Cloud Security, Network Security

This key unlocks the door to a network virtualization wonderland

A door stands between the cumbersome networks of the past and a Wonderland of security, efficiency, portability and automation. You can follow certain methods, however, to make sure that you do not have to suffer through an ordeal like Alice did to locate the key.

Network virtualization has gained speed in the past five years, and is quickly emerging as a nearly bulletproof way to combine an enterprise's hardware and software network resources and functionalities into a single virtual entity.

IDC projects a nearly 90 percent compound annual growth from the existing software-defined-networking (SDN) market by 2018. That means the market will soar to $8 billion from its $960 million market in 2014. According to the “Society for Information Management's IT Trends” study, network virtualization is already climbing in importance, ranking as the organization's 11th most significant investment in 2014, up from the 15th position in 2012.

And from a security perspective, it's no wonder. From segmentation  to distribution firewalling, virtualizing your network is now another way to increase network security. Plus, cyber security concerns are growing: Respondents to PwC's “2015 Global Information Security Survey” reported the total number of detected security incidents in 2014 exceeded 42.8 million, a 48 percent increase over 2013.

Brad Casemore, research director with IDC's Datacenter Networks, shares that SDN is already on its way to making its mark. “The 2014 through 2016 period will be a significant launch point for SDN in the enterprise, with significant growth opportunities for both enterprise-focused SDN infrastructure and cloud service providers,” he says.

Gartner, Inc. has listed software-defined networks and virtualization as one of its top 10 critical and strategic technology trends for years. David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, reports that in 2014 researchers considered this distinctly modern approach something “organizations cannot afford to ignore in their strategic planning processes.”

But it is crucial to proceed with caution. Much like the potions Alice ingested to alter her size, investing large amounts of capital into this technology can produce unwanted results if entered into without preparation and foresight. Cearley recommends that companies make deliberate decisions about software-defined applications and infrastructure within the next two years.

So how do companies find their way as they leave behind the familiar landscape of static networks and make their way toward dynamic and digital models using virtualization? First, they must take a thorough assessment of the new geography that lies ahead and plan accordingly.

Gain a thorough understanding of your network

The transition to a “smart network” – one that can move, think and automate faster – all starts with one important task: auditing and weeding out your IT asset portfolio.

Alice encountered all different manner of passage ways and obstacles as she struggled to navigate Wonderland; had one central path and method for traveling been established, her plight likely would have been eased.

Centralized automation can be achieved for your network through virtualization. For example, say you had 6,000 physical servers in your data center hosting thousands of enterprise applications, but you don't know which servers are hosting which IT assets. Start the virtualization process by mapping out your network, identifying which application is on which servers while classifying the level of importance they garner with the organization.

Mapping enterprise applications and infrastructure this way effectively eliminates waste by revealing potential redundancies, applications that are no longer being used and clear paths to consolidating those assets. Organizations not only fritter away valuable time and money placing useless applications on a virtualized network, they also leave another door open to potential cyber-security attacks. Weeding out these unnecessary applications will shrink the organization's attack surface, minimizing risk.

A clear application and asset portfolio map, however, reveals the organization's most important IT assets – those that will need extra care during the virtualization process. If the goal is to virtualize a bank's network, for example, an audit will pinpoint which assets must be live to conduct important transactions. Minimizing downtime during the transition is essential to keeping business operations running smoothly.

Arrive safely at your destination

While virtualizing your organization's network promises a Wonderland of security and efficiency, reaching the destination becomes inherently more difficult without in-depth knowledge. Auditing your organization's IT asset portfolio is the first step toward a successful migration to a software-defined network.

Prioritizing assets in this way comes with the knowledge to leave behind unnecessary, expensive or redundant applications, re-focusing resources on the ones that will empower a virtualized network. Doing so will conserve important resources like time, money and manpower.

In order to make network Wonderland your own, however, you must first develop a thorough knowledge of how to navigate the path to network automation.

Karl Fruecht is the Principal Business Consultant at KillerIT, a division of Forsythe Technology, Inc. Fruecht can be reached at [email protected].  

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