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1/16/2009
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Innovators & Influencers

A SaaS trailblazer, a REST activist, a firewall revisionist, even a president will all shape technology in the coming year.

Barack Obama
Presidency 2.0

Barack Obama -- Photograph by Newscom When Barack Obama takes office this month, he'll face challenges like no president since Franklin Roosevelt. He'll also have a tool available to no other past president: Web 2.0.

We watched him use social media--Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube--to transform presidential campaigning. More than two months after his last Twitter posting Nov. 5, he was still the most popular person on the network, with nearly 170,000 followers. The crown jewel of his Internet campaign--the my.BarackObama.com site--elicited donations from 3.2 million people, hosted position papers and videos, and let supporters download lists of voters to call.

Now his challenge is to use Web 2.0 and the Internet to change government. Obama's transition team already is using the Change.gov Web site to blog, hold public forums, and accept job applications--300,000 people have applied for 3,000 available positions. The tool "Open for Questions," launched last month, lets people submit queries and then vote, Digg-like, on the ones they most want answered.

But this is just the start. The next test is whether Obama will be able to use the Internet to mobilize followers in support of his agenda. He's also expected to use Web 2.0 forums and discussion tools to gauge public opinion.

In addition to using technology, Obama has a tech agenda to pursue: He's promised to appoint a CTO to oversee federal IT, and he'll need to make good on his pledge to enhance cybersecurity and support net neutrality.

Obama has demonstrated what a tech-savvy candidate can accomplish. Now it's time for him to show us what a tech-savvy president can do.

-- Mitch Wagner

Photograph by Newscom



Nir Zuk
Reimagining The Firewall

Nir Zuk -- Photograph by Kim Kulish Nir Zuk, Palo Alto Networks' CTO, is a huge advocate of firewalls. And perhaps that's as it should be, since 14 years ago at Check Point Software Technologies, he helped develop the stateful inspection technology used in most firewalls today.

He went on to co-found Palo Alto Networks three years ago with the mission of reinventing the firewall. The company says it now has about 150 business customers and another 150 testing its firewall.

Firewalls used to be able to identify network traffic and the application that created it by its port number and protocol. But today, applications can use different ports, or enter the corporate network via Web ports, which are typically left open. "Stateful inspection just doesn't work anymore," Zuk contends. As a result, a typical company's network has hundreds of applications hidden from the firewall, he says, and organizations have very little control over what their employees are doing and the risks those activities expose their companies to.

Palo Alto claims it can accurately identify the applications on a network using signatures--that is, the firewall identifies unique characteristics of individual applications rather than relying on ports and protocols.

In addition to improving visibility, Palo Alto also gives IT better control, Zuk says. For example, banks often block WebEx's conferencing software, because it allows desktop sharing, a feature their IT organizations consider risky. But that means forgoing other useful WebEx functions. Palo Alto Networks' PA-series firewall lets IT administrators block the desktop-sharing feature, while maintaining access to other useful applications. This, Zuk says, can help IT security units transform themselves from being known as "Dr. No" within their companies to providing the flexibility to meet business needs.

-- Thomas Claburn

Photograph by Kim Kulish

Paul MaritzPaul Maritz
Virtual Makeover
George SochaGeorge Socha
E-Discovery Organized
Manjit SinghManjit Singh
SaaS Believer
Jeff TeperJeff Teper
10 Years, All SharePoint
Sam RubySam Ruby
REST Activist
Barack ObamaBarack Obama
Presidency 2.0
Nir ZukNir Zuk
Reimagining The Firewall
Kirill SheynkmanKirill Sheynkman
Demystifying The Cloud
Marc BenioffMarc Benioff
Taking On The Cloud
Avi KivityAvi Kivity
Virtual Linux Champ
HD MooreHD Moore
Security Threat Spoiler

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