When I explain that my expertise is in
IT, people nod and think I am a technology guy. Then I go on to say I
do software, networking, green/clean technologies, energy efficiency,
cloud computing, embedded software, and the application of ICT to
other areas, like smart grid. People get confused, and their
attention goes out the window. When I feel like it, I even include
network security, open source, and Japanese market entry strategies.
This looks like the resume of a third-rate guy who is having a hard
time getting employed. By this time, people look at me as if I were
either a liar or a poor soul who does not know what focus means. But
over many years, I actually got involved in all those areas. Despite
the apparent lack of focus, one big benefit of such wide coverage is
that when a new area emerges or an old one re-emerges, I can handle
it without much difficulty. All I have to do is to combine some of my
expertise in different fields to figure it out.
At the recent RSA conference, as I was
rushing to the next appointment for a video interview with Akamai on the show floor, someone called my name. The crew I was with were
walking ahead of me and the voice came from nearby. It was Larry
Stefonic. Larry was senior VP sales for MySQL and, later, president
of MySQL Japan, a vastly successful open source SQL database company.
As you know, it was acquired by Sun, and Sun was acquired by Oracle.
Therefore, MySQL is now part of Oracle. Larry hired me as a market
scout for Japan. I tapped into the Japanese market, including
promotion, business development, and sales lead generation for him.
While doing that, I learned a lot about
open source and its merits. I also did similar work for JBoss at
about the same time. Then, both MySQL and JBoss got sold and Larry
disappeared. With that, I lost interest in open source for the moment
and moved on. After I reconnected with Larry via LinkedIn, I realized
he was in Montana and had started a new venture called yaSSL (yet
another SSL), which is based there.
I knew SSL had become the standard for web browsers and
small-footprint embedded systems. From 1995 to 1998, I was running a
security product (firewall and VPN) business at an international
company, so I have a good understanding of security concerns, such as
filtering, authentication, authorization and encryption. But both
security and open source were behind me, and I did not bother to take
a close look at his company. Occasionally, I would see his posts in
LinkedIn and Facebook and knew his company was doing fine.
Sorry about the long introduction
before the meat of the discussion of yaSSL. It is an open source
security (SSL) product
short but good summary of yaSSL is given
here. For the SSL tutorial, go to the yaSSL site.
yaSSL is a combination open source and security company.
Understanding it is a piece of cake for me. Its business model is
very similar to what MySQL had for sure and has now. They provide
their SSL products with two licenses: GPLv2 and commercial. If you do
not know what that means, you can find an explanation on their site.
But in a nutshell, the commercial version is the traditional
commercial license deal, while GPLv2 allows you to make a copy of the
source (product) and any number of changes to the product, as long as
you contribute your changes back to the project.
The advantages of open source over
closed source are often cited. I used to listen to Larry's pitches on
their merits. A partial list includes:
Easy to adapt to your own
Market needs quickly reflected by
Quick support by the community
Debugged by a large number of
See four gentlemen whom I met at their
booth at the RSA conference. yaSSL was founded by two people, Larry
Stefonic and Todd Ouska, both pictured below with early employees
John Safranke and Chris Conlon.
From left: John Safranek, Todd Ouska
(cofounder), Larry Stefonic (cofounder), and Chris Conlon .
Their products are also geared towards
embedded systems. Yes, I did embedded systems as well and know how
tight their requirements are for executable footprint and memory
sizes. Their products are listed here:
is a C-language-based lightweight SSL library targeted for embedded
and RTOS environments, primarily because of its small size, speed,
portability, and feature set.
is a C++-language-based SSL library for developers more comfortable
with that language.
Embedded Web Server is a fast, embeddable, and
easy-to-configure web server with a strong focus on portability and
security. It offers HTTPS support built in through the CyaSSL
embedded SSL Library.
is a small, portable SSH implementation currently in its early
phases targeted for use by embedded systems developers.
SSL and its improved version, Transport
Layer Security, are IETF
There are, naturally, differences among the different versions of SSL
and TLS. yaSSL supports SSL 3 as well as TLS 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2. Many
copies exist over the Internet, and they are compatible with all the
Their competitive messages are well
described on their booth banners.
There is a Wiki page for comparison of
available TLS solutions, open source or not, in which yaSSL is listed
along with open source and closed source solutions.
Among the open source versions, CyaSSL
(C version) is often compared with OpenSSL. You can find the
comparison by contacting them at email@example.com.
However, one thing that caught my attention is their footprint size.
It ranges between 30 and 100 kB, and the runtime memory use ranges
from 3 to 36 kB. This is very small. With these resource
requirements, their product can be integrated into a tiny wireless
sensor, and such sensors are considered the new culprits causing Big
Data. As in any data transmission, data by those sensors must be
encrypted for security reasons, especially when used for
strategically important infrastructures like the power grid. With
good security available, such sensors will be deployed more widely.
It was imperative that they make their
software smaller to fit into a tiny sensor with limited power. I
assume they used every method available for size reduction. When we
look at current software development for larger systems like servers
and workstations, including PCs and laptops, we take it for granted
that infinite hardware resources are available, and convenience
rather than efficiency or performance dictates our choices. Most web
languages are script rather than compiled, taking more resources to
execute. Executing script languages generally requires more powerful
processors and more memory, and those consume more resources.
Green IT means two things: greening IT
and greening other things by IT. Most discussions center on making
hardware greener, but not software. If we can design and implement
smaller and more efficient software with an algorithm that minimizes
resource use, we can keep energy consumption to a minimum. I am not
advocating that we write software in machine or assembly languages.
But we can do a better job of developing software for energy
efficiency. Because we throw more resources at convenience, I feel
programming in nonembedded systems has lost a sense of efficiency. We
can only attain so much energy efficiency by working simply on
hardware alone. It is about time to pay more attention to software
for energy efficiency. I am not talking about making other things
more energy efficient but software itself. More discussion of this to