Can Security Keep up with Data Center Transformation?

Finding the security solution that can effectively secure hybrid cloud workloads while preserving the benefits of the underlying SDDC infrastructure is critical to success.

Michael Weinstein is Director of Product Marketing for Bitdefender. 

Over the years, the software-defined data center (SDDC) and its forming technologies, including virtualization, software-defined networking and software-defined storage, have become foundational enablers of agile and efficient IT. As SDDC intertwines with public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (as in VMware Cloud for AWS, for example), CIOs can leverage the benefits of a truly integrated hybrid cloud from data center capacity, manageability and disaster recovery standpoints.

But can security keep up with data center transformation initiatives, such as SDDC and the hybrid cloud? Conventional security often hampers the efficiency, performance and agility of SDDC infrastructure by taking valuable resources away from production workloads, introducing latency in application response and adding management complexity. Plus, such solutions may be unfit to deliver consistent, continuous protection for workloads that routinely migrate across the hybrid cloud.

CIOs must approach security strategically, making it an integral part of their data center transformation strategy and roadmap. Choosing a solution that can safeguard hybrid cloud workloads while preserving the benefits of the underlying SDDC infrastructure is critical. This way CIOs can sustain or improve their organization’s security posture in the hybrid cloud without negating the virtues of operational efficiency, agility and performance, which prompted the decision to invest in SDDC in the first place.

The Hybrid Software-defined Data Center is Happening Now

The enterprise shift toward the software-defined data center is undeniable. According to research firm IDC, global spending on software-defined compute saw 3.5 percent year-over-year growth in 2016, reaching $4.32 billion in value. Total worldwide software-defined storage (SDS) market was $8.56 billion in 2016, expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5 percent in the next five years. The total software-defined networking (SDN) market was worth $4.45 billion in 2016, growing at a 25.4 percent CAGR.

According to the Bitdefender survey of 250 IT security decision makers from US-based enterprises with 1,000-plus endpoints each, some 90 percent of CISOs say their data center is undergoing a major transformation. More than two-thirds already store data on hybrid clouds while 64.8 percent use software-defined networking, 62.8 percent rely on virtualization for corporate data, 57.2 percent have enabled software-defined storage, and 35.6 percent have embraced hyperconverged infrastructure.

The rise of SDDC is being fueled by ‘digital transformation,’ which describes the efforts to apply digital technology to every aspect of an organization, including both internal processes and revenue-generating offerings. To succeed, enterprises are embracing software-defined and hybrid-cloud infrastructure and rapidly moving away from three-tiered, hardware-centric legacy data centers, which tend to be largely siloed, built primarily with proprietary systems, and expensive to maintain and manage. The reality is, these systems are too slow and inflexible to provision resources at the speed businesses need now.

SDDC provides better efficiency and allows IT and development teams to deliver more quickly on their organizations’ digital transformation demands. The agility factor is multiplied when companies combine public-cloud resources with the private cloud under the same management umbrella, as achieved with VMware Cloud on AWS or Microsoft Azure Stack.

Transformation Comes With Big Expectations

Many experts consider hybrid SDDC to be the next logical step in infrastructure evolution, as it delivers a way to support existing business applications while creating innovative, cloud-first products and services. The vast majority of IT execs surveyed by Bitdefender expect their data center transformation to have a positive impact, making business more agile and lowering IT operating expenses.

As organizations tap software-defined technology to transform their data centers, they also need to reconsider how they secure IT infrastructures. Research firm Gartner has suggested that security needs to become software-defined itself, meaning that organizations need to advance their security programs to support increasingly dynamic and adaptive infrastructure to ensure the appropriate controls automatically remain in place, regardless if an application resides in the cloud or in an on-premises data center.

Stronger Security is the Main Trigger

As cited by 68.5 percent of our survey respondents, the main driver of data center transformation is improved data protection. With the dynamic workloads migrating between the on-premises data center and the cloud, being able to enforce consistent security rules while maintaining comprehensive visibility and end-to-end compliance reporting is imperative. Further, CISOs acknowledge they need security solutions that help extract maximum value from their software-defined data center, hyperconverged infrastructure, and hybrid cloud investments. 

A good approach is to use a security solution specifically designed for the infrastructure it will run on, instead of a generic product. Deploying security created for physical machines on virtual and cloud infrastructure, for example, will take an unnecessary toll on CPU, memory and other resources and cause latency in application response. Conversely, using security purpose-built for hybrid SDDC will help maximize infrastructure utilization and application performance.

Automating security across the software-defined data center, can offer operational efficiency gains through automatic provisioning and centralized control of all security capabilities. Also, security defenses and controls in the software-defined data center can adapt when the systems they are designed to protect evolve. As virtual machine roles and location in the cloud change, security policies follow suit. As new workloads spin up, appropriate security rules apply automatically.  

Addressing these considerations will help not only effectively secure the modernizing infrastructure, but also promote the operational and performance benefits of the hybrid software-defined data center.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.

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