The non-conventional firewall.

The firewall, has come to popularity as an intrusion detection and prevention tool for computers and computer networks.

The history of the firewall dates back to the Greeks and the greek fire (catapults and trebuchets  armed with tar dipped boulders and lit on fire).

In preparation for battle, different moat building techniques were used to prevent the aggressors from storming your castle or city walls. Keeping the enemy off your walls reduced the amount of manpower you’d have to spend taking down ladders and ropes… and increased the utilization of your long distance weapons such as archers and catapults.

These moats and ditches varied from natural canyons and cliffs (look at Irish ruins of old castles built on the cliffside facing the Welsch-Irish waters ) and sometimes using man made water filled or ditches.

The fire wall is a moat or ditch built by the Greeks. They would build this  ditch around the city or at least on the main entry point bottle-necks of the city. Not only would it be hard for armies and aggressors to cross these wide ditches (requiring rigged road works, bridges or roping), but also the greeks went step further.

They filled these ditches with tar and debris… in preparation. Once the enemy arrived on the battle field and started attacking the city walls, these moats could be ‘fired’ from distance using fire-tipped archery. This turned the entire moat into a 2nd city wall, made of fire, and called the fire wall!

The firewall creates 2 problems for an aggressor…

1- Anyone that is inside the wall is now stuck between immense heat, and between the wall guards shooting down on them from a top the walls… these people were most certainly doomed and and had no way to retreat but into the depths of the fire.

2- The firewall prevented any future attempts of aggression by burning any existing bridges or rope work used to cross the ditch, and making the whole are TOO hot to be bare-able or workable to even attempt to construct, repair, or build any crossing ways.

Even more, this kept the enemy at a safe distance which made them perfect ‘feed’ for the catapults and archers.

When we talk about ‘competitive’ advantage in business, we usually talk about having a competitive edge that prevents your opposition from aggressing on your market. Now the thing to look at here, is that as market deregulation continues to grow, then conventional firewalls of trade agreements, monopolies and oligopolies, trade secrets …etc begin to break down.

In a faster moving world where everyone has access to capital (credit based markets) and everyone has access to information (internet) and infrastructure (a global manufacturing network available an e-mail away), then the conventional firewalls and conventional ‘barriers’ to entry begin to break down.

This is great as an entrepreneur starting up because it allows you to get into the market, get your product out to the customer, and get on track with payments and cash flows.

This is also horrible as an entrepreneur because any opportunity that exists for you can similarly be exploited and possibly better executed by someone else.

This creates a huge need for a non-conventional firewall. In business this non-conventional firewall is going to be something that you ‘strategically’ deploy that allows you to keep your existing market, grow it, and prevent others from aggressing into it.

In Seth Godin’s ‘the dip’ … to be continued !

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