Convergence of Networking and Security is a Must for Service Providers

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As a managed security service provider (MSSP), customers often come to you because their networking and security solutions have become such a tangled mess that they simply can't manage it anymore. Often this situation arises because they have deployed so many point products, from so many vendors that the environment is so unwieldy and complex that it is plagued with security holes and can't scale to meet new business demands.

Author: Jonathan Nguyen-Duy, VP of field CISO, Fortinet
Author: Jonathan Nguyen-Duy, VP of field CISO, Fortinet

What is true for customers is also true for MSSPs themselves. The practical reality for an MSSP is that you need to be able to scale and provide consistent performance and more predictable outcomes for customers. Indeed, the new post-pandemic, normal characterized by hybrid work solutions and more distributed computing requires consistent networking and security performance to deliver more responsive computing for better user experiences and business outcomes. This requires the convergence of networking and security to work in conjunction with the inherent elasticity and scalability advantages of the cloud. Indeed, what’s now required is a broad, integrated and automated digital infrastructure that can’t be achieved using legacy solutions based on dozens of non-integrated products from multiple vendors. Accordingly, it’s not surprising to see increasing interest in platform consolidation and mesh architectures.

Consistent Performance

The concept of networking and security convergence isn't new. A primary benefit of convergence is that you have more consistent performance across networking, security, and compute, so you can deliver better user experiences and better business outcomes. It’s really about delivering enhanced user experiences, irrespective of the location of the user, device, or access methodology. The idea is that no matter where users, entities, or devices may be located, they can access the resources they need, which often is now in the cloud. So from any location on any device using any access methodology, there is a requirement for consistency in networking security performance.

The way to achieve the goal of convergence is by taking a platform-based approach. For example, instead of having 50 or 60 point products, from a dozen vendors, you move to maybe six vendor platforms spanning prevention, detection and response and then integrate those platforms for better detection and mitigation. So now, not only do you get better performance, more predictable outcomes, and experiences because of that broad, integrated automated architecture, you also have reduced complexity and cost in terms of licensing, configuration management, as well hiring and training staff. The resulting solution is a huge opportunity for service providers as it offers lower total cost of ownership, better performance, and the ability to offer new services that integrate networking and security.

Reduced Complexity

Because of the need for a more distributed computing environment, the traditional approach of buying the "best" product in a given category no longer works. The business requirements and the threat landscape have changed dramatically in the last few years, and the decisions that led us to a multi-vendor approach are no longer valid. This traditional approach to security involving multiple vendors and multiple product lines is no longer capable of supporting today's IT reality.

Today's business environment is digital and needs to be highly elastic, so it can shift based on demand and opportunities. Businesses need responsive computing environments that can optimize the allocation and utilization of resources. Today, everything is driven by data, and consumers demand highly personalized experiences and performance with high levels of security and privacy.

Service providers need to be able to meet these requirements, so previous approaches using disaggregated products, operations, and networking don't work. The environment is too simply too complex to scale or provide the agility that organizations need. Indeed, we will never have enough staff at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, let alone the tools, resources and funding to manage dozens of products to detect and mitigate threats in near real time. Best-in-class products don’t necessarily mean best-in-class solutions.

Consolidation Isn't Convergence

Platform integration or consolidation is different from convergence. Integration relates to products being able to operate together, but you still have multiple management consoles, and networking and security teams continue to work in silos.

Traditional networking lacks awareness of content, applications, users, devices, and locations, which makes it difficult to secure distributed environments. Overlaying security onto the network leads to increased complexity, slower network performance, and a degraded experience for users.

In contrast, from an operational model standpoint, convergence involves bringing together the network operating center (NOC) and security operations center (SOC). Instead of adding security on top of networking, taking a security-driven networking approach converges networking and security into a single, accelerated solution. Convergence accelerates and improves visibility and awareness, which is critical for MSSPs because it improves security along with the user experience, management complexity, and total cost of ownership – contributing to better quicker time to market, revenue recognition and better margin performance.

Fortinet approaches convergence by including networking and security capabilities on appliances with a common operating system that spans many products. Converging networking and security with a specially designed operating system and security processors that work in concert in this way improves network performance and security at the same time.

Author Jonathan Nguyen is VP of field CISO at Fortinet. Read more Fortinet blogs hereRegularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.