Cisco, Mobility and Security
Cisco has made several key acquisitions in the last few years as it looks to adapt to a business landscape increasingly characterized by BYOD-enabled mobile devices, wireless networking and cloud computing, plus the security concerns that accompany all three of those trends. It picked up enterprise Wi-Fi startup Meraki in 2012 for more than $1 billion and more recently acquired Lancope, a maker of network visibility and analytics tools with which Cisco has a long relationship.
These moves reveal the rapid evolution of Cisco's ambitious Security Everywhere strategy. The leading network equipment vendor has a unique opportunity to streamline network security mechanisms and practices, so that organizations can better defend against a wide range of threats, including the use of unauthorized cloud applications. Both the Meraki and Lancope acquisitions have given Cisco a strong technical base for pursuing such a transformation.
What's at Stake for Enterprises in Network Security: Data Control and Protection
One of the most far-reaching effects of mobile device and cloud adoption in the enterprise has been the rise of shadow IT. This term refers to the purchase and consumption of cloud services without going through the traditional processes of IT procurement.
Cisco is preparing itself for more complex networks and advanced security threats.
According to Cisco Cloud Consumption Services, the actual number of cloud services in use at the average enterprise is 15 times higher than what its CIO assumes - 730 versus 51. This disparity has real costs. For starters, there's the risk of sensitive data being migrated to a public cloud. There may also be additional overhead in network security as new processes begin popping up alongside old ones.
Shadow IT has many causes, with two of the most prominent being:
- The ease of use of many cloud services compared with their on-premises equivalents.
- The gaggle of complex, non-interoperable network infrastructures and security that many enterprises still rely on to keep their operations up and running.
Cisco has taken many steps to tackle these two issues. The Meraki purchase gave it ownership of an intuitive, cloud-based solution that could deliver fine-grained security, centralized network management and super-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi from appliances like the MX64W.
Likewise, the late October 2015 pickup of Lancope has given Cisco a foothold in real-time security analytics. The Lancope solution, StealthWatch, is well-known as a strong defense against insider data theft, thanks to its abilities to identify unusual traffic and enable the network to act as both a sensor of anomalies and an enforcer of policies.
Knowledge of what services are in use at any given time is a pillar of defense against shadow IT. Cisco has also cited the simplification of cloud management (something Meraki helps in part with) and the migration of infrastructure to hybrid cloud (which vests some degree of control in traditional systems) as other centerpieces of modern security strategy.
Many enterprises (82 percent, according to RightScale) have a hybrid cloud strategy in place as of early 2015. Similarly widespread adoption of other measures such as wireless security tools and analytics solutions may not be far behind, if Cisco's recent moves are any evidence.