Vendor Opinions: Security in the Next-Generation Data Center

Key strategies for long term sucess

In the data center today, several major trends are happening in parallel, with each representing a fundamental change in terms of how IT is managed. For the security teams responsible for safeguarding corporate IT assets, these trends present a host of challenges, necessitating several new capabilities and approaches to ensure ongoing, effective security.

Today’s data center architectures are in the crosshairs of several significant technology trends, with each presenting fundamental security implications:

  • Large-scale consolidation: To maximize and maintain economies of scale, cost efficiencies and compliance policies, enterprises must continue to consolidate data centers. Consequently, extremely large data centers are increasingly the norm.
  • Virtualization: The nature of computing inside the data center has fundamentally changed, with workloads increasingly moving from dedicated physical servers to multiple virtual machines. As a result, a typical application workload is now completely mobile—it can be instantiated anywhere or even across the data center. It can even be moved from one physical server to another, while running.
  • Service-oriented architectures and application mashups: Application architectures are evolving from being relatively monolithic to being highly componentized. The componentized application architectures emerging today allow for more reuse and, given that each component can be scaled separately, provide better scalability.
  • Fabric architectures: Enterprises are increasingly looking to adopt fabric architectures, which enable many physical networking devices to be interconnected so that they are managed and behave as one logical device. Network security infrastructures will correspondingly need to adapt to the management and integration implications of these architectures.

The Strategic Security Imperatives of the Next-Generation Data Center

Given the technology trends at play in the next-generation data center, effective network security approaches are needed to address the following requirements:

  • More Intra-Server Traffic

In the wake of increased virtualization, industry experts estimate that network traffic will increasingly be comprised of traffic between two servers, as opposed to traffic between clients and servers. The decomposition of data center applications into a mashup of reusable components will also hasten this increase in server-to-server communications inside the next generation data center. In fact, analysts estimate between 2010 and 2013, server-to-server traffic will grow from 5% to 75% of network traffic. Another implication of these trends is that enterprise security teams can expect that every gigabit of capacity entering the next-generation data center via the north-south axis will typically require 10 gigabits of network capacity on the east-west axis, and could scale up significantly from there.

  • Increased Processing and Intelligence

The increased sophistication of attacks means that the computing power and memory needed to secure each session entering the next-generation data center will expand substantially. These sophisticated threats will also make it difficult for perimeter security alone to determine all of the potential downstream effects of every transaction encountered at the perimeter. As a result, security teams will need to deploy additional, specialized network security services—for example, security specifically for Web services, XML, and SQL—closer to the enterprise’s most valuable assets.

  • Application-Level Visibility

Visibility into applications is particularly vital. Without this, it is difficult to envision an effective security policy, let alone implement one. While in theory, data centers may be viewed as highly controlled environments, operational realities often mean that the security team has limited visibility into all of the applications and protocols present on the data center network at any given time.

  • Deployment and Enforcement Flexibility

Given the breadth of architectural choices in designing the next-generation data center, security teams need to have maximum flexibility in terms of where they deploy and apply security services. Given that many physical network security appliances would not have the visibility required to inspect certain traffic between virtual machines, security teams need solutions that include the option of enforcing security in a hypervisor.

However, in some cases, security teams may also want to deploy mechanisms on virtual or physical appliances which are logically inline or to which flows are specifically forwarded by the data center switching infrastructure.

It is also a critical requirement for organizations to be able to dynamically shift workload across hardware appliances and virtual machines. To realize this capability, security teams need a common language for defining security policy and selecting one of a collection of policies to apply to specific network traffic—regardless of virtual or physical security enforcement point. 

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Vendor View : Greg Bunt, Director, Enterprise, Australia/New Zealand, Juniper Networks. 

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Tags vendor opinionvirtuaizationgreg buntnext-generation data centerData Centerjuniper networks

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