Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As cloud and mobile trends drive user expectations higher, networks must now deliver applications faster, safer, cheaper

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Akamai Technologies.

e hear about the post-PC era, but rarely does anyone talk about the post-LAN or even the post-WAN era. Yet the major IT trends of the day -- from mobile to cloud to app stores -- are changing the expectations we all have from our blended networks.

How are the campus networks of yesterday going to support the Internet-borne applications and media delivery requirements of tomorrow?

It’s increasingly clear that more users will be using more devices to access more types of web content and services. They want coordination among those devices for that content. They want it done securely with privacy, and they want their IT departments to support all of their devices for all of their work applications and data too.

From the IT mangers' perspective, they want to be able to deliver all kinds of applications using all sorts of models, from smartphones to tablets to zero clients to HD web streaming to fat-client downloads and website delivery across multiple public and private networks with control and with ease.

This is all a very tall order, and networks will need to adjust rapidly or the latency and hassle of access and performance issues will get in the way of users, their new expectations, and their behaviors -- for both work and play.

The latest BriefingsDirect IT discussion is with an executive from at Akamai Technologies to delve into the rapidly evolving trends and subsequently heightened expectations that we're all developing around our networks. We are going to look at how those networks might actually rise to the task with Neil Cohen, Vice President of Product Marketing at Akamai Technologies. The interview is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: Akamai is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Given the heightened expectations -- this always-on, hyper connectivity mode -- how are networks going to rise to these needs?

Cohen: Nobody wants the network to be the weak link, but changes definitely need to happen. Look at what’s going on in the enterprise and the way applications are being deployed. It’s changing to where they're moving out to the cloud. Applications that used to reside in your own infrastructure are moving out to other infrastructure, and in some cases, you don’t have the ability to place any sort of technology to optimize the WAN out in the cloud.

Mobile device usage is exploding. Things like smartphones and tablets are all becoming intertwined with the way people want to access their applications. Obviously, when you start opening up more applications through access to the internet, you have a new level of security that you have to worry about when things move outside of your firewall that used to be within it.

Gardner: How do you know where the weak link is when there is a problem?

Cohen: The first step is to understand just what many networks actually mean, because even that has a lot of different dimensions to it. The fact that things are moving out to public clouds means that users are getting access, usually over the internet. We all know that the internet is very different than your private network. Nobody is going to give you a service-level agreement (SLA) on the internet.

Something like mobile is different, where you have mobile networks that have different attributes, different levels of over subscription and different bottlenecks that need to be solved. This really starts driving the need to not only 1) bring control over the internet itself, as well as the mobile networks.

There are a lot of different things that people are looking at to try to solve application delivery outside of the corporate network.

But also 2) the importance for performance analytics from a real end-user perspective. It becomes important to look at all the different choke points at which latency can occur and to be able to bring it all into a holistic view, so that you can troubleshoot and understand where your problems are.

There are a lot of different things that people are looking at to try to solve application delivery outside of the corporate network. Something we’ve been doing at Akamai for a long time is deploying our own optimization protocols into the internet that give you the control, the SLA, the types of quality of service that you normally associate with your private network.

And there are lots of optimization tricks that are being done for mobile devices, where you can optimize the network. You can optimize the web content and you can actually develop different formats and different content for mobile devices than for regular desktop devices. All of those are different ways to try to deal with the performance challenges off the traditional WAN.

Gardner: Are the carriers stepping up to the plate and saying, "We’re going to take over more of this network performance issue?"

Cohen: I think they're looking at it and saying, "Look, I have a problem. My network is evolving. It's spanning in lots of different ways, whether it's on my private network or out on the internet or mobile devices," and they need to solve that problem. One way of solving it is to build hardware and do lots of different do-it-yourself approaches to try to solve that.

Unwieldy approach

That’s a very unwieldy approach. It requires a lot of dollars and arguably doesn’t solve the problem very well, which is why companies look for managed services and ways to outsource those types of problems, when things move off of their WAN.

But at the same time, even though they're outsourcing it, they still want control. It's important for an IT department to actually see what traffic and what applications are being accessed by the users, so that they understand the traffic and they can react to it.

Gardner: I'm seeing a rather impressive adoption pattern around virtualized desktop activities and there’s a variety of ways of doing this. We’ve seen solutions from folks like Citrix and VMware and Microsoft and we’re seeing streaming, zero-client, thin-client, and virtual-desktop activities, like infrastructure in the data center, a pure delivery of the full desktop and the applications as a service.

Cohen: There are different unique challenges with the virtual desktop models, but it also ties into that same hyper-connected theme. In order to really unleash the potential of virtual desktops, you don’t only want to be able to access it on your corporate network, but you want to be able to get a local experience by taking that virtual desktop anywhere with you just like you do with a regular machine. You’re also seeing products being offered out in the market that allow you to extend virtual desktops onto your mobile tablets.

In order to really unleash the potential of virtual desktops, you don’t only want to be able to access it on your corporate network, but you want to be able to get a local experience.

You have the same kind of issues again. Not only do you have different protocols to optimize for virtual desktops, but you have to deal with the same challenges of delivering it across that entire ecosystem of devices, and networks. That’s an area that we’re investing heavily in as it relates to unlocking the potential of VDI. People will have universal access, to be able to take their desktops wherever they want to go.

Gardner: And is there some common thread to what we would think of in the past as acceleration services for things like websites, streaming, or downloads? Are we talking about an entirely new kind of infrastructure or is this some sort of a natural progression of what folks like Akamai have been doing for quite some time?

Cohen: It's a very logical extension of the technology we’ve built for more than a decade. If you look a decade ago, we had to solve the problem of delivering streaming video, real-time over the web, which is very sensitive to things like latency, packet loss, and jitter and that’s no different for virtual desktops. In order to give that local experience for virtual users, you have to solve the challenges of real-time communication back and forth between the client and the server.

Gardner: If I were an architect in the enterprise, it seems to me that many of my long-term cost-performance improvement activities of major strategic initiatives are all hinging on solving this network problem.

Business transformation

Cohen: What I'm hearing is more of a business transformation example, where the business comes down and puts pressure on the network to be able to access applications anywhere, to be able to outsource, to be able to offshore, and to be able to modernize their applications. That’s really mandating a lot of the changes in the network itself.

The pressure is really coming from the business, which is, "How do I react more quickly to the changing needs of the business without having IT in a position where they say, 'I can't.' " The internet is the pervasive platform that allows you to get anywhere. What you need is the quality of service guarantees that should come with it.

If you can help transform a business and you can do it in a way that is operationally more efficient at a lower cost, you’ve got the winning combination.

... Akamai continues to offer the consumer-based services as it relates to improving websites and rich media on the web. But now we have a full suite of services that provide application acceleration over the internet. We allow you to reach users globally while consolidating your infrastructure and getting the same kind of benefits you realize with WAN optimization on your private network, but out over the internet.

Security services

And as those applications move outside of the firewall, we’ve got a suite of security services that address the new types of security threats you deal with when you’re out on the web.

Gardner: Is there an analysis, a business intelligence benefit from doing this as well?

Cohen: What’s important is not only that you improve the delivery of an application, but that you have the appropriate insight in terms of how the application is performing and how people are using the application so that you can take action and react accordingly.

Just because something has moved out into the cloud or out on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have the same kind of real-time personalized analytics that you expect on your private network. That’s an area we’ve invested in, both in our own technology investment, but also with some partnerships that provide real-time reporting and business intelligence in terms of our critical websites and applications.

Just because something has moved out into the cloud or out on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have the same kind of real-time personalized analytics that you expect on your private network.

Gardner: Not only are the types of applications changing, but is there a need to design and build these applications differently, in such a way that they are cloud-ready or hybrid-ready or mobile-ready?

Cohen: If I were to go back to the developers, I’d ask, "Do you really need to build different websites or separate apps for all these different form factors, or is there a better way to build one common source, a code, and then adapt it using different techniques in the network, in the cloud that allow you to reuse that investment over and over again?"

What I expect to see is more adoption of standard web languages. It means that you need to use good semantic design principles, as it relates to the way you design your applications. But in terms of optimizing content and building for mobile devices and mobile specific sites, a lot of that is going to be using standard web languages that people are familiar with and that are just evolving and getting better.

Websites are based on HTML and with HTML5, the web is getting richer, more immersive, and starting to approach that as the same kind of experience you get on your desktop.

We go back to the developers and get them to build on a standard set of tools that allow them to deal with the different types of connected devices out in the market? If you build one code base based on HTML, for example, could you take that website that you've built and be able to render it differently in the cloud and allow it to adapt on the fly for something like an iPhone, an Android, a BlackBerry, a 7-inch tablet, or a 9-inch tablet?

Gardner: So part of the solution to the many screens problem isn’t more application interface designs, but perhaps a more common basis for the application and services, and let the network take care of those issues on a screen to screen basis. Is that closer?

Cohen: That’s exactly right. More and more of the intelligence is actually moving out to the cloud. We’ve already seen this on the video side. In the past people had to use lots of different formats and bit rates. Now what they’re doing is taking that stuff and saying, "Give me one high quality source." Then all of the adaptation capabilities that are going to be done in the network, in the cloud, just simplify that work from the customer.

I expect exactly the same thing to happen in the enterprise, where the enterprise is one common source of code and a lot of the adaptation capabilities are done, again, that intelligent function inside of the network.

These are all hot topics. The WAN is becoming everything, but you really need to change your views as it relates to not just thinking about what happens inside of your corporate network, but with the movement of cloud, all of the connected devices, all of this quickly becoming the network.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Complex IT security risks can only be treated with comprehensive response, not point products

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: HP.

his latest BriefingsDirect discussion takes on the rapidly increasing threat that enterprises face from complex IT security breaches.

In just the past year, the number of attacks are up, the costs associated with them are higher and more visible, and the risks of not securing systems and processes are therefore much greater. Some people have even called the rate of attacks a pandemic.

The path to reducing these risks, even as the threats escalate, is to confront security at the framework and strategic level, and to harness the point solutions approach into a managed and ongoing security enhancement lifecycle.

As part of the series of recent news announcements from HP, this discussion examines how such a framework process can unfold, from workshops that allow a frank assessment of an organization’s vulnerabilities, to tailored framework-level approaches that can transform a company based on its own specific needs.

Here to describe how a "fabric of technology," a "framework of processes," and a "lifecycle of preparedness" can all work together to help organizations become more secure -- and keep them secure -- is Rebecca Lawson, Director of Worldwide Security Initiatives at HP. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Why has the security vulnerability issue come to a head?

Lawson: Open up the newspaper and you see another company getting hit almost every day. As an industry, we've hit a tipping point with so many different security related issues -- for example, cyber crime, hacktivism, nation-state attacks. When you couple that with the diversity of devices that we use, and the wide range of apps and data we access every day, you can see how these dynamics create a very porous environment for an enterprise.

So we are hearing from our customers that they want to step back and think more strategically about how they're going to handle security, not just for the short term, when threats are near and present, but also from a longer term point of view.

Gardner: What do you think are some of the trends that are supporting this vulnerability?

For more detail on the the extent of security breaches, read the
Second Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study.

Lawson: In HP’s recent research, we've found that thirty percent of the people know that they've had a security breach by an unauthorized internal access, and over 20 percent have experienced an external breach. So breaches happen both internally and externally, and they happen for different reasons. Sometimes a breach is caused by a disgruntled customer or employee. Sometimes, there is a political motive. Sometimes, it's just an honest error ... Maybe they grab some paper off a printer that has some proprietary information, and then it gets into the wrong hands.

There are so many different points at which security incidents can occur; the real trick is getting your arms around all of them and focusing your attention on those that are most likely to cause reputation damage or financial damage or operational damage.

We also noticed in our research that the number of attacks, particularly on web applications, is just skyrocketing. One of the key areas of focus for HP is helping our customers understand why that’s happening, and what they can do about it.

Gardner: It also seems to me that, in the past, a lot of organizations could put up a walled garden, and say, "We're not going to do a lot of web stuff. We're not going to do mobile. We're going to keep our networks under our control." But nowadays that’s really just not possible.

If you're not doing mobile, not looking seriously at cloud, not making your workers able to access your assets regardless of where they are, you're really at a disadvantage competitively. So it seems to me that this is not an option, and that the old defensive posture just doesn’t work anymore.

Lawson: That is exactly right. In the good old days, we did have a walled garden, and it was easy for IT or the security office to just say “no” to newfangled approaches to accessing the web or building web apps. Of course, today they can still say no, but IT and security offices realize that they can't thwart the technology-related innovation that helps drive growth.

Our customers are keenly aware that their information assets are the most important assets now. That’s where the focus is, because that’s where the value is. The problem is that all the data and information moves around so freely now. You can send data in the blink of an eye to China and back, thru multiple application, where it’s used in different contexts. The context can change so rapidly that you have to really think differently about what it is you're protecting and how you're going to go about protecting it. So it's a different game now.

Gardner: And as we confront this "new game," it also appears that our former organizational approach is wanting. If we've had a variety of different security approaches under the authority of different people -- not really coordinated, not talking to each other, not knowing what the right hand and left hand are doing -- that’s become a problem.

So how do we now elevate this to a strategic level, getting a framework, getting a comprehensive plan? It sounds like that’s what a lot of the news you've been making these days is involved with.

No silver bullet

Lawson: You're exactly right. Our customers are realizing that there is no one silver bullet. You have to think across functional areas, lines of business, and silos.

Job number one is to bring the right people together and to assess the situation. The people are going to be from all over the organization -- IT, security and risk, AppDev, legal, accounting, supply chain -- to really assess the situation. Everyone should be not only aware of where vulnerabilities might be, or where the most costly vulnerabilities might be, but to look ahead and say, "Here is how our enterprise is innovating with technology -- Let's make sure we build security into them from the get-go."

There are two takeaways from this. A structured methodical framework approach helps our customers get the people on the same page, getting the processes from top-down really well-structured so that everyone is aware of how different security processes work and how they benefit the organizations so that they can innovate.

One of the other elements is that every enterprise has to deal with a lot of short-term fixes.

[But] it's also about long-term thinking, about building security in from the get-go; this is where companies can start to turn the corner. I'll go back again to web apps, building security into the very requirement and making sure all the way through the architecture design, testing, production, all the way through that you are constantly testing for security.

Gardner: What are the high-level building blocks to the framework approach?

Read more on HP's security framework
Rethinking Your Enterprise Security:
Critical Priorities to Consider

Lawson: The framework that I just mentioned is our way of looking at what you have to do across securing data, managing suppliers, ensuring physical assets, or security, but our approach to executing on that framework is a four-point approach.

We help our customers first assess the situation, which is really important just to have all eyes on what's currently happening and where your current vulnerabilities may lie. Then, we help them to transform their security practices from where they are today to where they need to be.

Then, technologies and services to help them manage that on an ongoing basis, so that you can get more and more of the security controls automated. And then, we help them optimize that, because security just doesn't stand still. So we have tools and services that help our customers keep their eye on the right ball, as all of the new threats evolve or new compliance requirements come down the pike.

Gardner: What is HP Secure Boardroom, and why is it an important as part of this organizational shift?

Get more information on the executive dashboard:
Introducing the HP Secure Boardroom.

Lawson: The Secure Boardroom combines dashboard technology with a good dose of intellectual property we have developed that helps us generate the APIs into different data sources within an organization.

The result is that a CISO can look at a dashboard and instantly see what's going on all across the organization. What are the threats that are happening? What's the rate of incidents? What's going on across your planning spectrum?

To have the visibility into disparate systems is step one. We've codified this over the several years that we've been working on this into a system that now any enterprise can use to pull together a consistent C-level view, so that you have the right kind of transparency.

Half the battle is just seeing what's going on every day in a consistent manner, so that you are focused on the right issues, while discovering where you might need better visibility or where you might need to change process. The Secure Boardroom helps you to continually be focused on the right processes, the right elements, and the right information to better protect financial, operational, and reputation-related assets.

... Because we've been in the systems management and business service management business for so long, I would elevate this up to the level of the business service management.

We already have a head start with our customers, because they can already see the forest for the trees with regard to any one particular service. Let's just say it's a service in the supply chain, and that service might comprise network elements and systems and software and applications and all kinds of data going through it. We're able to tie the management of that through traditional management tools, like what we had with OpenView and what we have with our business service management to the view of security.

When you think about vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks, the first thing you have to do is have the right visibility. The technology in our security organization that helps us see and find the vulnerabilities really quickly.

Integration with operations

Because we have our security technology tied with IT operations, there is an integration between them. When the security technology detects something, they can automatically issue an alert that is picked up from our incident management system, which might then invoke our change management system, which might then invoke a prescribed operations change, and we can do that through HP Operations Orchestration.

It really is a triad -- security, applications, operations. At HP, we’re making them work together. And because we have such a focus now on data correlation, on Big Data, we're able to bring in all the various sources of data and turn that into actionable information, and then execute it through our automation engine.

... For example, we have a technology that lets you scan software and look for vulnerabilities, both dynamic and static testing. We have ways of finding vulnerabilities in third-party applications. We do that through our research organization which is called DVLabs. DV stands for Digital Vaccine. We pull data in from them every day as to new vulnerabilities and we make that available to the other technologies so we can blend that into the picture.

Focused technology

The right kind of security fabric has to be composed of different technologies that are very focused on certain areas. For example, technologies like our intrusion protection technology, which does the packet inspection and can identify bad IP addresses. They can identify that there are certain vulnerabilities associated with the transaction, and they can stop a lot of traffic right at the gate before it gets in.

The reason we can do that so well is because we've already weaved in information from our applications group, information from our researchers out there in the market. So we've been able to pull these together and make more value out of them working as one.

Is there a path now toward security as a service, or some sort of a managed service, hybrid model?

Lawson: A lot of people think that when the words cloud and security are next to each other, bad things happen, but in fact, that’s not always the case.

Once an enterprise has the right plan and strategy in place, they start to prioritize what parts of their security are best suited in-house, with your own expertise, or what parts of the security picture can you or should you hand off to another party. In fact, one of our announcements this week is that we have a service for endpoint threat management.

If you're not centrally managing your endpoint devices, a lot of incidents can happen and slip through the cracks -- everything from an employee just losing a phone to an employee downloading an application that may have vulnerabilities.

So managing your endpoints devices in general, as well as the security associated with the endpoints, make a lot of sense. And it’s a discrete area where you might consider handing the job to a managed services provider, who has more expertise as well as better economic incentives.

Application testing

Another great example of using a cloud service for security is application testing. We are finding that a lot of the web apps out in the market aren't necessarily developed by application developers who understand that there's a whole lifecycle approach involved.

In fact, I've been hearing interesting statistics about the number of web apps that are written by people formerly known as webmasters. These folks may be great at designing apps, but if you're not following a full application lifecycle management practice, which invokes security as one of the base principles of designing an app, then you're going to have problems.

What we found is that this explosion of web apps has not been followed closely enough by testing. Our customers are starting to realize this and now they're asking for HP to help, because in fact there are a lot of app vulnerabilities that can be very easily avoided. Maybe not all of them, but a lot of them, and we can help customers do that.

So testing as a service as a cloud service or as a hosted or managed service is a good idea, because you can do it immediately. You don't incur the time and money to spin up a testing of center of excellence – you can use the one that HP makes available through our SaaS model.

Gardner: As part of your recent announcements, you're moving more toward a managed services provider role.

One of the great things about many of the technologies that we've purchased and built in the last few years is that we're able to use them in our managed services offerings.

Lawson: One of the great things about many of the technologies that we've purchased and built in the last few years is that we're able to use them in our managed services offerings.

I'll give you an example. Our ArcSight product for Security Information and Event Management is now offered as a service. That's a service that really gets better the more expertise you have and the more focused you are on that type of event correlation and analysis. For a lot of companies they just don't want to invest in developing that expertise. So they can use that as a service.

We have other offerings, across testing, network security, endpoint security, that are all offered as a service. So we have a broad spectrum of delivery model choices for our customers. We think that’s the way to go, because we know that most enterprises want a strategic partner in security. They want a trusted partner, but they're probably not going to get all of their security from one vendor of course, because they're already invested.

We like to come in and look first at establishing the right strategy, putting together the right roadmap, making sure it's focused on helping our customer innovate for the future, as well as putting some stopgap measures in so that you can thwart the cyber threats that are near and present danger. And then, we give them the choice to say what's best for their company, given their industry, given the compliance requirements, given time to market, and given their financial posture?

There are certain areas where you're going to want to do things yourself, certain areas where you are going to want to outsource to a managed service. And there are certain technologies already at play that are probably just great in a point solution context, but they need to be integrated.

Integrative approach

ost of our customers have already lots of good things going on, but they just don't all come together. That's really the bottom line here. It has to be an integrative approach. It has to be a comprehensive approach. And the reason is that the bad guys are so successful causing havoc is that they know that all of this is disconnected. They know that security technologies tend to be fragmented and they're going to take advantage of that.

I'd definitely suggest going to In particular, there is a report that you can download and read today called the "HP DVLabs’ Cyber Security Risks Report." It’s a report that we generate twice a year and it has got some really startling information in it. And it’s all based on, not theoretical stuff, but things that we see, and we have aggregated data from different parts of the industry, as well as data from our customers that show the rate of attacks and where the vulnerabilities are typically located. It’s a real eye opener.

It’s a little startling, when you start to look at some of the facts about the costs associated with application attacks.

So I would just suggest that you search for the DVLabs’ Cyber Security Risks Report and read it, and then pass it on to other people in your company, so that they can become aware of what the situation really is. It’s a little startling, when you start to look at some of the facts about the costs associated with application breaches or the nature of complex persistent attacks. So awareness is the right place to start.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: HP.

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