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Keeping protection at the right level during rapid data growth

Napatech : 06 November, 2015  (Special Report)
Dan Joe Barry, VP of Positioning at Napatech explains how network appliances trends and strategies affect the Data Growth Curve
Keeping protection at the right level during rapid data growth

IBM reports that 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years. This would be enough of a network onslaught in itself, but the data is also coming in faster than ever before. The security implications for this torrent of data are clear. The need for increased throughput has led to a greater penetration of 100G networks in an effort to support high-bandwidth services. Heavy Reading recently conducted a survey regarding this trend, asking communications service providers (CSPs) and network equipment providers (NEPs) about their views on both traditional hardware and virtualised network appliances.

According to the survey, providers are very interested in developing and deploying virtualised network appliances. One of the key findings of the survey is that the market for network appliances is strong; 47 percent of respondents ranked network appliances as essential, while another 39 percent ranked them as valuable. However, there is a fundamental transition taking place in the network appliance space, driven by increased transport network throughput and the impact of virtualisation.

Traditional Security

The survey first investigated alignment between CSPs and NEPs for traditional hardware-based security appliances. They were asked to identify which specific security functions they had developed/deployed, or were likely to in the future. In this case, the top three functions already developed or deployed were firewalls (85 percent), intrusion detection/prevention systems (71 percent) and security information and event management systems (56 percent).

Additional functions that ranked high on the list included data loss prevention systems (55 percent), security gateways (52 percent) and universal threat management systems (49 percent), which Heavy Reading interprets as representing the fact that traditional security appliances have been both developed and deployed to support a number of critical network security functions.

Rapid Growth Trajectory

In an effort to outpace cybercriminals and keep their networks safe, organisations have been hard at work establishing software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) in the last three years – with dozens of successful proofs of concept and even limited-scale network deployments. Another key survey finding is that the impact of NFV and SDN on network appliances will be profound and positive overall. The impact is considered positive because the survey input clearly shows that, with virtualised network appliance growth on the rise, both NEPs and CSPs see a continued need for network appliances in a 100G virtualised world.

The deployment of 100G has brought about increases in data network throughput at all levels, which will lead to a dramatic increase in the number of 100G transport networks. For example, CSPs forecast 100G data rates penetration in access networks to grow from nine percent today to 58 percent by the end of 2018 – a mere three years away. In the same time period, growth for core transport networks is projected from today’s 22 percent to 75 percent. CSPs also anticipate growth in penetration from 14 percent to 71 percent in metro networks.

In three years, then, transport networks will have much greater throughput to support high-bandwidth services – a tipping point from a service delivery perspective. Heavy Reading attributes this sharp growth spike to the preliminary impact of early 5G network upgrades to support the high capacity this new technology will consume.

Making the Transition

In the shorter term—just within the next year—CSPs that are using mostly 1G (39 percent) and 10G (36 percent) technology in access networks plan to deploy 10G technology, largely at the expense of 1G. By mid-2016, CSPs forecast that the penetration of 1G gear will experience a steep drop from 39 percent to 13 percent, while 10G will experience strong growth from 36 percent to 47 percent. 100G adoption will occur from there, experiencing the greatest increase from 2017 to 2018.

Hardware acceleration will remain the backbone of SDN and NFV. This is driving the development and deployment of a new class of virtualised hardware acceleration platforms and appliances. The functions that NEPs and CSPs see as the most desirable areas are acceleration of virtual functions (57 percent), switching (53 percent) and appliances (43 percent).

It logically follows that 73 percent of network operators plan to deploy virtualised appliances within a 12-24 month window, and 71 percent of vendors plan to develop and deliver virtualised appliances to market within this same window. The survey revealed that the first wave of virtualised security appliances functions has already been developed and deployed, including firewalls (43 percent), intrusion detection/prevention systems (30 percent) and security gateways (28 percent).

The top three technical challenges concerning carriers in the survey were security, throughput and latency, which is not surprising considering the looming 100G tide ready to break on their shores.

Performance remains the sticking point. Today’s virtualised solutions are struggling to contend with 10G speeds. 100G means 10 times more data delivered 10 times faster with 10 times less time to react. Can the current performance trajectory deliver this kind of improvement by 2018?

A Faster, More Secure Network

Vendors are just now creating and deploying physical appliances able to support 100G. The challenge for 2018 is to successfully virtualise these physical appliance solutions and still maintain the same performance and reliability. Fortunately, the vast majority of appliances are already based on the same standard server platforms forming the infrastructure basis for NFV, and 100G appliances are no exception. The issue is ensuring that the right data input/output capacity is available to handle 100G speeds and data volumes when making the transition to NFV infrastructures.

The current data deluge is not going to subside. It will only get bigger and faster, and
CSPs and NEPs are preparing accordingly. This survey reveals that they value both hardware and virtualised appliances to help optimise the performance of their NFV-enabled virtualised networks. A network that can ingest huge volumes of data at high speeds is a more secure network, and many providers are positioning themselves for success in the 100G era by virtualising critical network functions and using a judicious mix of hardware and virtualised accelerators.

About the author:

Daniel Joseph Barry is VP Positioning and Chief Evangelist at Napatech and has over 20 years experience in the IT and Telecom industry. Prior to joining Napatech in 2009, Dan Joe was Marketing Director at TPACK, a leading supplier of transport chip solutions to the Telecom sector.  From 2001 to 2005, he was Director of Sales and Business Development at optical component vendor NKT Integration (now Ignis Photonyx) following various positions in product development, business development and product management at Ericsson. Dan Joe joined Ericsson in 1995 from a position in the R&D department of Jutland Telecom (now TDC). He has an MBA and a BSc degree in Electronic Engineering from Trinity College Dublin.

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