CMMA17: SDN and cloud are disrupting network security postures

THE FUTURE IS CLOUDY: Ajay Sunder VP of Information & Communication Technologies at Frost & Sullivan

The shift to cloud-based services and network virtualization promises many benefits, but it’s also contributing to an increasingly complex cloud landscape that is forcing cloud service providers and even network security vendors to rethink their security postures. And if they’re not, they’d better.

In a presentation at the CommunicAsia2017 summit in Singapore Thursday, Ajay Sunder VP of Information & Communication Technologies at Frost & Sullivan, explained that the Asia-Pacific cloud services market is slated for serious growth in the next few years. F&S is forecasting data center and cloud services to be a $68.2 billion market by 2021, with cloud the fastest grower of the two, driven by XaaS services, particularly Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service.

Which is great news, except that the APAC cloud landscape is getting complicated, Sunder said, and not just because more things like virtualized network functions are moving into it.

“For example, cloud service providers are expressing worries about security and privacy,” he said, particularly in regards to issues like data sovereignty, where the data sits, which regulations apply to which data, whether those regulations prohibit data hosting or transfer outside the country, and the ability of third parties to secure your data.

That’s creating a boom market for domestic cloud providers in markets like China and Indonesia where regulations for foreign cloud players are particularly strict. We’re also seeing the rise of vertical clouds in sectors such as healthcare and banking, who have their own separate regulatory requirements involving data privacy and protection. And then there’s the shift to open-source protocols like OpenStack, which is a key driver for adoption of hybrid clouds.

Meanwhile, Sunder said, as the cloud landscape is evolving, so too is the threat landscape, which F&S breaks down into three environments: the virtual environment (i.e. enterprise security), the physical environment (i.e. critical infrastructure) and the human environment (i.e. people who click the attachment or don’t secure their IP cams).

The bottom line is that we’re way past the days of human hackers cracking into servers to steal passwords and rob bank accounts, although that continues to happen. Nowadays hacking can be motivated by greed, political ideology, revenge or terrorism. They can be state sponsored espionage or infrastructure attacks. And they don’t even have to be human at all, as recent DDoS attacks leveraging botnets have demonstrated. And the machines are getting smarter.

“All of this means that as networks move from hardware to software, network security vendors must shift their perspective in the same manner, embracing SDN and provisioning on-demand network security services,” Sunder said. “They need to think of security products as virtual appliances rather than boxes, much in the same way that data centers have become focused more on virtual machines instead of physical servers.”

For cloud service providers, he added, these trends do add up to some promising opportunities for growth, starting with managed private cloud services in which security is a key differentiator.

Cloud service providers also need to prioritize their engagement with channels such as sales agents, VARS, resellers, systems integrators and managed services providers, Sunder said, “because channels are the new kings in the SDN world.”

And then there’s the niche cloud vertical opportunity, as verticals have specific compliance requirements in their respective domains. “Cloud providers can potentially monetize that through partnerships, which could help them offer very specialized cloud services requiring domain expertise in that area,” said Sunder.

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