Many organizations are currently engaging in digital transformation initiatives or plan to do so in the new future. As technology grows and evolves, new solutions are being created that enable organizations to operate more efficiently and better meet the needs of their customers. With this transformation of enterprise practices and endpoints come changes in how corporate wide area networks (WANs) are being used on a regular basis. An organization’s network infrastructure is no longer limited to enterprise-controlled local area networks (LANs).
As enterprise networks evolve, it is essential that approaches to network security change with them. In the past, an organization could protect its systems by deploying point security products at the network perimeter and routing all traffic through this security stack. This is no longer the case.
The modern enterprise requires network security where its network users are, at the network edge. Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) provide a solution to modern cybersecurity challenges. By integrating networking and security functionality and moving security to the network edge, SD-WAN – and especially cloud-based SD-WAN – enable an organization to take advantage of modern technology without sacrificing network performance or security.
A Traditional Approach to Security:
Many organizations take a traditional approach to security. In the past, a perimeter-focused security model was largely effective. The majority of an organization’s assets were inside the corporate network, so protecting them by trying to block malicious content at the network perimeter was a potentially workable approach to security.
However, the modern enterprise network is very different from the networks of the past. Organizations are increasingly leveraging next-generation technology for business purposes, such as mobile devices, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These devices are very different from traditional servers and user workstations, introducing new risks and threats to the network.
In addition to the new threats introduced by an expanding attack surface, organizations also face new threats from increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. As cybercrime has become professionalized, the sophistication of cyberattackers has grown, and organizations require solutions to new attack vectors.
Traditionally, organizations dealt with this by deploying point security products designed to address specific threats. As a result, the average enterprise has deployed 75 distinct point security products. However, these solutions are often located in the wrong place for the modern network, and attempting to address cyber threats by deploying new products is an unscalable approach to security.
SD-WAN is a next-generation networking solution designed to meet the needs of the modern business. While, in the past, an organization’s users and devices were largely located within the enterprise network, this is no longer the case. Mobile devices – including laptops, tablets, and smartphones – move between the enterprise network and other, untrusted networks. Cloud computing resources, while often considered part of an organization’s trusted network, are located outside the network perimeter. IoT devices are designed to enable monitoring and configuration of devices over the public Internet with data processing performed in the cloud.
As users and devices move off of the enterprise network, a security solution deployed at the perimeter of the enterprise network is no longer a logical solution. SD-WAN moves network and security management to the network edge. When traffic reaches an SD-WAN appliance, it is routed directly to its destination, whether on the enterprise network or elsewhere, over the optimal transport medium.
SD-WAN Integrates Networking and Security
An essential part of SD-WAN’s ability to optimize network routing is integration of networking and security functionality. While this can be achieved by deploying a full security stack at each SD-WAN deployment location, it is unscalable and limits the reach of the SD-WAN network. Instead, some SD-WAN solutions offer full integration of networking and security functionality. An SD-WAN appliance will include standard security solutions, such as a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and a secure web gateway (SWG), bundled with the network routing solution.
One advantage of this integration is increased efficiency of the SD-WAN solution. A single solution is easier to deploy and manage than a set of standalone products that must be linked together. Additionally, an all-in-one product can be optimized to ensure that all components, networking and security alike, are designed to interface and work together efficiently.
Network and security integration also improve network efficiency by expanding the reach of an SD-WAN deployment. In order for employees to use the corporate WAN, they must connect via an SD-WAN appliance. For remote users, and endpoints located in the cloud, this can create latency as traffic is routed through the nearest physical site containing an SD-WAN appliance (the “trombone effect”). With full networking and security integration, it is feasible to deploy SD-WAN appliances in the cloud, leveraging the global reach of cloud providers to minimize latency and improve network performance.
Improving Network Performance with SD-WAN
Enterprise networks are evolving as digital transformation initiatives drive the deployment of mobile, cloud, and IoT for business purposes. These solutions change how the corporate WAN is used as users and endpoints move off of company-controlled networks.
Attempting to apply traditional cybersecurity approaches to evolving networks creates network latency and degrades user experience. As networks transform, it is essential that security evolves with them. SD-WAN, and especially cloud-based SD-WAN, provides a solution to the modern enterprise’s security needs by integrating networking and security functionality and moving it to the network edge, where the users are.