IP Access on the Way

Using IP networks for access control is just around the corner as new generation products and technology becomes available

Arguments about the lack of security or reliability will ring hollow to senior management that already knows about dozens of critical applications running on the same network seemingly without incident. "The financial community is looking for ROI wins," said Jacobs. That is not to say that those who have a strong concern about network security are completely wrong. If a properly installed system employs encryption and authentication, however, most experts believe the risks are very low. Certainly the alternatives have either their own significant risks or a far greater cost.

While the number of valid technical concerns that cannot be overcome is small, there are bigger organizational and market concerns. Each piece of the value string, whether it be the end-user security department, the installing dealer or the security manufacturer, is going to come under question. As these products and systems move closer to the types of systems IT deals with every day, many will question why they shouldn't come from traditional IT vendors, be installed by network installers, and be run by the IT department. There is a great deal of concern in the marketplace today about this very possibility. "The installers and manufacturers are going to have to morph," said Chandler.

To be successful, all the camps will need to understand and adopt the IT standards and points of view. Many already get the picture. "I've got four business journals on my desk, and one of them is VAR Business," said Smith.

That said, many also believe this fear is unwarranted. "The IT vendors are never going to understand effectively the angle of view of a camera. They're not going to understand all the perturbations around an access door and what it takes to make it right," said Chandler. "The heads of security need to make it clear to senior management that this is a different animal than your purchasing system or network security. People don't get killed if someone breaks into your network," said Hamm.

Where Does This Lead?
The security industry is at a crossroads. It can either attempt to fight the adoption of IP technology in spite of its clear financial benefits, or it can wholeheartedly embrace those standards and move towards adding value in the areas those standards never considered. When a number of companies attempted to hold onto their proprietary standards in the IT industry, they suffered a painful death.

All segments of the security industry need to understand the true value they bring to security solutions. It is not in basic networking and computing hardware, but in our knowledge of the security problems that must be solved. If we hesitate to embrace those standards as the solution to our problem, the industry will leave itself open to the mainstream IT manufacturers solving physical security problems for us. If they do, they will market their solutions through their dealers and directly to the IT departments.

Where does that leave us? We need to start demanding this type of solution for new systems. Some already are. "Native IP-enabled readers will be the next big step for Cisco's security department," said Jacobs.

About the author: Rich Anderson is the president of Phare Consulting, a firm providing technology and growth strategies for the security industry. A 25-year veteran of high tech electronics, Mr. Anderson previously served as the VP of Marketing for GE Security and the VP of Engineering for CASI-RUSCO. He can be reached at randerson@phareconsulting.com.