Server racks with telecommunication equipment in server room

The changing face of network and data center security

I recall being shown round a data centre in Frankfurt many years ago. Our small party was followed at a discreet distance by a man with a prominent handgun in a holster, plainly not there for our protection but in case one of us turned out to be a danger to the facility. He was the front line of security at a time when a typical threat was likely to be physical in nature – an eco warrior hell bent on damaging vital infrastructure, a terrorist infiltrator, an industrial spy stealing a drive full of sensitive data.


The threat landscape faced by data centers today, and by the networks that support them, is of a very different order, against which a Glock G19 is of little utility. Just consider for starters how the importance of what’s stored in a data center has changed in the intervening quarter of a century. These days, every company is a tech company. We have all moved on from paper to digital, and most of our vital data exists digitally on a data center rack instead of a filing cabinet. Reliance on cloud means a typical data center hosts information, applications and services that businesses use every day. It’s not like a bank vault where something is stashed on the orders of the regulator and forgotten.


Along with data’s centrality to our lives, the nature of the threats it faces has also evolved. More virtualized data center technologies, and greater interconnectedness of data, demand better security at the infrastructure layer. Security integrated within software enables a more fine-grained security approach, along with greater agility and adaptation when dealing with security threats. Network protection has perhaps had to change the most, since it is via the WAN that malware and other threats can reach a data center and the information that lives there.


The problem could, unwittingly, be on your payroll. Since data centers are connected to external networks via user access, IT administrators must make sure appropriate network and user security policies are in place at every point that has access to the data center. Virtual security measures are needed to confirm the identity of authorized users. Zero Trust means just that – trust no individual, as well as no object that has been plugged into the network.


Threats are virtual, not physical. Most data centers use virtualization technology, which allows for the abstraction of data center servers, network, and storage. This abstraction allows IT administrators to manage data center services remotely, using software to run operations and instantly provision workloads across several servers as needed. Some data centers use virtualization technology to access the public cloud and use it as part of their infrastructure. Using software or cloud solutions to structure and manage the data center adds flexibility, but also makes data more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.


The interweaved cycle of threat and counter protection goes on and on, with no end game in sight. Data centers and networks may be more protected than ever – but they need to be.


To understand more about these issues and many related ones, you should not miss an important upcoming online event:


The session will be chaired by Mauricio Sanchez, Research Director, Network Security & Data Center Appliance, SASE Market Research, Dell’Oro Group. Mauricio will be joined by a panel of opinionated experts including Vivek Bhandari, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Networking and Security Business Unit, VMware; Dr. Ronald Layton, Vice President, Converged Security Operations, Sallie Mae Bank; and Jordan LaRose, Director of Consulting and Incident Response, North America F-Secure.


By Guy Matthews, Editor of NetReporter

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