Hi! I’m Ryan Nelson. I recently joined Scytale to help our user base tackle the sorts of problems that zero-trust architectures and SPIFFE address.

If you’re a potential customer, call me “Sales Engineering” or “Technical Evangelist.” If you’re already a customer or partner, call me “Field Engineering” — or just call me! ☺

Throughout my career, there’s been a common thread — I’m someone who:

  • architects and connects systems to the internet, and to each other (I’m a computer nerd)
  • cares about the security of those systems (confidentiality, integrity, availability)
  • likes to chat with other people about it (I’m pretty social)

I’ve noticed that when enterprises try to break apart their monolithic systems and distribute them into cloud-centric, dynamic, utility-compute environments, they run into some interesting problems. Breaking apart large, troublesome internet systems has been working for me for quite a while now. (The picture above is from plans for “connect this to that” parts I 3D-printed for my son, when we needed to integrate some of his LEGO with a “legacy” Lincoln Logs system.)

I’m excited to join Scytale because I get to engage directly with lots of smart people solving those kinds of problems.

At Major League Baseball (and before that at a large international portal website), when burdened with sudden success, my co-workers and I tackled traffic surges by re-architecting with CDNs, local-caches, and SOA/microservices, running in containers.

After moving to California with my family, I jumped into containers and cloud-building at Joyent. When Joyent open-sourced their operating systemand shipped that “secret sauce” to large-retail and telco customers globally, I took the experience I’d gained from running it in-house, and helped other system-builders in North America, Europe, and Asia build and operate their compute-clouds.

From there, some friends and I moved to Oracle, where I gained more experience in very-large enterprise environments, compliance, and security-operations management. Many brilliant cloud-veterans re-invented the company’s entire cloud product and delivered a new, high-performance compute offering. Powering that next-gen public cloud behind the scenes is a brand new control-plane — a myriad of new services that must interoperate and be secured, monitored, and audited.

The common pattern: many of my peers and I have had success breaking down big problems into smaller, more manageable parts. What I’ve seen repeatedly is the need for these interoperating parts to trust each other. In the pursuit of performance and operability, concessions are made at the expense of security and observability:

  • Microservices must authenticate their clients.
  • Control-plane and data-plane cloud services may be forced to depend upon perimeter security (like firewalls) to conduct wire-speed, unauthenticated transactions within a datacenter.
  • Origin servers must identify a CDN node caching for thousands of end-users, but those CDN nodes are created and destroyed frequently.
  • More and more, companies are managing scale and cost by running their business-critical compute jobs in dynamic infrastructure within multi-tenant public clouds. Tracking “who’s asking” and “what’s where” is difficult. Keeping access-control manageable is challenging, and relying on obscurity is not an option.

As the holidays approach, I’m working on my concise answers to the questions I’m sure I’ll get from friends and family:

“So! Scytale? What do they do? What’s your job? How do you pronounce ‘Scytale’?”

  • We help software “things” on this wild, scary internet know who’s who in a trustable, verifiable way, and then help them securely communicate with each other.
  • It’s my job to understand what that all that means, and to help people understand how our stuff can solve their real problems. I also drink a lot of coffee and smear up whiteboards (I’m left-handed).
  • We’re Scytale (we pronounce it “sigh tail”). The name is (as far as I can tell) a double-reference to ancient cryptography and “Dune”.

I’m stoked for my new adventure! Find my colleagues and me at Kubecon + CloudNativeCon if you’re in Seattle next month, or reach out to me directly. I am pretty social; after a few years of corporate “internal and confidential” wiki posts, I love that I get to blog about this stuff again!