SD-WAN Secures Digital Transformation

Many companies are engaged in digital transformation efforts that are changing the face of the corporate network. A variety of new devices are connecting to the network, and the corporate wide area network (WAN) is being used in entirely new ways.

While these changes have their benefits, they also create challenges. Achieving global visibility and security in these new corporate WANs can be difficult. In order to meet these challenges, organizations need to deploy software-defined networks (SD-WAN) and take advantage of the benefits of SD-WAN security.

Digital Transformation Expands Attack Surfaces

Many organizations are embracing digital transformation efforts in order to improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, cloud deployments, and the use of mobile devices for business purposes all enable organizations to achieve higher levels of efficiency and performance.

However, these same innovations also have dramatically increased the size and complexity of many organizations’ cyberattack surfaces. An estimated 94% of organizations are expected to be using IoT devices for business purposes by 2021. However, IoT devices are notorious for having poor security by default, making them difficult to secure and a potential entry point for cybercriminals.

The growth of the cloud presents similar security challenges for organizations. Approximately 94% of companies use cloud computing, and 84% use multiple clouds. Cloud computing represents a very different deployment environment from on-premises data centers, and many organizations struggle to properly monitor and secure their cloud environments using the security settings provided by their cloud service provider (CSP).

As the corporate network expands to include IoT devices, mobile, and the cloud, visibility and network security becomes more complex. Many security solutions are only capable of operating in certain deployment environments. As a result, attempting to secure each individual endpoint will result in a complex, siloed, and inconsistent security architecture.

Securing the Modern Network

Digital transformation efforts make securing enterprise networks far more complicated. However, leaving these new devices unsecured is not an option since they represent potential entry points for an attacker to gain a foothold on a corporate network.

Historically, organizations have secured networks of diverse endpoints by deploying security at the network perimeter. A typical corporate network has a single point of connectivity between itself and the public Internet. By monitoring all network traffic entering and leaving a network, the organization could identify and remediate many threats before they reached their targets.

While the traditional perimeter-focused model is no longer applicable as corporate WANs expand to include mobile, IoT, and the cloud, the underlying principles are sound. If an organization cannot deploy consistent security solutions on each endpoint, deploying network security and monitoring solutions may be a better solution.

Securing the enterprise network requires visibility and control over all network links that can carry business traffic. This can be a challenge as companies, connected devices, and employees may use a mix of broadband Internet, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits, mobile networks, and external network connections to access the Internet. Achieving consistent visibility and security requires a solution like SD-WAN.

Achieving Global Visibility with SD-WAN

SD-WAN is designed to improve an organization’s network performance and reliability. It accomplishes this by abstracting away the network details for applications operating on the corporate WAN. The SD-WAN appliance presents applications with a single “pipe” to send traffic along and, behind the scenes, optimally routes traffic to its destination based upon configured priorities and rules.

Improved network performance is not the only benefit provided by SD-WAN. The SD-WAN appliance deployed at a certain location has complete visibility into the traffic flowing over it. Some SD-WAN appliances also integrate security functionality, such as a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and an intrusion prevention system (IPS). This integration of networking and security functionality dramatically simplifies an organization’s security infrastructure and provides performance benefits as networking and security components are designed to work optimally together. However, these benefits are only available for traffic that flows through an SD-WAN appliance. While this may not be a problem for an organization’s headquarters and branch locations, mobile users and cloud applications can experience significant latency if all traffic is channeled through one of these locations for scanning.

Cloud-based SD-WAN provides a solution to this problem. A number of geographically-distributed, cloud-based SD-WAN points of presence (PoPs) provide mobile users and cloud deployments with a gateway to the corporate WAN. These PoPs can be connected via dedicated, Tier 1 high-speed network links to ensure guaranteed network performance and reliability.

By taking advantage of cloud-based SD-WAN, an organization can provide high-performance, reliable network connectivity for all devices deployed as part of their digital transformation initiatives. At the same time, these devices can be consistently monitored and secured by taking advantage of network and security integration within SD-WAN appliances.

Securing Digital Transformation

As organizations pursue digital transformation initiatives, corporate networks are being more complex, diverse, and difficult to secure. The wide variety of different endpoints makes it difficult or impossible to source security solutions that can run in all deployment environments.

By adopting SD-WAN, organizations can secure these new devices acquired as part of digital transformation efforts. SD-WAN appliances with integrated security functionality simplify network and security deployment at new locations and centralize monitoring and security across the corporate WAN. Geographically distributed PoPs enable remote users to take advantage of the security and performance benefits of the corporate WAN, while allowing the enterprise to achieve global visibility of all business traffic.

About Author