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You can't secure what you can't see

Wide area networks have become incredibly complicated, with workers today using a wide variety of internet-based applications and services from a growing list of locations.

In almost all instances, the line-of-sight visibility that once defined corporate network management has been replaced by a complex web of applications and connections.

For network managers, these complex architectures present equally complicated management challenges thanks to the need to balance the security of data and endpoints against applications' performance and the experiences of the workers using them.

The solution for many organisations has been software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), which provide a centralised, software-based approach to managing edge devices and connections. SD-WANs bring many benefits, including allowing the easier integration of new connectivity options, and alleviating the need for all traffic to come back through the data centre.

This boosts the performance of cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, but it also breaks the old model of centralised security based in the corporate data centre.

Once again, technology providers have found a solution, in the form of Secure Access Service Edge technology, or SASE, which provides network security delivered as a cloud-based service.

While SASE is becoming more popular as a way of securing SD-WAN environments, it also has other benefits that are showing great value in terms of enhanced security and network resilience.

A thousand eyes are better than one

Network security specialists will tell you they can't secure what they don't know exists, which usually means having visibility of all devices, users, and applications.

But there is another aspect of visibility that – ironically – is often overlooked. Visibility applies not just to the various devices on the network, but also to what is happening between them.

Analysing network traffic can help find patterns of improper behaviour that endpoint management traditionally tend to miss. For instance, one of the most common attributes of a cyberattack is a change in network performance. However, a sudden decline in service quality might also simply mean that a link has gone down, or there has been a spike in activity for legitimate reasons.

For security personnel, the trick has been to know the cause, quickly. If a sudden drop in network performance is occurring due to a large volume of data being exfiltrated, that needs to be shut down immediately. However, if degradation is happening because there has been a surge in sales activity, shutting down the network is the last thing you want to do.

What's needed is the ability to quickly peer into the network and understand the nature of what's happening before any decisions are made.

Seeing within and outside the network

Cisco is bringing greater visibility to networking environments through a range of products that provide greater insights into network performance and an early warning of bad behaviour.

The Cisco Secure Network Analytics (formerly known as StealthWatch) suite can monitor all traffic within a corporate network environment, helping to surface patterns of behaviour that may signal unauthorised activity. In August 2020 Cisco extended this capability into the wide area network with the acquisition of ThousandEyes, which delivers behavioural insight into the extended network environment all the way up to the application layer.

These services deliver the capability for network and security staff to quickly understand the root cause of network issues and make decisions based on observation rather than guesswork. This shortens the time to respond and minimises negative outcomes in case of a cyberattack.

These capabilities are brought to life for customers across Australia through Cisco's service partner relationship with Optus, who are continually expanding their Cisco managed security portfolio.

New forms of connectivity

Visibility is a key benefit of the SD-WAN model, but for wide area networks to work effectively, they also require resiliency.

Cisco and Optus have teamed up to supply solutions that take advantage of each organisation's capabilities to bring enhanced redundancy options for remote end points.

Cisco's new 5G Catalyst Cellular Gateways provide high-capacity connections over Optus' highspeed mobile network with fast 5G*.

Designed to provide path redundancy in case of a primary circuit failure, the Cellular Gateways can be easily deployed onsite with zero touch provisioning, and with commissioning and management undertaken remotely through Cisco's centralised vManage dashboard.

A range of advanced built-in security features provide certainty that the device is performing as it should. And with the integration of ThousandEyes, network managers can bring in SASE based capabilities to monitor these 5G links in the same way they keep watch on all other elements of their SD-WAN environment.

Conclusion

This combination of advanced monitoring and highspeed network technology demonstrates the power of the Optus and Cisco partnership. The strength of this relationship was recently highlighted by Optus winning two awards at the Cisco global Partner Summit 2021, where Optus was recognised as Cisco's 2021 APJC Geo Region 'Service Provider Partner of the Year', and as the APJC Global Award 'Managed Service Partner of the Year'.

By bringing together Australia's fastest mobile network and the world's most advanced network monitoring capabilities, Cisco and Optus can ensure customers have the visibility, reliability, and performance they need in their wide area networks.

To find out more visit Networking Solutions for Business – Optus Enterprise & Business

*5G available in selected areas and speeds may vary. Check website for coverage. 

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