they want to solve it, and security is an add-on afterwards. We’re asking that they start that thinking as part of their process now and then start including that as part of their process.
Szakal: But, you have to agree with me that this isn’t your hopelessly lost techie 150-paragraph list of security controls you have to do in all cases, right?
Gates: Absolutely, there is no checklist of, “Yes, I have a Firewall. Yes, I have an IDS.”
Gardner: Okay. It strikes me that this is really a unique form of insurance — insurance for the buyer, insurance for the seller — that they can demonstrate that they’ve taken proper steps — and insurance for the participants in a vast and complex supply chain of contractors and suppliers around the world. Do you think the word “insurance” makes sense or “assurance?” How would you describe it, Steve?
Lipner: We talk about security assurance, and assurance is really what the OTTF is about, providing developers and suppliers with ways to achieve that assurance in providing their customers ways to know that they have done that. Andras referred to install the Firewall, and so on. This is really not about adding some security band-aid onto a technology or a product. It’s really about the fundamental attributes or assurance of the product or technology that’s being produced.
Gardner: Very good. I think we’ll need to leave it there. We have been discussing The Open Group’s new Open Trusted Technology Forum, The Associated Open Trusted Technology Provider Framework, and the movement towards more of an accreditation process for the global supply chains around technology products.
I want to thank our panel. We’ve been joined by Dave Lounsbury, the Chief Technology Officer of The Open Group. Thank you.
Lounsbury: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: Also, Steve Lipner, the Senior Director of Security Engineering Strategy in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group. Thank you, Steve.
Lipner: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And also, Andras Szakal, he is the Chief Architect in the IBM Federal Software Group and an IBM’s Distinguished Engineer. Thank you.
Szakal: Thank you so much.
Gardner: And, also Carrie Gates, Vice President and Research Staff Member at CA Labs. Thank you.
Gates: Thank you.
Gardner: You’ve been listening to a sponsored podcast discussion in conjunction with The Open Group Conference here in San Diego, the week of February 7, 2011. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks for joining and come back next time.
Copyright The Open Group and Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.
Dana Gardner is the Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which identifies and interprets the trends in Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and enterprise software infrastructure markets. Interarbor Solutions creates in-depth Web content and distributes it via BriefingsDirect™ blogs, podcasts and video-podcasts to support conversational education about SOA, software infrastructure, Enterprise 2.0, and application development and deployment strategies.