What Do Robots, Hockey & Data Centers Have in Common?: Q&A with Dr. Matt Williamson

What Do Robots, Hockey & Data Centers Have in Common?: Q&A with Dr. Matt Williamson

We are lucky to have Dr. Matt Williamson joining the vArmour CTO Office as our Chief Threat Defense Scientist. Matt brings a wealth of experience and expertise in the areas of distributed systems architecture, machine learning and artificial intelligence - including his incredible work as the director of the technology development at Rethink Robotics. We nerded out with Matt on what he can bring from his robotics background to vArmour DSS… and, a more unlikely source for data center security innovation, ice hockey.

Throughout your career, you have moved backwards and forwards between robotics and security - can you share why? 

The thread that brings them together for me is data, and using that data to control what is going on. Robotics and security (particularly on the threat side) are similar in many ways - they are about getting something very complex (the robot, the data center) to work efficiently (do the task, run the applications), without interruptions (e.g. part getting jammed, attackers breaking in). In both robotics and security, I’ve found that algorithms that use data and associated controls can be successful in these dynamic environments. For example, at Sana Security, we used data on the behavior of running processes to both detect and effectively remove malware from client machines. Similarly, at Rethink, we used advanced control algorithms to make the low cost robot hardware move efficiently, as well as data to optimize the manufacturing process. And at vArmour, I plan to do something similar - use the data and the distributed security system controls to be able to effectively control the data center, to improve its security.

We are also looking forward to you applying these principles to vArmour DSS. On this theme, what exactly brought you to vArmour?

The data! vArmour’s data is very special. We get data that is quite broad, as we are wrapped around all the workloads so we get wide coverage. In addition to the breadth, the data is deep, as we see considerable detail about the application traffic. vArmour’s technology is also distributed, which allows it to scale to handle the volume of traffic in today’s data center, giving visibility into traffic that generally cannot be observed or analyzed by other technologies (i.e. firewalls at the perimeter-only or IDSs that cannot scale to the traffic volume). And the breadth and depth is in exactly the right spot to be able to detect threats moving in the internal, east-west traffic, that would otherwise be invisible to data center operators. In addition, vArmour has the controls to be able to block or manipulate the traffic safely. This kind of visibility and control is unprecedented, and I am excited to work on unlocking its potential!

That data uniqueness is key to our success and we are excited for you to take advantage of it. On a lighter note...we understand that you’re a big hockey fan - is there another data connection there, too?

Well, yes. I do enjoy watching hockey (particularly the Boston Bruins) and playing with my kids. But, there is a data angle, too - hockey is a fast, almost chaotic game, and has very poor direct statistical data (at least compared to sports like baseball, where there is direct data on what you generally care about - hitting and pitching). The data in hockey is more challenging, and that makes the analysis and prediction from it harder and more interesting - which isn’t too different from understanding the traffic in today’s cloud data centers.

Look for future blog posts from Matt by following us on Twitter at @vArmourNetworks.