Network security operations becoming more difficult

One hundred and fifty enterprise IT security professionals from a wide range of industries were surveyed by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to gain a better understanding of their plans for adopting software-defined networking (SDN) in the near future, as well as their opinions on the increasing level of difficulty in managing heterogeneous network environments.

Network security operations

The survey indicates a need for greater automation and converged management, command and control capabilities for security operations across physical, virtual and hybrid cloud platforms.

“We’re witnessing a new network model evolving: the heterogeneous, multi-dimensional cloud infrastructure, in which enterprises have a little bit of everything – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM SoftLayer, VMware, and Cisco. As this model evolves, organizations are struggling to implement policies that help them manage all of these fragments and meet security, compliance and risk mandates,” said Jon Oltsik, principal analyst with ESG.

Increased difficulty in network security operations

Survey respondents cited the addition of more devices to the network (55%), increases in the number of networking and security technologies in use (52%), and the deployment of numerous new applications (50%) as the primary drivers of this increased security operations difficulty.

The survey also found that 69% of respondents currently operating a private cloud, using public cloud services, or both say they are still learning how to apply security policies to hybrid cloud infrastructure.

From on-premise to cloud and SDN

Cloud services and SDN are seen as increasingly viable alternatives to traditional on-premises solutions. The survey found that 79% of organizations are committed to SDN as a long-term strategy and are already implementing various technologies or conducting proofs of concept. In fact, 51% of respondents participating in the research reported two or more SDN technologies were in use in some capacity within their organizations today.

The survey also found that 91% of organizations are actively using cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and/or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as part of their IT strategy, and that 61% of organizations currently use multiple public cloud services.

Lack of cloud computing security skills

As hybrid cloud environments continue to become the IT standard, organizations are struggling to apply policies in the same way as physical environments. Of the organizations currently operating a private cloud, using public cloud services, or both, 49% don’t feel the security team has the right level of cloud computing skills to provide the same types of network security controls and oversight as it does on physical infrastructure.

Sixty-one percent (61%) also say it’s difficult to get the same level of visibility into cloud-based workloads as they have in their physical network, and 56% say it’s difficult to audit network security controls in the cloud.

Security operations and processes still insufficient

As networks become more complex, security policy orchestration and automation is increasingly crucial. Nearly 90% of survey respondents rated network security operations automation as very important or critical to its future business application plans and IT initiatives.

While survey respondents agree that automation can enable the operations team to do more with existing resources (85%), improve network security protection by tightening security policies (85%), and help minimize security misconfiguration caused by human error (85%), only 23% of organizations who are currently using private and/or public cloud technologies feel strongly that current network security operations and processes have the right level of orchestration needed for the cloud.