Ouch. One of the technology staples of the B2B channel is now older than most of the people selling, integrating, and even developing it.
I'm talking about file transfer protocol (FTP), which, for a large part of the past 40 years, has been the means of choice for transferring large files between applications and domains.
Abhay Bushan, then a student at MIT, wrote the original specification for a simple protocol to copy files over a TCP-based network (published as RFC 114) 40 years ago, on 16 April 1971.
Integrators are likely to groan at this point. After all, isn't file transfer a "mature" technology? Are we not we at the end of the hype cycle and into the realm of archaeology?
The forgotten 25-year-old in-house script is a common find. Often, it is still quietly running with no problems whatsoever, but it is also likely to be utterly unfit for purpose.
Security people are right. Like so many elements of early networking, it is, by modern standards, simple in the extreme. In its original manifestations, it was not designed to be securable.
Arguably, it did not have to be. Back in 1971, the first recognisable computer virus, Creeper, did not exactly take the world by storm. And despite contemporary panics about virtual Von Neumann machines, the malware was recognised as a data security threat to an even lesser degree.
After all, it is only relatively recently that viruses have become tools of systematic theft, rather than the frequently entertaining displays of programming prowess of the early 1980s.
That simplicity, however, is precisely why it is so pervasive, and it is part of the secret to its appeal as a channel money spinner. Modern, secured versions of FTP – most notably SFTP – are sold at price points from everything from 30-odd to tens of thousands of pounds. They are designed to secure the most critical data: from card data to medical records, even military and bank data flows.
Even the cheapest products are (or should be) designed to meet the demands of heavy-duty workflows and will meet professional standards using proprietary algorithms.
So why should the channel care? It is tempting to invoke the cloud. However, at this point, everyone else would groan along with the intergrators.
No, there is a much more fundamental development at work here, and one that is at least 40 years old: greater processing power and more information crossing domains. More dispersed applications and processes require integration with data workflows.
And here's the clincher for the channel: betting on processing power and data volumes is a sure-fire win, as they are two things that are virtually guaranteed to grow faster than any economy.
For that reason, file transfer is here to stay as a commercial opportunity. There has never been more call for secure, governed information sharing (and let's face it – who ever heard of a bank sanctioning peer-to-peer file sharing?) between domains.
It is ostensibly a simple job – to take data from the edge of a firewall, guard and govern it through the key processes, including data validation and transformation, and ensure it reaches its destination application safely, in the form intended – and vice versa.
People are keener than ever to secure data and to offload responsibility via SLAs to third-party providers. After 40 years, the demand for file transfer is growing fast. It's a middle-aged spread, but it is one that will not disappear any time soon.
Chris Greaves is sales director of northern Europe for the file transfer division at Ipswitch
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