How digital transformation stretches network performance and risks network security

By Carlos Ferro, SVP and General Manager International Region, for LiveAction.

  • 3 months ago Posted in

Disruption is one of the modern world’s favorite words. Not a day goes by in which one exciting new startup or another doesn't claim that it will “disrupt” one space or another.

But take that word seriously and you’ll find that disruption doesn't just refer to insurgent new ideas or transformational new technologies, but the old relied-upon traditions and ways of working being fundamentally uprooted.

The double edge sword of digital transformation

Many businesses are now waking up to this reality. Digital transformation is happening everywhere and often at breakneck pace and while those digital transformations often provide astounding benefits, they undo the time tested arrangements upon which those organisations previously relied. Both NetOps and SecOps teams know this well because digital transformation disrupts their ability to ensure network performance and spot threats.

So while digital transformations offer huge benefits - they often create chaos in their wake. However, the true disruptions that digital transformation causes are not explicitly to do with the new technologies that are introduced, but the fact that many organisations don’t re-architect their environments to accommodate the ways in which that technology has changed it.

SecOps’ new blindness

One of the key obstacles that digital transformation often introduces is the presence of new areas of darkspace - parts of the network that are invisible to operations and security teams. In fact, one report by Dimensional Research shows that 81% of operations professionals deal with network blindspots. That’s understandable - much of the network is now made of devices, services, entities and technologies which sit outside the perimeter and the view of legacy visibility tools.

The new shape of the digitally transformed network often makes it difficult to monitor in the same way. As new technologies are added to the network, new pathways can open up which lead to unaccounted for blindspots. Similarly, the ease and flexibility that so often characterises digital transformation can permit instances of shadow IT and risky behaviours which are also left unmonitored.

Take an example like the cloud: Many organisations have now migrated their networks - or portions of the networks - en masse to the cloud. This has, on one hand, permitted great levels of flexibility for organisations and paved the way for future transformation - such as mass remote work. On the other, it has made much of the network invisible to operations and security teams. As a result, cloud misconfigurations are one of the leading vectors in data leaks.

Similarly, APIs are allowing new connections and collaboration between different organisations and entities. In fact, it is now estimated that APIs now account for 84% of

network traffic. Unfortunately APIs are often left unmonitored due to how quickly they can be spun up, and how numerous they soon become.

As a result, breaches can quickly spiral out of control. One 2022 Google Research report found that 62% of IT decision makers had experienced an API related security incident in the previous 12 months. One respondent noted that “the rate at which APIs are developed today exceeds the rate at which our organisation can ensure the security of each of these APIs.”

NetOps’ new resource demands

Similarly, when new devices and technologies are added to a network, they can claim unexpected amounts of resources if not correctly accommodated. This in turn, has a huge effect on the network and when resources aren’t correctly allocated to individual parts of the network, performance suffers and bottlenecks emerge.

The first and perhaps most obvious effect on network performance is increased traffic. As new technologies, devices and applications get added and new pathways run through the network, they generate more traffic in more places - adding to potential complexity, potential performance issues bottlenecks and ultimately the burden that NetOps teams have to deal with.

These often include bandwidth-intensive applications - such as video applications - which can be extremely demanding on network resources. When these new demands aren’t accounted for, they can deprive other parts of the network - including critical applications - of crucial resources thus leading to more performance issues and introducing latency.

The potential issues run further still: Cloud deployments, hybrid networks and other distributed architectures can introduce latency; integrating new technologies with legacy technologies can cause compatibility problems which can cause further performance issues and initiatives such as remote work can cause huge problems if they’re not properly optimised and endowed with the correct resources.

So what?

While enterprises undergo digital transformations, they often expand out of the reach and sight of the NetOps and SecOps teams that are supposed to be managing the network. As the network complexifies and their monitoring tools become less effective, problems spiral and those organisations become sure victims of security incidents and have to deal with more and more performance problems and ultimately, downtime.

Downtime is a very scary word for a business. Considering that so many businesses are internationally-focused and digital-first, they require the smooth operation of their networks every minute of every day in all timezones, everywhere. Every minute of downtime is a minute of revenue loss, increased cost and business paralysis. In fact, data shows that downtime costs organisations $300,000 to $400,000 an hour.

Treating the problem

Many of the network optimisation problems that come along with digital transformations are not necessarily problems of the technologies themselves, but that organisations haven’t pre-empted the ways in which they would disrupt their previous modes of operation.

Organisations can’t always be expected to know what these digital transformations will do to their networks. Networks are complex things and are becoming ever more complex so it may not be easy to understand beforehand the true scope of the changes that a digital transformation will make to the network.

That’s one of the reasons it's so important to regain control and visibility over the network to accommodate digital transformations as and when they happen.

The complexification of the enterprise network that digital transformation introduces increases the machine-to-machine traffic within the data center which is often invisible to IT teams. Retaining visibility and control over the network requires visibility into this crucial east-west channel. That solution should include the ability to glean granular insights to quickly identify, troubleshoot and resolve issues across both the traditional network and virtual infrastructure.

Digital transformation offers incredible possibilities for businesses, but they’re highly disruptive too. Organisations need to maintain visibility into their own network so they can actually understand the ways in which digital transformations fundamentally change the network.

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