I first became a “Certified Expert” in end point management back in 1994 when I was doing design, installation, and consulting work with Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS). During this time, industry forecasters were saying that the relevance of the end point would soon pass, and the operations would be taken over by the operating systems and network appliances.
It is now the year 2020, and SMS is still around (now called Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager), as well as a host of other end point products. Somehow, like Unix and TCP/IP, the end point products forgot to follow predictions and die.
The most common reasons cited for the possibility of the industry moving away from end points are:
- Operating Systems will take over end point functionally.
- Network management systems like application-layer firewalls will replace the need to monitor client traffic locally.
Over the past few years, predictions of the demise of end points became popular again, but I strongly suspect that end points will not only hold their ground but become even more important. Personally, I am now working with more end points than ever, such as the Check Point end point solutions.
End points have four advantages that I think outweigh any disadvantages.
I doubt that Operating Systems will ever become as nimble as end point clients; therefore, end points will always be an option for keeping an eye on the health of clients even if they are mobile clients. After all, a “second opinion” from another vendor can often be more trustworthy than what could be a compromised OS.
Network Management systems were also supposed to “replace” the need for end point clients. Systems like Application Layer Firewalls were going to inspect all of our client traffic and sort out the naughty from the nice traffic then give us reports and alarms. Well, that was all good until so many of our clients decided to work from home and Starbucks. Additionally, now with VPNs and new TLS/SSL connections, our ability to use Application Layer Firewalls to inspect traffic contents is diminishing daily with no end in sight.
3. Content Inspection
End points have the advantage of being where the action is. End points can look at traffic before it goes into a VPN tunnel or keep an eye on other I/O such as USB ports and the kinds of network connections or overall health of the client. While end point technology will, of course, continue to change with new forms of clients such as tablets and smartphones, the little “local auditors” will almost certainly have their place for many years to come.
Speaking of auditors, as we come into the age of compliance, the end points golden age may be just around the corner. HIPAA, NIST, PCI, CCPA and the dozens of other standards that organizations must comply with might just be the motivation for grand new implementations of end points in the support of client compliance practices and reporting.
So long live the end points, our embedded watchdogs and friends in the field!