Jorge Hermosillo, Optenet: Virtual security, an added value for operators
February 2008 by Jorge Hermosillo, Optenet Alliances Director
Virtualisation enables enterprises, managed service providers and telecommunications operators to segment and manage multiple integrated security functions from a single system and interface, improving profitability and operational efficiency.
The demands of the development of high-speed broadband mean that telecoms operators have to undertake major investment programs for the deployment of their networks as demand for all forms of content increases. For Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the revenues obtained from Internet subscriptions are no longer sufficient to fund this effort, given competition and price wars between operators and government-led measures to reduce the digital divide in the Information Society. In fact, if we look at what has occurred in the most technologically advanced countries, such as the US and Japan, all the signs are that an Internet connection will become an essential service. Therefore, in order to ensure they receive sufficient return on their investment, operators are finding they need to offer added value services to connections (clean bits), evolving from mere ISPs to Managed Service Providers (MSPs). In this context and in view of the rise in demand for security services in recent years, many operators have added this model to their marketing repertoire and, by expanding the services offered by Managed Security Services (MSS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, they have enabled the security outsourcing model to develop.
According to Gartner, this new business model has excellent prospects. Not without reason does the consultancy predict that In-The-Cloud (ITC) and SaaS-format security services will rise to 30% of MSS and by 2012 will account for 10% of the security market. Furthermore, Gartner forecasts that ISPs that do not offer ITC security services by 2009 will lose 10% of market share per year compared to operators that do. ITC applications (in-the-cloud Internet protection that does not require installation on machines but that provides contractual guarantees on protection against threats arriving – or leaving – via e-mail or unauthorised websites) are designed and optimised from the beginning for use over the Internet.
Nowadays, through the development of innovative virtualisation methods, it is possible to provide security software as if it were a service. This strategy grants telecoms operators a high-performance platform for offering: virtual security services to large enterprises, SMEs and MSSPs with multiple domains and networks and with specific administration profiles for each domain; scalability to offer the performance necessary to support thousands of virtual networks or millions of end users; and the modularity that can only be achieved through a complete security suite that integrates various security services (firewall, antivirus, intrusion detection and prevention, antispam, antispyware, traffic analysis, etc.). Through this, the ITC provider has a standard application with which to provide services to large numbers of clients over the Internet, without them having to install any additional software. Additionally, above a certain volume there are economies of scale as the same service is offered to residential and business users.
Similarly, ITC enables SMEs to access applications that until now were restricted to large corporations due to their high cost. Paying a subscription to access a service is attractive to businesses as it frees them from the effort involved in purchasing, installing and configuring the hardware and software necessary to set up an IT service in their own organisation. The purchase of equipment and software are entered directly on the company’s balance sheet, whereas a subscription to a service is recorded as an expense. ITC also enables users to enjoy the latest versions of applications without having to worry about updates as these are carried out by the provider. Other concrete benefits for the client are:
1.- Security. Centralises and protects computing environments, including remote users with laptops, mobiles and other wireless devices. Enables clean and instant restores of an infected system. Safeguards the integrity of corporate data, even if a device or hard disk is lost or stolen. Centrally controls access and use of applications.
2.- Business continuity. Facilitates migration of software, making it extremely useful as a solution for recovery from disasters. Reduces the downtime required for equipment maintenance.
3.- Greater business agility. Virtualisation “detaches” the business processes from physical hardware, enabling organisations to respond more quickly to changes in demand. This leads to faster deployment of new products and services. It also reduces equipment compatibility problems.
4.- Consolidation and better use of servers. Companies can combine the workload of multiple underused physical machines into a single system. This drastically reduces total hardware expenditure since it demands fewer servers for the same application load.
5.- Competitiveness. Enhanced ability to achieve service levels, reduced administration costs, greater capacity to support old or legacy systems on modern computers without the need for an update. Also facilitates the deployment of complex applications, generates fewer technology costs and optimises use of space.
According to Gartner, costs related to investment and maintenance in companies not using virtualisation will be approximately 30 percent greater than in those that do apply virtualisation technology. It offers a new approach to protecting the integrity of content, whilst providing businesses with greater flexibility over how, when and where to apply security services to its users.