Secure SD-WAN: The First Step Toward Zero Trust Security

January 30, 2017
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3 min read

Imagine the typical network architecture of any enterprise. It’s usually an unruly collection of network connections going in all directions between a wide array of infrastructure devices on a legacy flat network. Every time the infrastructure requires a change, you take a deep breath and open up the network diagram, hoping you can somehow wedge your new requirements into this complex environment.

The time and cost to manage this network infrastructure seems to rise every year. To address this dilemma, IT leaders are looking to software-defined technologies and zero trust security. They’re eager to take advantage of the simplicity and cost savings but wary of the security implications.

Read the Zero Trust White Paper to learn more

Zero In on Zero Trust Security

This new way of providing security for the enterprise is built on the zero trust model. According to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report titled “Developing a Framework to Improve Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” a zero trust model enables IT professionals to “stop trusting packets as if they were people” and “eliminate the idea of a trusted network … and an untrusted network.” In a zero trust model, the report continued, “all network traffic is untrusted.”

In other words, this new approach is to authenticate first and provide network access second. It would be difficult carry out this process at scale for a number of reasons. That’s why IBM Security is building zero trust solutions to deliver on these requirements.

Zero Trust Starts With SD-WAN

The place to start on this zero trust journey is with the wide area network (WAN). In its forecast of the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market, IDC estimated that worldwide revenues will exceed $6 billion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 90 percent over the 2015 to 2020 forecast period.

As you can see, the shift toward SD-WAN has generated a lot of excitement. However, many IT leaders remain unsure how to secure this type of network. Let’s start with some of the most common pain points and talk about how IT professionals can address them by deploying a secure SD-WAN.

Network Security and Connectivity

One of the most obvious and pressing benefits of SD-WAN is improved network security. A secure SD-WAN:

  • Strengthens access control policies, enabling IT managers to better control and monitor who is accessing the network and applications;
  • Extends to branch locations, helping to improve the overall security of the WAN;
  • Provides end-to-end circuit encryption from local site to cloud by using IPSec 256-bit protection, minimizing the scope for vulnerabilities; and
  • Deploys software-defined, stateful firewalls to the edge device.

An SD-WAN can also help companies reduce network connectivity costs by routing enterprise network traffic securely over the public internet, eliminating the need for expensive private multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits.

Boost Performance and Hybrid Cloud Adoption

Additionally, SD-WAN can optimize network and application performance. To facilitate this operational boost, SD-WAN:

  • Accurately assesses the bandwidth usage, speed and traffic routing across broadband internet and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections;
  • Provides around-the-clock monitoring, latency measurements and circuit throughput, and automatically routes traffic to the best available connection; and
  • Boosts circuit performances, even for demanding applications such as voice and video.

Finally, SD-WAN enables organizations to accelerate hybrid cloud adoption by facilitating vendor- and technology-agnostic secure data transport over any WAN or internet circuit. It also provides secure access to cloud providers.

By following a zero trust approach and deploying a secure SD-WAN, IT managers can reduce costs, simplify connectivity to the cloud and secure their environments.

Read the Zero Trust White Paper

Ben Hendrick
Global Executive and Managing Partner, IBM

Ben Hendrick is a Global Infrastructure & Endpoint Security (IES) partner within IBM Security. In this executive role, Ben is responsible for leading the...
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