Network visibility not just about security, but future-proofing
By Benjamin Cher March 31, 2016
- Network visibility is like managing real-world traffic … no, really!
- Common problems plague companies across the globe
IT infrastructure has been transformed from sprawling racks in the data centre to the ephemeral cloud, but the same problem of visibility remains, complicated by traffic growth and security concerns.
Network visibility is an issue companies need to address to ensure their hardware remains part of the future. Yet across the globe, companies face common problems, according to Deepesh Arora, vice president of product management at Ixia.
“You want to be able to see everything; you want to be able to look within the SSL (Secure Socket Layer); you don’t have an unlimited budget; you want to incrementally grow,” he says.
“Everyone wants to put in a layered defence, and ultimately, when problems happen, you want to focus on where it matters,” he adds, speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
Calabasas, California-based Ixia was founded in 1997, specialising in communications test and network resiliency solutions. It has about 1,800 employees in 23 countries.
The Nasdaq-listed company reported US$516.9 million revenue for fiscal 2015, which ended Dec 31 2015, up 11% from the previous year’s revenue.
Security is usually touted as the reason why network visibility – essentially, knowing what’s going on in your network – is so important, especially with perimeters disappearing (hello, cloud) and consumer devices invading the corporate network (hello, BYOD).
But being cognisant of what’s happening on your network not only allows you to defend it better, it also allows you to manage bandwidth and traffic growth – especially since security mechanisms and defences put extra strain on the network.
“The fact that you can get insight and be able to drive traffic in a certain direction is extremely relevant,” says Deepesh (pic), citing an example of Ixia working with the University of Texas in Austin.
“Its network was being overwhelmed … and a lot of traffic was going through the traditional firewalls and security mechanisms, bringing the network to its knees,” he adds.
Ixia worked with the university to get a sense of its overall network situation, and found that a large proportion of the traffic was from YouTube, which did not really pose a threat.
So the company told the university it would be better to open up access to YouTube traffic “and secure it in a different manner than running it through a half-million-dollar firewall,” says Deepesh.
“We were able to take away 70% of its traffic and bring relief to the security infrastructure, allowing it to focus on the stuff that matters.
“[The university] was able to continue to secure and handle the massive growth on its network without sacrificing its security posture,” he claims.
Network troubleshooting, planning
Network visibility also allows an organisation to spot issues as they occur, or even before they occur. It’s like managing traffic in the physical world.
Naveen Bhat (pic), Ixia’s Asia Pacific vice president and general manager, cites Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) and its use of cameras.
“All across the highways in Singapore you have cameras which are trying to identify problems,” he says.
“If an accident occurs or a vehicle breaks down, the monitoring system can flag alerts and send a crew down before you can call them.
“That’s amazing, and that’s what we need on IP (Internet Protocol) networks,” he argues.
LTA’s cameras allows the authority to identify the types of traffic and also advise motorists on alternative routes, which is what network visibility can achieve too, according to Naveen.
“When you are able to get a clear view of the type of information flowing in the telecommunications network and divert the traffic effectively, you are able to proactively resolve problems before they occur – and if they do occur, your response time is extremely fast,” he says.
Knowing where congestion is building up in the network will be important in planning the next upgrade or buying new infrastructure, Deepesh adds in.
“When organisations know how congestion builds up, they can now plan the next fly-over, the next expressway, the next toll road,” he argues.
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