Public, private, and hybrid cloud deployments have become a crucial tool for organizations of all shapes and sizes, enabling them to benefit from elastic scalability and flexibility while also reducing costs. These cloud deployments are typically characterized by continuous configuration changes based on demand. But, while resource pooling and elastic scale are part of the cloud value proposition, they simultaneously limit IT’s ability to monitor virtual traffic flows at the same scale.
In a time of increased mobility and dispersed workforces, coupled with the rapid invasion of smart technology and cloud-based services, this lack of visibility can significantly impact a company’s security and bottom line. Not having comprehensive insight into data flows, encrypted or otherwise, means mismanaged resources and a weak security stance. Further, with the prevalence of remote workers and third-party business partners, data is now more difficult than ever to centrally control and manage.
Yet Ixia’s State of Virtualization for Visibility Architectures survey found that, while 67 percent of respondents were using virtualization for business-critical applications, only 37 percent were monitoring that virtualized environment with the same rigor and robustness as their physical environment. This could be due to fears of added complexity or lack of resources, but it cannot be ignored any longer.
It is time to see through the false sense of security offered by typical deployments and fully realize all the benefits offered by a cloud deployment. The first step is to ensure you have a constant pulse on your most sensitive asset: your data.
It’s Not Clear with the Cloud
Network security, monitoring, and management commonly happens in two ways, out-of-band (OOB) or in-band.
Sometimes called lights-out management (LOM), the former requires a physically separate infrastructure and interface for security, monitoring, and management—apart from the devices and interfaces used for production traffic. For instance, the process can take an initial look at endpoints before they gain access to a network or send and receive traffic. In essence, it provides pre-connect compliance checks and policy enforcement. Although a physically separate infrastructure offers added security, and access is still possible even if there are problems with production links, it is an extra expense and fails to provide real-time dynamic insights.
To address this lack of visibility and continuous oversight, many take the latter approach. This takes place in-line with live network traffic and can provide organizations advance capabilities such as identity-based access controls, intrusion prevention services, traffic monitoring, and visualization, as well as continuous endpoint assurance. It is the simultaneous use of network devices for production traffic and management. Although it does not require additional physical infrastructure, it can pose problems in remediation in cases of congestion.
There has been a continuous shift toward in-band security and management as businesses shift from reactive security postures to proactive ones in light of the need for near real-time insights. But the cloud poses an additional problem. Network visibility has become restricted in hybrid and public environments, leaving IT without a comprehensive view into the full scope of a cloud provider’s network. Traditional physical devices located in a data center cannot provide the necessary visibility. But what can?
More Than Virtualization We Need to Tap the Cloud
New methods are focusing on virtualization, whether it is on the tools themselves or on the entire ecosystem. Some are simply copying traffic and analyzing it separately, sticking to the OOB method. But these monitoring methods are still not enough.
Even when an entire environment is virtualized, it only facilitates the monitoring of the owned network, but what about the cloud provider? Some vendors have begun providing cloud-focused solutions—it’s already happening and not a minute too soon. For those that do not adapt, managing performance will only become an increasingly tedious task because they will not have the necessary understanding of the cloud environment. Not to mention the security issues that are sure to ensue when visibility is compromised.
But ultimately, we as an industry, need to take this seriously and work together to tap into the cloud and have security, monitoring, and management at that level. Visibility solution providers need to work together with cloud providers to develop built-in and for-the-cloud solutions that monitor and manage sensitive traffic wherever it is. This may take many forms, but the best option is a joint effort by cloud providers and security vendors to either have the former resell cloud-based solutions or allow for seamless integrations. To be successful, it is going to take the entire industry to move this forward.