Security Options

Security Options

Dean Jones

With a host of new IP-enabled technologies – not only voice applications but also security cameras, facilities management systems, even vending machines – being introduced to corporate networks across the UK, the perception of the firewall as an ‘all in one’ security measure is now dangerously wide of the mark. These new devices must be protected from each other as well as external threats.

In the bustling security marketplace many customers are big proponents of partnering and may not want to limit how many companies can access their network.

Partners need to agree on types of encryption, anti-virus program for gateways and desktops, types of firewalls and which scanning engine to use. Even if it seems to be counterculture, security groups have to open up and talk.

Frequent audits of an extended enterprise should be a given but they are often not.

Contracts are sometimes entered into where there is no testing of the link at all.

For contracts that do clearly spell out auditing procedures, the language on how to deal with security problems and audit detects must be easily understandable. A decision must be reached on what level of incident might cause a blocking of network access until the fix is made or termination of the agreement takes place.

Before engaging the extended enterprise, IT executives should be well aware of architectural details. Resellers can go the extra mile here. You have to describe what service you are going to provide, what infrastructure is going to be used to secure that service and what monitoring will be in place to check on the service. Are you going to use proxy servers? Will you open up Port 80 between the two networks? What access to what application will be needed? Who will be able to access that application?

Security managers typically suffer a certain levelof paranoia, and that is not a bad thing. Howerver, when dealing with business partners, they need to be more open in discussing some of their security issues. It is very important that both security managers speak and collaborate before the relationship is formed, but sometimes this does not happen. Heads of IT and security within the same organisation should also be aspiring to keep the communication channels open. When there appears to be a lack of dialogue resellers can step in and play a valuable role.

If resellers are dealing with a customer who has not had experience with new legislation, they should jump at the opportunity to educate that customer.

If it appears that a customer is not communicating effectively with its partners, the reseller can demonstrate its commitment to great service by explaining the options in an easy to understand manner, and setting that customer on the right path.

An outstanding example of the need for clarity is presented by the booming popularity of IPenabled technologies. Many security officers are unaware that the traditional approach to securing the converged network leaves devices operating within the VLAN without adequate protection from each other. One company complained that a 1500- strong network of IP-enabled security cameras had been hacked into and failed to understand how this could have been achieved, since as far the IT Director was concerned all the necessary security infrastructure appeared – on the face of it – to be in place. For resellers an eye for detail is critical, but the lack of means to explain the technical details clearly can mean that all parties involved will lose out.

Embedding security into each port is the answer to securing today’s IP-enabled technologies. Resellers must take care to explain this concept in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner.

The mention of ‘network security’ should elicit a confident and enthusiastic response from the boardroom, instead of being at the root of the confusion and procrastination that we hear of so frequently. Its importance is such that a new culture of openness and verbal clarity when selling network security tools would be a welcome and refreshing change, with vendors, resellers, customers and their partners all standing to benefit greatly from the experience.

 

Boxing Clever

Some manufacturers think that this year will not only be one of the best in terms of IP telephony systems and extension growth, but also one in which applications take their rightful place at the forefront of the drive towards convergence. Peter Tebbutt, Director of Sales and Marketing at Alcatel, says that the company’s new Eye-box ICT server family will usher in a new era of business productivity for users of the OmniPCX Office IP communications platform. Owen Bridle, CTO at Avaya, concurs. The Guildford-based technologist says that customers are buying into IP not because it’s IP – “after all, who cares what protocol is being used in the network?” – but because of the business critical applications which are enabled by a networked based voice service.

Another trend that continued through 2005 and will keep going in 2006 is the consolidation happening both in the channel. 2005 saw BT acquiring Skynet and TNS in the UK, and Cara in Ireland. This year expect to see many more acquisitions of smaller resellers by larger companies. On the manufacturer side of the equation expect more deals like the joint venture between Philips and NEC announced late last year.

On the technology front, SIP will be the developments to watch during the year. Ian Sherring, IP Communications Business Development manager at Cisco Systems, spoke of the advent of SIP as a viable alternative to proprietary protocols such as SCCP (also know as “skinny”). But he warns that SIP may be caught up in the traditional technology life cycle, wherein there is first the “hill of hype” followed by the “valley of despair”, before reaching the “plain of productivity” at which point

 

Stormy Weather

But there may be a cloud on the horizon though. It is considered by some that Microsoft’s entry into the IP Communications business could have the same disruptive impact that Cisco and 3Com did in the late 90’s with their pure-play IP telephony systems. Of course every cloud has its silver lining and Mitel’s EMEA MD Graham Bevington thinks that the Redmond giant will be a welcome entrant into the market, validating all the work that has been done by Mitel to date. Others such as Paul Templeton, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Nortel, agree and are positioning themselves as allies with Microsoft. Not surprising perhaps when you consider that Mitel, Nortel and Siemens Communications already have well-written MS stories to tell. Some other manufacturers (who didn’t want to be identified) aren’t so sure that Bill Gates’ interest in their business is such a good thing. We shall see.

PS. In my December article I stated that Cisco took the number one position for enterprise telephony endpoint shipments in Q2 2005. I should have made it clear that their leadership position was in the 100 lines and above segment – i.e. that it did not include the SMB market. My apologies to MZA.

 
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