Modern Connectivity for Irish Enterprise – Part 2

Owen Kirwan
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On: 19 Apr 2018
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Part 1 was about designing and building a robust and resilient connectivity infrastructure. Continuing on from there, let’s look at layering services onto that infrastructure, managing security and also my predictions on the future of connectivity.

Security and Application Awareness

When a solid connectivity and network infrastructure is in place for all your sites, you can then layer other services on top of that infrastructure. Services can be moved away from the local sites to a centralised location such as your datacentres, AWS, Azure or Office 365. All sites can now utilise a centralised Hosted Unified Communications infrastructure, allowing you to cancel those expensive fixed lines (BRI/FRA/PRA). And advanced features such as collaboration and video conferencing can be introduced.

With all sites connected and all services offsite, how then do you manage your security? Do you connect to Azure and Office 365 directly over the public internet or do you build private connections to these services? Do you put a firewall on each site? Do you use a centralised managed firewall, so only the traffic you want to reach the internet does and only authenticated users can use your network? Should the firewall be in your HQ or should it be hosted as well?

Key to securing your network is knowing what your network is actually doing – what endpoints and servers are talking to what, inside and outside the network. Once you have visibility of this, you can then begin to build up network profiles on what end points and servers usually connect to across the network and set up alerts for unusual behaviour. For example, a user’s machine only usually talks to the file server and Office 365, however it is now speaking to your payroll server and a public IP address on the other side of the world. In real time you can be alerted to this. Typically when you have any issue on your network or users report that the `network is slow today’, it can be painstaking to find the cause. With network profiles, security and application awareness, these can be pinpointed in real time.

For example, a user’s machine only usually talks to the file server and Office 365, however it is now speaking to your payroll server and a public IP address on the other side of the world. In real time you can be alerted to this.

The Future of Connectivity

I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.

Robert Metcalfe in 1995; Founder of 3COM and Inventor of Ethernet

It’s always risky to try to predict future trends in technology, but it’s safe to say bandwidth is only headed one way, more, more, more… As your services move offsite, redundancy and higher bandwidths will be required; and as we have seen over the last few years, the more bandwidth there is, the more of it is used.

As SD-WAN technologies mature and the pricing becomes more competitive, it will become more widely deployed, particularly for remote sites. For a brief explanation of SD-WAN, see Karl McDermott’s recent blog here.

And finally, 5G is going to be a game changer. It will offer ultra-high Gb/s of bandwidth with ultra-low latency in all locations, enabling entirely new applications to be used in real-world scenarios, e.g. connected cars, smart cities and IoT everywhere.

To summarise I recommend examining whether your connectivity is:

  1. Robust and diverse
  2. Secure
  3. Managed

Of course, I also recommend talking to my team, 3Connected Solutions, to ensure that it is.