Networking – The Common Denominator for The Mobile Cloud Era

Over just a few short years, the fundamentals of how we think about cybersecurity have completely changed. Fundamentally, it starts with how people connect to the applications and data they need to be productive. Not so long ago, securing an enterprise application or corporate data was simple. Most employees worked in the office, on a PC, connected to an ethernet cable, communicating with a server, that was in the same building.

Now everything has changed. The mobile cloud era has brought us a level of digital transformation where the corporate IT perimeter has been destroyed – literally and virtually. Workers are ever more mobile and the continued explosion of mobile devices is mind boggling, applications now reside anywhere with more and more applications becoming decentralized with resources in many different locations, the proliferation of the Internet of things (IoT) opens up new vectors for attack, networks are key to access resources (of which many are not under your control), many on-premise workloads are moving to cloud services, and many more—all of which must communicate with the data required for your business to be agile and productive.

Even the interactions between users and data have become more complex. I want you to take a step back and think about how you really access data. 

  1. You authenticate and validate your credentials with some directory service that could be on-premise or in the cloud.
  2. You’re doing this on some endpoint that could a smart phone, tablet, notebook, desktop, thin client or even kiosk
  3. You go over some network whether public or private, Wi-Fi or hardwired
  4. You communicate with resources in a private or public cloud or maybe even a hybrid cloud
  5. That cloud service hosts the infrastructure that hosts your app or data
  6. That cloud service also get data from other resources including IoT devices.
  7. You create, modify, and delete data in some app on any endpoint that needs to be secured throughout this entire process

And you will need to secure every piece of that interaction in today’s era of cyber-attacks and security lapses.

What does this mean for security? Traditional security models were based on the idea of protecting the perimeter. They treated the infrastructure, endpoints, applications, threat intelligence, identity and access management, and mobile security as separate islands. But as traditional perimeters have broken down, these models are no longer enough to protect a growing sprawl of apps, data, and mobile users. Applying traditional security to today’s increasingly distributed IT environment is complex and requires lots of automation—all of which gives threats a chance to slip through.

Cybersecurity Will Require a Holistic Approach—and the network can help

When you consider the entire digital infrastructure there is one common component that interacts with all of it – networking. Networking touches nearly every part of every interaction and is probably best prepared to help ensure the comprehensive security required by today’s users and applications.

Integrating security into the network transactions can provide a real-time level of for every endpoint, IoT, application, data, cloud, you name it, that interacts with it. Focusing on the network can help you ensure that security stays consistent across public and private infrastructures whether users and applications are communicating over LAN, WAN. Cellular, Wi-Fi, or Satellite. Networking can take advantage and leverage the interaction between user and data that would make security intrinsic to the fabric of the enterprise.

With that said, software-defined networking is a fundamental step in integrating security deep into the digital infrastructure. Since security would not be tied to hardware or perimeter-based infrastructure, it can follow users, applications, and data wherever they reside. A network virtualization approach lets you infuse security into application workloads, containers. endpoints or anywhere else it needs to be.  Security policies then become inherent and can follow an application as it moves across diverse areas of the infrastructure. Cisco explains this importance brilliantly in Network World from IDG on why intent-based networking is important to IoT.

In an upcoming blog I will discuss how companies like Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, AWS and VMware with their footprint and key products can redefine this holistic approach to security.  Footprint inside the datacenter and cloud is key and these guys have it in spades.

One thing we know for sure is that digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down in this mobile cloud era. Networking, while not the magic bullet, is in the driver’s seat to drive integration, consolidation and the simplification for IT teams to automate detection and remediation against cyber-attacks, security lapses, and zero-day threats. Cybersecurity continues to not get the focus and budget it deserves but if there is anything the 2016 US Elections keep teaching is…you need a holistic cybersecurity strategy.

Stay secure my friends.

Follow me at @ChrisLCampbell