Virtual networks need real security

12 Jun 2015

Throw a rock at the Internet and network security advice comes pouring out. But try searching for advice on NFV and SDN security, and suddenly information slows to a trickle.

Yet security concerns should be front-and-center with these new technologies. “Proposed network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined network (SDN) architectures introduce fundamentally new platforms and virtualized environments, open-source software, and proprietary security solutions,” says Phil Marshall, chief research officer, Tolaga. “Extensive testing must be conducted to ensure that SDN and NFV solutions are secure for the use cases in which they are implemented.”

SDN and NFV are inexorably morphing from buzzwords to applicable tech as data traffic skyrockets, forcing data center upgrades. “Enterprises and service providers are upgrading data centers to support huge increases in traffic and handle the massive waves of attacks they face every day,” says Jeff Wilson, principal analyst for security, Infonetics Research. “As a result, we foresee a growth spike in virtual appliance revenue starting in 2016 due to the deployment of the next generation of network infrastructure using SDN and NFV over the next 18 months.”

New deployments demand due diligence, including a sound security strategy, lending weight to Marshall’s advice. Virtualization isn’t a new concept for network engineers, but Andre Kindness, principal analyst serving infrastructure & operations at Forrester, outlines the situation: “While server virtualization topped 80% in 2012, the adoption of storage and network virtualization lags. Vendors have indicated that network virtualization accounts for less than 1% of the business.”

Yet the case for NFV has never been stronger. Kindness again: “Historically, networks were designed, deployed, and managed by network administrators who more closely resembled craftspeople than industrialists. Thus, any change to the network can take days if not months to do since little has been documented or standardized, which means an enormous amount of time is spent on continually learning what was done instead of already having a baseline knowledge of the system.” Most network engineers can relate.

So we have new technologies designed to ‘untangle the wires’ and data usage spikes that mandate change. It’s a perfect storm for SDN/NFV adoption. This means that firms considering these technologies should heed the advice of Scott Hogg, CTO for Global Technology Resources, Inc. (GTRI), who writes in an op-ed piece published in Network World: “As enterprises look to adopt SDN, the top-of-mind issue is the concern for security.”


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