Security developers have been combining solutions into a single device for some time. The claim is that bundling solutions makes security easier to deploy and manage. Today, the latest trend is a “converged platform,” a new technology buzzword being adopted by vendors that claims to be combining networking with security. Such claims can be very enticing.
True convergence is powerful. A converged platform enables network modernization by extending security to every part of the network and seamlessly adapting to the shifting network. A converged platform also reduces overhead by eliminating dozens of separate management consoles. Rather than purchasing new networking technologies in a silo, a security-first approach that integrates security with the network expands visibility, allows policy and configurations to be orchestrated centrally, and enables issues to be detected and resolved in real-time.
Ownership Is Not Convergence
These clear advantages are why so many vendors today are promoting their point solutions as a converged platform. But the truth of these purely marketing-driven claims is that most “converged” platforms only focus on a niche use case and fail to address the entire network, which can span campus, distributed data centers, private and multi-cloud environments, as well as branch offices and remote worker locations. By limiting the scope to only one part of the network, these solutions create more complexity and increase the risk of cyber incidents.
Actually delivering on the promise of a converged platform takes decades of organic innovation with security and networking convergence in mind. As any engineer can tell you, bringing in the mature code base of an acquired technology and trying to integrate it with an existing code base is nearly impossible. The level of interoperability required by today’s hybrid networks can only be achieved through converged solutions that have been built organically using the same foundational codebase.
The Best-Converged Platform Begins With a Common OS
Consider essential networking functions like LAN/WLAN controllers, 5G, ZTNA, and SD-WAN. These functions enable end-users to access distributed resources like data and applications and seamlessly collaborate across the network. But because user and device access, connectivity, and maintaining optimal user experience require constant adjustment, security often lags behind network changes. This creates security gaps that can easily be exploited. Similarly, network changes and expansions that do not include security in the decision-making process can inadvertently introduce serious risks.
Addressing these challenges requires convergence. Modern networking technologies like SD-WAN, 5G, LAN/WLAN controllers, and ZTNA can be blended into the same offering using the same codebase inside a network firewall as the foundation for a converged platform. Building SD-WAN inside a firewall, for example, produces a very different solution from trying to wedge two completely different solutions into a platform. Instead, security gets automatically woven into the DNA of the SD-WAN solution. In that way, connectivity and security aren’t just tightly coordinated. They are the exact same product.
A converged networking and security platform, where organically developed solutions are built on the same expansive codebase, can seamlessly address secure networking, zero-trust access, cloud security, and network and security operations. This platform then needs to be made available in all form factors, including appliances, virtual machines for multi-cloud, containers, and SaaS-delivered. That way, when that platform is deployed on different edges, its solutions continue to operate as a single system, enabling consistent connectivity and policy enforcement. And as data, devices, workflows, and applications move across the continually changing network landscape, organizations can track, optimize, and protect data, applications, devices, and workflows end to end. In the same way, advanced services and advanced automation can be seamlessly integrated into the platform and coordinated across on-prem and in the cloud, helping to prevent threats at-scale
Hybrid Networks Require Converged Solutions
The convergence of the network with security is so crucial because digital acceleration is driving the rapid distribution of workers, devices, and data. And as they are dispersed, the only thing holding everything together is the network. And regardless of what’s being said, these hybrid networks are the future as far as anyone can see. Even cloud-only strategies still need an on-ramp. Data and applications need to span multiple clouds and poorly secured home networks. And most network environments will be in a constant state of flux.
In this environment, traditionally isolated networking and security solutions will never be able to keep up, let alone manage and secure connections and applications that span network environments. And worse, cybercriminals will have a field day as the network continues to expand by introducing new, and often temporary, edges that pseudo-converged solutions can’t address. Of course, tools bundled together in a platform that work together more closely than before are certainly an improvement. But they are a temporary fix that will not solve this problem, at least not for long.
And that’s where most manufacturers claiming to offer a “converged platform” built around a collection of acquired technologies are doing a disservice to their customers. Because when it comes time for implementation, organizations who buy them will still be unable to realize the automation, management, orchestration, and interoperability advantages of a truly converged platform.
Learn more about how a converged platform is the only way to effectively combine network modernization with dynamic security that can seamlessly span every part of the network and adapt in real time to any changes the business requires.
John Maddison has more than 30 years of executive management experience in the Cybersecurity and Telecommunications Industries. He joined Fortinet in 2012 to lead Cloud/SaaS Security development teams and is now the Chief Marketing Officer and EVP Products. He previously held executive leadership positions at Trend Micro focused on Advanced Threat Research and Cloud Delivered Security Services. He started his career with Lucent Technologies Mobile Division, Hewlett Packard Software and Cable & Wireless Global Networking. John holds a B.S. degree in Telecommunications Engineering from Plymouth University, United Kingdom.