Peter Stephenson, technology editor, SC Magazine
Peter Stephenson, technology editor, SC Magazine

It's December and with the holidays upon us it's time to look back and look forward. We have a couple of bumper crops of products and companies for you this month as we put 2009 to bed. As always, we will look at the year in review, as well as what we see going forward. For us in the products pages, crystal balling is not as productive as we'd like it to be. Especially lately. However, that, really, is part of the fun of creating the Innovators issue.

Innovators set the tone for our market and our discipline going forward much in the way that the products that we have reviewed tell us both where we have been and hint at new things to come. When we take the past and our innovators together, we have the makings of a pretty good crystal ball, actually, but I am not prepared to take a stand on that. Perhaps after reading this issue, though, you might be.

This year, our Innovators issue was shaped a bit by two events. The first was the second annual SC World Congress. We did something new. We had a throwdown with some of the most innovative companies and products we've seen in quite a while. We had a panel of experts that included consultants, a venture capitalist, the magazine's editor-in-chief, and, of course, yours truly, the resident geek and curmudgeon. You'll hear more about that in a future issue.

The second thing that helped shape this issue was the environment itself. Pundits tell us that the world has changed forever, and that certainly is true in our field. The convergences that started a few years back are beginning to solidify, the economy is trying hard to come back, and new threats and regulatory requirements fight each other for our attention.

You'll see the results of that begin to emerge when you look over the following Innovators section. It tries, but doesn't quite succeed, in looking similar to the past two years. We even have a few unique categories that we did not have before. Certainly the companies that appear this year include some serious newcomers, some of which aren't really so new, but are new to these pages.

On that note, there are a couple of interesting surprises in store for you. We now find that we must include virtualization and its security challenges, even though the players in security for virtual environments are a bit sparse. The second surprise is that we had a company that we found to be truly innovative, but it didn't fit any of our categories. So we gave it its own – a special mention section. Look this one over. The company is a big surprise – at least it was to me – and its story is fascinating. It was such a surprise that I started my interview prepared to tell them that I did not see how they fit into this issue and to apologize for wasting their time. Then I spent two hours on the phone with them. I think you will like what that conversation yielded.

Looking back over the products we reviewed this year, we see a maturity that we have not seen in years. We will discuss that in more detail, but for now it suffices to say that 2009 really has, for all of its other warts, been a very serious and important year for information security. Between what we've seen this year and what we are looking at going forward, we suspect that we will, some day, look back on 2009 and say that it was the start of some very interesting evolutions in security.

This was the year that virtualization started to come into its own, old technologies such as time-sharing and application service providing got spiffy new names (with the attendant hype trying to convince us that all of this is brand new, not old wine in new bottles) like computing in the cloud and software as a service.

In reality, those are pretty important because they represent paradigm shifts that are going to challenge us as security professionals. Of course we're up for it. Haven't we always been?