When things get too complicated and move too fast for humans to handle, system designers are left with a couple of options. One is to slow things down, throwing so much process-oriented sand into the system that people can watch things happen around the slowly grinding gears and throw the switches and levers to enact security decisions. This is common and almost always a bad solution.
The other option is to make the system itself so smart that it can make most decisions on its own without slowing things down at all. Of course, to do this properly you need to gather as much information as possible to feed into that decision-making process. And the two pieces of this are behind a pair of acquisitions Microsoft has announced to beef up its machine-to-machine intelligence operations.
First came the announcement that Microsoft is buying Cloudyn, a small startup that has software that monitors and manages cloud storage across a wide range of public and private cloud architectures. Now, a month later, Microsoft has gone after Hexadite, a company that specializes in security automation, according to a report in Calcalist.
Because we're talking about Microsoft, neither of these acquisitions (or, since they haven't been finalized, potential acquisitions) can be considered in a vacuum. In the last 18 months, Microsoft has also acquired Metanautix (in the big data analytics field) and Maluuba (an AI company). Now, Microsoft has also bought several other companies in the same time, but it doesn't take the world's best business analyst to see that Microsoft wants to make the Azure cloud faster, more easily managed, and more secure.
At Gartner Symposium in 2017, a speaker pointed out a significant change in the relationship between human operators and machine intelligence for critical systems. A couple of years ago, human analysts made the critical systems decisions though they had machine intelligence to mark the edges of allowable behavior and act as circuit breakers if things went wrong. Now, we trust machine intelligence to make the vast majority of decisions, with human beings backing up the machines in cases where conditions go wildly out of spec.
At this point, no one knows whether the acquisitions of Cloudyn and Hexadite (assuming they are completed) will result in the two companies remaining alive as discrete organizations living in Microsoft's powerful ecosystem, or if both will be assimilated by the Redmond collective. Either way, it's obvious that Microsoft is eager to be at the center of the cloud computing world, even if the majority of that world is something other than Azure. Gathering companies like these into the fold would allow Microsoft to make rapid response services available to customers across security and incident management areas.
Watch this space for more as Microsoft's strategy plays out through acquisitions. If the recent pace is any indication, more should be coming in the third quarter -- and if economic conditions change for the worse, look for Microsoft and other companies with deep pockets to take advantage of the situation to bulk up their IP portfolios at bargain prices.
— Curtis Franklin is the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.