Security / March 14, 2019

RSAC 2019 Goodie Bags Won’t Secure Your Network, but a Network Visibility Architecture Can

Updated October 14, 2021.

Like many technologists, I spent a good part of last week at RSAC 2019 in San Francisco. As a former CMO, I’ve found that the entire trade show experience fascinates me on many levels.

My personal event schedule was packed with interesting and thought-provoking meetings with customers, prospects, media and analysts. While the days are long and the show floor can be noisy, I also enjoy meeting with employees who are in town for the event.

As an attendee, the atmosphere is fascinating because it highlights all that is good and challenging in the customer purchasing journey. On a bustling show floor much like a website, companies have a matter of seconds to convey a compelling enough value proposition that prospects are moved to engage with the company. The immediate gratification of a prospect’s first engagement after scanning your messaging is exciting, but short lived, as this is just the first step in long sales cycle resulting in the prospect addressing a challenge that they face, and Gigamon adding another customer to our list.

The attendee pool is an eclectic mix of world-class security teams seeking solutions to problems, security practitioners looking to understand what is new and of course tire-kickers looking for the best goodie bags. This cross section of participants adds to the vitality of the event floor…and the congested walk ways.

On the seemingly endless drive home from the city and while buried deep in the San Francisco traffic, I had time to consider the challenging world of the security and network professional.

It occurred to me that as the motor industry grew in popularity, the volume and speed of the automobiles necessitated a re-architecture of road infrastructure and traffic management solutions. Similarly, the growth in volume and speed of network traffic has demanded an almost continuous re-architecting of the network infrastructure and our approach to managing and securing our IT environments.

One glaring difference between the road and the IT network appears to be that we are willing to put up with poor traffic controls on the road leading to dramatic levels of congestion and, ultimately, impact to our businesses. But the users of Enterprise IT are unwilling to experience delay or congestion when waiting for streaming services to load, for emails to arrive or documents to print. The common thread between successful road and network infrastructure is the visibility needed to see, understand and control the peaks and troughs of the traffic. In other words, intelligent visibility can be used to manage traffic flow and security.

The correlation between road traffic and network traffic fascinates me because we appear to regularly monitor our roads visually to ensure passenger and vehicle safety and security, but rarely do most companies proactively examine with such vigor their networks for scale, security and stability. We tend to respond more to alerts, issues and alarms.

Traffic authorities regularly check roads for pot holes, areas of potential danger such as “curve ahead” or signs of erratic vehicle behavior. From a network perspective, little visual inspection is done past “is it up and running?” Whether on the road infrastructure or on a network, the key to securely delivering precious cargo (the passengers or data) to the right place and at the right time is having a plan.

As I think back to RSAC and the challenges that the security practitioners are faced with, it is obvious that the network security challenge is significantly more complex than adding the next, potentially compelling security tool. The security tooling that the practitioner has already deployed may be completely adequate, but so many of them lack the visibility to the relevant network traffic.

Next Generation Network Packet Brokers (NGNPBs) that are purpose built for network security and monitoring play a significant role in delivering that crucial visibility. To copy a line from a recent blog by Bassam Khan, our VP of Product Marketing, “NGNPBs empower NetOps and SecOps teams to produce better outcomes with less effort at lower cost. Their tools produce more accurate results because they have access to complete network traffic from one source.”

The key to securing a network is powerful and intelligent network visibility architecture that delivers visibility into the data in motion across the enterprise network that, in doing so, shifts the power from the aggressor to the protector. Much like the manner in which road-traffic cameras establish the safest roads possible, intelligent visibility enables the health and security of your network.

RSAC 2019 reaffirmed my belief that Sight and Security Are Inseparable to IT, and the one true source of truth will always be the network.

Following RSAC, I’m once again fascinated by how far we’ve come as network visibility and network security practitioners, and how far we have to go for comprehensive network security. But I’m encouraged by the possibilities and potential.

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