Intel Corporation: Setting the stage for the year of security
Founded in 1968 in Santa Clara, California, Intel Corporation began with a focus on computer memory. From the very start, the company prided itself on its agility and breadth of ability, as well as a customer-driven philosophy that ensured its popularity with consumers. When Business Chief last spoke to Intel in August 2019, the company stated that it was moving “from a PC-centric strategy to a data-centric one”. It was a big shift for Intel, which had spent the last 50 years focusing on the former. However, realising that storage, memory, computing and data centres were all part of a larger, more exciting picture, it was determined to make the transition.
Almost six months later, we spoke with William ‘Bill’ Giard, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Intel, who talked about his vision for the company in 2020. Part of Intel for over 20 years, having joined almost immediately after completing his studies at Portland State University, Giard has seen the evolution of the business first-hand. “I saw what it was doing in the industry and got really energised about working with computers and electronics,” he explains. “For me, it was just a logical choice once I graduated.” Starting as an engineer and then working his way up to CTO, Giard says he has gained a lot of valuable experience in enterprise IT, including data management, product life-cycle management and big enterprise systems. “It really opened my eyes to what we're doing for the wider industry. Changing Intel is a big deal, but changing an industry direction is probably what excites me the most.”
Giard believes that embracing digital transformation, understanding system architectures and how to enable business processes is a pivotal strategy for the company. However, his primary focus is on understanding how Intel’s software can be used to enable hardware in such a way that it works seamlessly. “My role as CTO is about combining technical hardware and software implementations with the developments happening in data growth, analytics, infrastructure modernisation and security,” he says. “This is where my passion really lies.” Giard’s strategic vision for Intel is a trifecta of technological developments: hybrid-cloud solutions, analytics powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and, most importantly, security.
Security is of paramount importance to both customers and the tech industry as a whole. With ransomware incidents and insider threats infiltrating even the most hermetic of organisations, such as the US Federal Government, it’s becoming all too clear that traditional firewalls and perimeter-based controls can no longer adequately protect the digital world. Recognising it as, perhaps, ‘the’ central challenge of 2020, Giard has decided to make security solutions the keystone of Intel’s product development. “It can't be bolted on after the fact; it's got to be built in from the start. And enabling that work, where we're trying to perform computing at the edge, I think is critically important to our business strategy.”
Owing to the necessity for latency-sensitive applications and the emergence of 5G, which is ushering in the possibility of real-time solutions, ‘edge computing’ is a paradigm taking on great precedence in the industry. Instead of sending data from a device to a server where it can then be analysed, the analysis is conducted on the device itself. Common examples of edge computing include the biometric readers (fingerprint or facial recognition hardware) on smartphones. “This is where technology is shifting quite rapidly,” Giard explains. “It allows us to meet our customers where they're addressing their challenges. Security needs to be at the forefront: it's the number one growth potential in a number of areas, but security professionals will tell you it hasn't gotten enough attention.” Intel’s efforts to tackle the issue have been bolstered by healthy relationships with its digital solution partners, such as Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM and VMware, which has enabled a productive ecosystem in which to develop solutions.
Intel’s more than seven-year partnership with Lockheed Martin, one of the top security providers in the world, on a project for the Federal Government is a demonstration of its commitment to delivering world-class security capabilities. After all, Giard explains, there’s no better way to develop an awareness of security than by working with a security company. “In the federal arena, security is the first conversation you have instead of the third or fifth. When Lockheed Martin asked us to assist them in that effort, it helped us not just develop our Xeon processors, but also to develop our understanding that integrated security has got to work from the moment the system turns on.” Intel’s collaboration with Lockheed made it clear that building security from the most nascent level up meant a vastly improved level of protection, which, nonetheless, didn’t compromise performance in any way.
The Intel Hardened Security Solution resulted from this partnership. The company recognised that the problem lay in security occurring at different layers of the computing process: the operating system, the application layer, virtual machines, etc. The traditional approaches to protection can leave customers open to threats in multiple areas and a more rigorously consolidated structure was required. Constituted from Xeon hardware and Security Runtime Environment (SRE) software, the Intel Hardened Security Solution is designed to address fundamental challenges experienced by CIOs and CISOs daily, delivering comprehensive protection across the entire computing process. The solution is able to provide an organisation with a new and comprehensive security method that will help it safeguard its most precious asset: data.
“Our approach is about enabling data creation, consumption and insights not only across data centres but also the public cloud environment. Our rich portfolio of technologies from Intel Xeon Scalability processors to Intel Ethernet to Intel Optane Memory and Storage are key to achieving that,” Giard states. In addition, as a leader in the industry, Intel has a long and established history of collaborating with partners of all sizes to optimize software in Intel’s architecture. Customers benefit from a high-performing cloud platform that easily integrates into their existing environments. “We take the philosophy that growth and speed of execution helps everyone,” he says. Reinforcing this point, Mike Gann, Director of Business Development, adds that this is what helps Intel distinguish itself from competitors. “The coolest thing that I've seen at Intel is how we partner within that ecosystem to really make an impact. As a company, we want to deliver innovative technology that will change how we all work, play and live. We want to change the world.”
It’s a noble idea, but one that can’t succeed without a solid, customer-centric strategy to back it up. Fortunately, Intel has and always will be about providing an easy, ‘out of the box’ experience for consumers of its products. “Part of our value comes from providing that flexibility. No matter where the data resides, we're helping customers put it in the right place so that they can take appropriate action. From a security perspective, that means making it easy for them by just incorporating it into the infrastructure, giving them peace of mind,” Intel explains. This arrives at the crux of the matter for Intel: as cyber-attacks get more sophisticated and old defences lose their potency, a comprehensive and fundamental reimagining of the whole concept is required and that is what Intel believes in. “After all,” Giard says, “if you get the foundation right, you can act fast and solve the problem very quickly.”