With their multiple benefits, NFV and SDN are giving service providers several reasons to invest in these New IP technologies -- and one increasingly important determinant is enhanced security.
Internal and end-customer adoption of cloud is changing the security landscape. Blend that with growing use of DevOps and agile development, the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion, the changing shape of networks and a lack of security professionals, and it's apparent why organizations seek new approaches.
NFV and SDN -- which give CSPs a strong boost in their digital transformation, ability to deliver innovative services, flexibility and scalability -- also equip operators with more security capabilities that are baked in to their new implementations. SDN, for example, enables operators to "maximize responsiveness, efficiency and provide additional layers of security," says David Hulsey, assistant vice president of technology security in the Chief Security Office at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) "In virtualizing our security functions across the network, we are able to update security automatically, instead of relying on manual updates and rapidly security measures in an attack to help limit its impact." (See: AT&T: SDN, NFV Are Future of Security)
In fact, security services -- driven by NFV -- are top-of-mind for both CSPs and their customers.
"We've seen, in the engagements we've had -- especially in the Service Creation Workshops -- [security services have] been the Number One service interest: 'I want to be able to provide security services to my customers,' that's what we're essentially being asked about," says Donyel Jones-Williams, director of service provider portfolio marketing at Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) in an interview. "One of the providers we've worked with actually ran a survey they'd conducted themselves of their customers and security came back as the number one service that they looked to that provider for."
Automation is critical to security -- yet for many CSPs' end-customers, it appears to be a distant goal. When asked how important it was to automate network security, 89% of respondents said it was critical or very important, according to a 2016 Enterprise Strategy Group survey of IT and cybersecurity professionals at large businesses, and 61% said their existing processes, monitoring capabilities and controls weren't close to ideal or comprehensive.
CSPs, therefore, have a huge opportunity not only to meet internal needs for secure networks but to turn that into an invaluable service via automation, expanded and enhanced use of prescriptive and predictive analytics, and extended use of sophisticated security technologies throughout the network, Richard Mashburn, director of Systems Engineering at Fortinet Inc. tells the New IP Agency in an interview. The concept of the edge has changed; there really is no edge any more, given enterprise, government and consumer use of mobile, plus the ever-growing implementation of IoT, he adds.
"There's a transition taking place, a hybridization of networks. There's an acknowledgement by CSPs that they have to do the same thing to networking as they have done with their data centers; many are scrambling to address the time, effort and investment," Mashburn says. "Security is a keystone to NFV and at the forefront of every NFV endeavor."
Unlike appliance-based security, which typically is less customizable, CSPs and vendors can tailor virtualized offerings to meet organizations' specific needs, says Bill Long, vice president of interconnection product management at Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) in an interview. "You can customize your security product. It's much more dynamic," he says.
NFV and SDN alone aren't security cure-alls but they, in conjunction with other technologies and expertise, can do a better job of safeguarding service providers and their customers. "Besides hardware appliances, virtual machines and server software, innovative services that use SDN and NFV will help to improve the data integrity and security of cloud infrastructures," according to the April 2016 Cisco Global Cloud Index.
— Alison Diana, Editor, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.