minor leak

is there ever such a thing as a minor leak? for example, my plumber detected a minor difference in gas coming into my house and the amount reaching my appliances. in short a very minor, barely detectable leak. infact, one that is apparently within the legal limits for such “differences”. so it’s minor and legal. but is it acceptable? nope. because no one wants ever a minor leak when it comes to something as vital as a gas fault. life and death. that’s why later today my plumber will be round to fix it. meanwhile i’m in hursley, but away from my desk. frank kenney from gartner research is over this week. and we’re talking about all things relating to governance. not just of SOA, but of how governance will extend to cut across IT and business, with touch points to B2B, BPM, Cloud, Integration, Collaboration and even Application development.

but back to plumbing for a second. i always think of WebSphere MQ, our family of messaging transports, as plumbing. a conduit for business data, just as plumbing routes and delivers a constant flow of valuable resources on tap. for us, minor leaks have never been acceptable. business data today is just too valuable to loose. whether it’s a customer’s order which if lost will turn them to your competitors, or it’s an interaction with a partner which will eat your profits if mishandled, or sensitive personal information that will embarrass the company and hit your stock or even land you in the stocks. obviously a key leak can come from data theft, and we provide security mechanisms in the pipe (in transit) like Secure Sockets Layer, and also for where the pipes connect to systems (at the application layer) like our Extended Security Editionrecent surveys suggest that these malicious thefts of information are far less frequent than alarmist reports suggest, and that actually most data losses are accidental and as such are probably not detected quickly if at all. this is the way of loosing business data that my gas supply issues most remind me of. data corruption. it can be harder to detect situations where the information wasn’t hacked or stolen, but simply got mangled en route so that it’s unusable or simply disappears. either way your data stinks, like the whiff of methane, or dissappears altogether without a trace like a gas. little factoid for you: domestic gas is naturally odorless. that familiar whiff of gas comes from smells added artificially by gas suppliers, based on chemicals like Methanethiol. given the volumes of gas consumed by homes across the world, could it be claimed that the most popular perfume fragrance in the world is the aroma of rotten cabbages?

so, back to connectivity software… can we learn lessons from the gas industry? can we add something that makes it clear when information is leaking? perhaps checksums performed before and after sending information fits the analogy. if the checksums don’t match, then the data smells funny as is discarded or re-transmitted. certainly for this reason products like WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition provide checksums to help ensure file data wasn’t corrupted. meanwhile, we focus on making the transport layer for connectivity as robust as possible to prevent leaks in the first place using techniques like queuing and two-phase commit to make mis-transfers invisible, automatically resend information and make sure it’s always written to persistent storage in a way that can be recovered if the systems fail.

however, the critical part of the gas industry solution isn’t the smell in the supply, it’s the nose on the consumer. so how do we provide IT professionals with “noses” for their connectivity? it’s got to start with governance and visibility. governance over what happens and visibility into what’s happening, and specifically what data went where and when, and – because IT can change more frequently than copper or lead pipework – what the connectivity looked like when it happened.

this is the motivation behind the audit trail built into WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition and behind applying governance and visibility to file infrastructure. (i”ll blog about what we’re doing here in detail soon).

so, can you detect a whiff of data leaks in your IT? if you can’t, perhaps you’ve accomplished something truly incredible in your IT. but in that case, it’s more likely your sense of smell needs checking. my advice? get a bigger nose. apply governance to your file transfers, your connectivity, your SOA.

meanwhile, it’s time for me to give my plumber a call from my desk in hursley.

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