A single pane of mirror

Here’s a look at where enterprise technology is moving by understanding the directions of SD-WAN, SASE, and intelligent automation.

By Pratima Harigunani

Networking and security markets are converging. We know that. And if we did not know that, the fresh swathe of cybersecurity attacks and industry vectors have reminded us that well. So, where does that put the wave of networking automation, intelligence, and digitization?

Think back to 2019 when enterprises were evolving IT infrastructure and at a moderate pace – whether via NFV, edge, or digitization. But that became an absolute imperative as the pandemic hit us, remarked Arun Karna, MD, and CEO, AT&T India, as he asked how to move towards future business continuity and competitiveness. He was speaking at the technology session on SD-WAN, SASE, and intelligent automation, and where the enterprise networking technology is headed. The panel discussion was part of the 20th Telecom Leadership Forum organised by Voice&Data. As the discussion unfolded, we discovered that the future is going to be more intelligent and more disruptive than before.

“Yes, the world has changed in the last decade and COVID-19 was a big disruptor,” seconded Amit Malik, MD, Service Provider Segment, Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China, Cisco. “As we move from ‘when we do it’ to ‘how we do it, the question of security in digitization becomes paramount. That is leading us to SASE. Most threats do not happen in the data center. It is guarded so well. These threats are in the weakest links like branches and remote offices. That’s where we need software-defined network concepts that hinge on agility and simplicity.”

The single pane of glass matters. As Saurabh Mittal, Head – Solution & Integration, Network R&D, Bharti Airtel added, the last year’s pandemic has meant that demand has pervaded rural and urban areas. “There is a demand proliferation even in the not-so-well-connected areas. From basic connectivity to security, we have all layers now. Increasing digital adoption has meant a rise in cyber-threats. Many threats continue to come from within the organisation. Hackers have relied on using AI in making basic mechanisms far more effective. Providing connectivity and security are, no longer, different parts of the problem.

K Vikram, Sr. Director Industry verticals, HPE gave a walk down the memory lane covering the journey from traditional data centers to modern appliances. “Everything has become software-defined. We believe that the whole world is going to be cloud-enabled and a lot more software-defined.”

Malik put the spotlight on how the threat spectrum has evolved, so in the same way, the defense side should. “The mitigation side has to work in a much more agile fashion than how it did so far. We also need to recognize that the solution lies where the problem lies – at the edge of the cloud. Converging network and security is going to be a big discussion now. The future will call for a lot of learning and unlearning for CISOs.”

Mittal outlined that one-shoe-fits-all is not working anymore. “A BFSI would have security as paramount but for someone else, connectivity would be more important at a certain stage. So a multi-pronged understanding of customer requirements would help. Having modern approaches gives agility. Edge security and software-defined flexibility are growing. We need to be cognizant of the infrastructure situation in India as well. We do not have too many data centers. It is a complex journey. It is not a one-day story. We need to help customers evolve in an integrated way for agility and security.”

As networks are scaling, it is important to remove human elements. Zero-trust monitoring and using Cloud to achieve scale – they are good moves, Vikram illustrated. “We are moving towards more autonomous enterprises. All IT equipment can have its own telemetry with suggestions. Remove as many human elements and go for intelligent automation.”

Mittal argued about how much we know and how much we act upon. “That’s where COVID-19 has been a great teacher for all of us. It pushed us out of our comfort zones. The new generation has been a big teacher too. Our kids are teaching us so much. There is a fundamental shift but the new generation takes all this very seriously and is also open to taking new responsibilities. The hacker community also belongs to that age group. We need to raise the bar now. The solutions are also coming from that age group. We need to work on re-skilling and re-tooling with an open mind.”

Security is not only the IT’s job. It is not just the CISO’s job. Every person has to be very careful about what they are doing. A new mindset and dialogue would be the key. The journey of risk mitigation would become a lot easier then. If we use the so-called kids to put their minds to give us solutions, we might be happily surprised. And yes, security is everyone’s business.

Vikram also resonated with the need for re-skilling and turning to the new generation for solutions. “When we started, all we had to do was just manage data. Now it is data, voice, images, and whatnot. To provide security in a fractured way – with many data centers- that will change, we need a big shift. We need to lean on to someone with the right set of advice.

Secure by design, intelligent edge, security as forethought and not after-thought; SD-WAN with other elements rolled into one with a comprehensive solution; SASE; and re-skilling – getting help from the black-hair generation and zero-trust models – that’s the way forward. As the panel surmised through multiple perspectives, the pandemic year has reaffirmed well.

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