After fifteen quiet years, the WAN is in a state of flux. Because it touches everything, WAN architecture and design is central to an effective business strategy. Mike Wood, VP of Marketing, VeloCloud explains
It was not so long ago that we were being exhorted to “align IT with the business objectives.” It was a sign of maturity at the end of the pioneering days of IT for IT’s sake. But digital technologies have been fundamentally transforming business processes and strategies, and not just in terms of newer, Internet-based operations like Amazon, Uber and AirBnB. A growing number of bricks and mortar companies are embracing digital technology for their market-facing operations – even when their back offices are still invoicing business partners by snail-mail.
This calls for another rethink of IT strategy. Companies that expect the IT department to wait while the next round of business objectives are being discussed will soon find that the tail is wagging the dog. It is no longer just a question “how can IT help?” but rather “what can IT make possible?” This calls for a closer fusion between IT strategy and business strategy, perhaps best described as a digital business strategy. For any large or dispersed operation, WAN architecture and design will be central to such a strategy, because the WAN touches and links every part of the organisation.
Can WAN architecture accommodate such change? Between the 1980s and 1990s the WAN saw major technological changes: TDM, Frame Relay, ATM, MPLS and later Carrier Ethernet. Since that time little had changed in the fixed WAN, even as cellular was forging ahead from 1G to mobile 2G, 3G to LTE.
Today’s business requirements are dictating a demand for even greater agility to adapt to rapid changes in the market, the economy and society. So the WAN too must be able to respond quickly to business and technological changes. We are no longer talking about a fixed system like a road network linking scattered sites: the need now is for a flexible and responsive software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN.
Rating the WAN
How do we judge responsiveness? It is determined by the WAN’s ability to maintain certain criteria in the face of rapid changes in the business environment. These criteria include:
- Acceptable levels of application performance and availability. This requires not just the acceleration of the accessibility and delivery of applications, but that voice and video traffic should arrive at the right speed without issues.
- The ability to take raw data and synthesize it into a simplified monitoring and management function that allows rapid analysis and remediation of problems is key. The more complex the system, the more important it is to clearly distill network activity.
- Network assets need to be protected at all costs and IT managers need to have the ability to tailor security to need and criticality, wihtout losing agility.
- Cost effective WAN services – it goes without saying.
To get an idea of the relative perceived importance of these criteria, Dr. Jim Metzler, co-founder and principal analyst at Ashton, Metzler & Associates, did a survey on top factors as perceived by business – Figure 1.
As expected, security was rated as the number one factor – but cost, real-time applications and access to public cloud services followed quite closely. Of these the most dramatic increase was for access to public cloud services – an evolution that only began in the last couple of years.
How well does the current WAN architecture meet the needs outlined in Figure 1? In reviewing Figure 2, we see that a mere 3% of all respondents are totally unsatisfied. However, in view of the critical importance of the WAN to business today – and even more so tomorrow – a more telling observation is that only a third of the sample was more than “moderately satisfied.” The real significance of this fact is that it suggests that at least two thirds could be open to exploring alternatives , such as SD-WAN.
Also noteworthy in the survey data, is the topic of primary concerns. The table in Figure 3 compares MPLS and Internet connectivity and shows the complementary nature of the two services. Security was the biggest concern for the Internet, much more so than for MPLS, where cost headed the list. Uptime and latency took second and third places in each case while lead-time to implement new circuits was a much higher concern for MPLS than for Internet.
The last big evolutionary change to the WAN was MPLS, but now we suddenly have a lot of options for flexibility with the introduction of software-defined concepts in the form of SD-WAN. How do we find our way around these?
One of the key questions is about where the SD-WAN functionality should be hosted – in the cloud, on premises or where? Figure 4 shows the result of Dr.Metzler’s survey (NOTE: The survey allowed multiple answers; aggregate percentages total more than 100%).
The most significant finding is the large proportion – nearly half of those surveyed – who were open to hosting functionality in the cloud. Years ago this was unheard of as the preference was to house key services on-premises. In comparison, one-third of respondents still want all WAN functionality in-house. Other options include hosting in a co-location facility, a CSP’s office or other.
In-house hosting supports the DIY mind-set that still predominates. When Dr. Metzler surveyed preferred implementation options, 54% wanted to do it themselves, and yet 42% were happy with a managed service and 27% a NaaS offering. This larger overall total reflects the number of managed services currently being marketed, plus the broader acceptance of outsourcing in the IT world today. This openness also means that people are more willing to change vendor, increasing the competition for market share and to continously deliver an ever expanding list of services, as seen in Figure 5.
In the past, people were more cautious about new technology and tended to wait until it became available from their preferred vendor: Figure 5 shows that this preference is still true and yet 22% would actively look for other vendors, and a further 27% are prepared to make some effort to explore elsewhere. This is a significant shift in the conservative culture that has dominated the WAN this century: it suggests that people are exploring options and are more receptive to new technology like SD-WAN.
How clear are the benefits from SD-WAN? Metzler asked the same sample what were the perceived drivers and inhibitors – Figures 6 & 7.
The drivers were clear and expected (Figure 6). This is a sign of a consistent, mature market proposition. Unlike the birth of most new technologies when everyone is articulating varying market messages, the benefits of SD-WAN seem to be well understood and this is no doubt a consequence of the success of software-defined networking in the data centre. People understand the basic principle, but that does not mean that they accept that it is ready for market – see Figure 7. Here we see a significant resistance with a third of those surveyed not thinking the products are proven enough, and even a quarter are still not sure that the technology is mature enough for adoption in their network.
Nearly a third also fear that it would add complexity. Too often a new solution that has a claim to make things more simple turns out to be difficult to implement: the path to future simplicity itself turns out to be complex. This is clearly a concern that vendors must address, and the ones that can promise a simple, seamless transition to SD-WAN, ones that really will make life easier, will have a big advantage. An additional point is the 18% limited by contractual constraints: this is surprising as a typical pilot SD-WAN scheme does not require significant changes like ripping out MPLS links, and it is not the sort of upgrade that would be made without several months of exploratory pilot projects.
10 Considerations for SD-WAN Implementation
In summary, there are ten considerations when planning to adopt SD-WAN :
- Location of WAN functionality – if you opt for cloud, then it will determine to which providers you will speak
- Customer Premises Equipment – do you prefer to install hardware or utilize VNFs
- Use of cellular services – adds great flexibility, but also has OpEx implications
- Visibility – for monitoring, troubleshooting and maintenance
- Security – this must increase with adoption
- Real time application support – a fundamental driver for remote offices
- Cost, and CapEx/OpEx models, eg pay-as-you go services
- Policy – what is the level of difficulty in implementing business policies
- Quality of Service – Optimization of jitter, latency, etc. to match business needs
- Automation – the ability to roll out changes to a wide range of branch office sizes
…and 9 steps to getting there
- Identify the focus – Branch offices, mobile workers, IoT, etc.
- Identify the goals – establishing a realistic prioritisation of considerations as not everything can have the same level of priority
- Agree on the extent of the analysis – this could mean agreeing on deadlines, limiting the length of reports and not getting mired in detail
- Management buy-in – Make sure that management agrees and accepts the above focus, goals and depth
- Choose an effective project team according to goals and focus – identify the necessary members of the team to execute the project appropriately and assign respective members to work on the project
- Choose vendors – Identify a clear focus and goals and choose vendors based strictly on this criteria
- Evaluate alternative solutions – determine if there are other solutions that may solve the existing problems
- Manage existing contracts – consider how existing contracts and their related costs will impact your selection and time to deploy
- Build a winning business case on the above
BNP Paribas joins forces with Orange Business Services to deploy SD-WAN for 1,800 retail sites in France
- Co-construction approach ensures business continuity during deployment
BNP Paribas has chosen Orange Business Services to deploy an SD-WAN solution in more than 1,800 bank branches across France. Focused on developing and integrating new digital solutions, BNP Paribas continues to provide the highest standards to improve user experience for customers and employees alike.
By integrating Flexible SD-WAN from Orange Business Services, BNP Paribas benefits from a modern and agile technological platform to accelerate its digital transformation. This enables quick and easy deployment of multiple services, such as dynamic routing and path selection, with scalability and flexibility. It also empowers administrators to monitor infrastructure performance and resolve potential network congestion through simple software modifications, thereby optimizing application performance. By deploying SD-WAN, BNP Paribas can take advantage of a fully secure hybrid network that is natively multi-cloud, multi-access and multi-application. The Bank will also benefit from optimized and centralized management and intelligent routing for its new infrastructure.
Close collaboration between business and IT for greater agility
From the start of the project, experts from Orange Business Services and BNP Paribas built the solution design together and prioritized the features to be deployed. More than 3,600 access lines—two per branch, including one Internet access line – are currently being rolled out with a focus on maintaining business continuity for each site during the migration. In addition to the SD-WAN overlay, firewalls for enhanced security are also part of this deployment.
“It was paramount for us to choose a partner who already had proven experience implementing and operating SD-WAN solutions. Orange Business Services stood out as this trusted partner. In addition to their IT expertise, the Orange teams demonstrated a great ability to understand our business challenges, and they knew what needed to be done to support our end-to-end digital transformation. This close collaboration between our teams from the very beginning of the project was one of the keys to its success and to a smooth roll out,” said Bernard Gavgani, Chief Information Officer at BNP Paribas Group.
“We are delighted to support BNP Paribas in their transformation program and deploy the first large-scale SD-WAN project in the retail banking industry for the French market. An indepth understanding of our customers’ business needs is essential to co-develop customized and innovative solutions. Orange Business Services will continue to accompany BNP Paribas’ central and local teams to learn and develop their SD-WAN skills,” said Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi, Executive Vice President, French Major Clients at Orange Business Services.
How to ensure you bullet proof your IT in a hybrid finance workplace
By Caleb Mills, Chief Technical Officer at Doherty Associates outlines the dangers faced by finance and private equity firms when it comes to IT infrastructure in a pandemic. Caleb warns that maintaining security is critical as firms continue to work remotely in the current lockdown while making plans to return to the new blended workplace in 2021.
2020 was a year of rapid change – for the technology sector in particular. Virtually overnight, IT firms had to meet the growing demands of many businesses accelerating their technology plans in a bid to stay ahead of the new virtual business environment we suddenly found ourselves in. Covid-19 forced many organisations to automatically relax their security policies so that employees could operate in the remote-only world which followed the UK’s first national lockdown in March.
Can personal devices ever be compliant?
When the announcement of the first March lockdown was made, employees were sent home to work, and largely did so on their personal devices; home PCs, personal mobile devices or shared laptops. Compliance calls for organisational data to be encrypted and kept private, access to be audited and for its transmission to be only over secure channels. Many of these requirements are not met if the use of personal devices is allowed carte blanche – so it’s very likely that some firms are falling short of their compliance obligations.
Added to this is the fact that many employees do not want to allow their organisation to install management software, enforce policies, or limit their freedom on the use of personal devices. They may feel that their company is infringing personal liberties or ‘spying on them’. The most simple and effective (yet costly) solution is to issue company devices for all staff – although there may be some resistance from some to having two devices.
There is an option for controlling company data on personal devices that can satisfy some compliance requirements. Technologies now exist to allow organisational data to be kept in a separate virtual container on the device where policies around encryption and such can be enforced without contravening your employees’ privacy. The company portion of the device can be kept in a secure bubble, without enforcing rules or infringing on individual’s freedom with their own personal devices.
New risks and responsibilities
The accelerated adoption of remote working has meant many risk and compliance teams are still rushing to catch up. Many firms have not thoroughly identified the risks associated with remote or hybrid working, which continue to evolve as the constant demands for businesses change. Even those who have identified risks are likely only considering the ones they understand. In many cases, compliance teams need assistance from a cyber security expert who can help define the risks they are not aware they are taking. An expert will understand the wide and varied attack vectors and provide context and insight into how they could impact risk. The changing environment might call for updates to your IT use policy, cyber security policy, or other IT related policies.
Navigating risk and liability
The approach for managing risk must start by having a clear understanding of what your organisation’s risk appetite is. It is not possible to mitigate or eliminate all risks – there will always be some residual risk and it is important for your organisation to know what level of risk it is willing to accept.
When creating treatment plans for each of your risks, the business should consider the many different angles for controlling and mitigating. There are many technical controls which can enforce your policies, but often organisational controls such as processes or workflows can be just as effective. Choosing to adopt a program like Cyber Essentials can help to ensure that your organisation meets certain requirements. Even the very low bar of its framework can help you to ask pertinent questions about your organisation’s security posture.
Changing security boundaries
In days gone by, businesses took some comfort from knowing they had a secure network. They invested in firewalls to build a border around their network, and they trusted workers and the data they accessed to be protected against security threats. Now, many things have changed.
Data is no longer kept solely on servers in the office, it’s now stored largely in the cloud. And, thanks to Covid-19, many users are now operating outside of this safe and secure network too. The net effect of these two key changes is that the approach of building a highly secure boundary around your network no longer delivers the desired results. The post-pandemic workplace, even more so in finance and private equity, needs to be productive and secure from anywhere in the world.
The modern hacker is not just focused on defeating a firewall – they want to steal your firm’s data – and the way they achieve that is typically to hijack an individual’s identity. Modern security now focuses on protecting the data and the identity of workers by using multiple layers of security controls. This multi-layer, or “onion” approach, works on the assumption that a determined attacker can breach anyone or two layers of security protection. To keep your organisation protected, you should have multiple security controls in place to ensure coverage to help keep your environment safe.
Securing and supervising data rooms in a hybrid world
Data rooms provide a critical function by allowing third party organisations to securely access confidential data, so it’s important that the sensitivity of this is considered before embarking on any data room project. Appropriate policies about how the data should be accessed and used can then be enforced by the technology, and these clearly defined policies will allow for tightly configured security controls to limit access appropriately.
For example, data room guests might be allowed to view documents, but prevented from downloading them or copying and pasting content from them. Modern capabilities even include the ability to “timebomb” documents – for example to block access to documents after an NDA has expired.
Finally, consider taking Cyber Insurance. This can provide help with investigations, guidance on reporting to the ICO, help with public relations and communications, and help cover other expenses incurred as part of a cyber event.
The ongoing events of 2020 have changed the way we work forever. New risks and opportunities have continued to emerge through this period, and it’s ever more apparent that the world will never go back to how it worked before. Hybrid working is here to stay so we need to understand the implications and take appropriate steps to ensure we meet our compliance obligations and control risk exposure through a mixture of controls to stay ahead of the game.
Fraud prevention and user experience: how finance institutions can navigate the increasingly complex digital challenge
By Frank Teruel, Chief Operating Officer at Adara.
Well, here we go again. As Covid-19 cases continue to surge and local officials impose restrictions, brick and mortar companies are once again limited in their ability to deliver their services forcing them to double down on their remote location strategies. From curbside pickup, to Uber eats, to an “Amazon Prime” Christmas, the surge in the last 90 days has exacerbated an already difficult business environment. And banking has been no exception. In fact, the consequences have been more significant given the nature of in-person banking…just imagine the difficulties inherent in bringing that service curbside. So, what exactly has the pandemic done to banking?
With in-branch services limited, less digitally-savvy, first time, digital customers have made the jump to online banking products like Klarna for real-time loans, and digital-only bank account offerings like Starling Bank, Atom Bank, and Monzo. The move has been a digital consumer bonanza for online financial institutions which, while happy with the new customers, are left with the daunting task of determining who they are and whether to trust them.
Who are these people?
Unquestionably, the transition to digital banking has brought positive benefits to first-time users such as greater convenience and transparency, but it has also resulted in a less than desirable outcome: increasing levels of fraud and sophistication in attacks. The reality is that many of these nascent digital customers have very little on-line transaction history and virtually no digital identities as a reference point for identity and verification. Consequently, with more and more of them moving their banking online, traditional methods of determining “who is on the other end of a transaction” have been tested, and in many cases become less effective or completely obsolete. And here’s the rub; with little to no digital identities, limited transaction history, and never before seen devices, financial organisations are defaulting to more draconian verification methods…stepping up customers, challenging them with KYC questions, and generally increasing transaction friction.
Go easy on them
Yet, before we castigate the institutions in question, a degree of understanding is warranted. After all, the tsunami of new online transactions represents a significant challenge. And what’s a bank to do? If a bank falsely deems a transaction fraudulent, they are ruining a customer’s on-line experience by creating unnecessary friction which predictably leads to transaction abandonment. On the other hand, if the bank defaults to no friction and allows all of these new transaction to run, it could be a fraudster’s paradise…”free loans, credit cards, and other financial instruments on isle 3!” So, determining the person on the other end of the transaction is paramount to a customer’s experience as well as the future success of a financial institution in maintaining account holders and preventing fraud losses.
Fraud fighting is a full-time, real-time business…and it isn’t cheap!
Fraudsters learn, adapt, share insights, and then repeat the cycle. Always searching for vulnerabilities, they create new and complex methods to circumvent detection. For example, during the pandemic, banks and other on-line business are seeing a significant increase in spear phishing, cross-site scripting, and man in the middle attacks. Tack on impersonation scams, scary intrusions like the SolarWinds hack that has left government and commercial organizations scrambling, and incessant BOT attacks and its clear the velocity and diversity of attacks add a whole new level of complexity…and the dollars start adding up quickly! Not only do these attacks result in higher costs for financial organisations but they create significant brand blow back. Online businesses, especially banks, need to rethink their identity verification protocols landing on those that balance digital identity solutions that factor in identity, context, and behavior. Context is a key element to ensure a balanced approach and mitigate overreactions. Because with fraud currently surging, there is a danger that financial institutions over-correct and prevent customers from completing legitimate transactions. Organisations need to resist the urge to implement stringent measures or checks and instead they need to be smarter in rooting out fraudulent purchases in the first place.
Harmonizing Identity…the only real verification
Effective identity verification starts with harmonizing all of a customer’s disparate digital personas into one digital identity. Every customer has multiple digital personas with which they transact in the online world. For example, assuming email as the common credential denominator (along with an appropriate password), a customer may use Gmail to access Lloyds Bank, Yahoo for a Gumtree ad, and Hotmail to place a Tesco grocery order. While each of these are all different digital personas, they represent the same customer. Understanding the collective personas and associating them with one harmonized identity provides the necessary confidence as to the integrity of the identity. Next, understanding the context derived from prior transaction history, device information, location, and intent data like searches and outcome data, allows organizations to also add a predictive element to the analysis. Together, these factors help build confidence that the customer is legitimate and, equally importantly, whether to trust the customer within the context of the transaction.
The Time Space Continuum
Context can help interpret behavior that would otherwise be immediately flagged for fraud. Consider a customer that has just purchased a jacket at John Lewis using a London IP address and then immediately purchases a package tour from an IP in Reykjavik. Relying solely on the IP signals would flag the second transaction as likely fraud. However, if the person routinely uses a VPN while making transactions and using the Reykjavik IP is a known transactional attribute, then the time distance conundrum is nonexistent because the 1173-mile journey is just a quick digital hop…it’s likely legitimate and hasn’t broken the laws of physics. If it’s also determined that the customer has been searching for Iceland trips and subsequently books a flight, the tour purchase becomes even more credible because every transaction that uses those elements is mapped to that digital identity and strengthens the association between that specific transactional element and the identity’s behavior.
While one imaginary purchase is certainly not the whole picture, financial institutions need to make these decisions around fraud in an instant. Without the proper contextual information, banks and other organisations can easily flag a genuine purchase as fraudulent and is so doing, aggravate the customer and because of transaction abandonment, hand market share to their competitor. The only solution that fits the bill is to harmonize digital identities. Armed with a verified identity, deterministic facts (the customer is in London) and probabilistic measures (the customer is planning on visiting Iceland) the transaction assessment will be accurate and eliminate friction.
Use digital identities that are:
- built on global consortiums that provide a global view of a customer
- harmonized to ensure no single digital persona is compromised or acting anomalously
- provide both deterministic and probabilistic insights
- and most importantly, built on consented and permissioned data
COVID-19 and the subsequent increased use of digital banking products have opened the door to fraud. While fraudsters try to take advantage of the current situation, financial institutions can ruin their schemes by ensuring that they work with the best data partners in order to provide the context needed to verify transactions and reduce friction.
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