Lightstream Launches the Complification Podcast Series

Salt Lake City, UT, February 10, 2021 – Lightstream, a leader in cloud security, network transformation, and managed services, today announced the launch of its new podcast series: Complification. The series streams on Apple and Spotify and is available on Lightstream’s website.

Complification is defined in the Urban Dictionary as complicating an issue that has a simple solution. The Lightstream Complification Podcast Series sheds light on that notion for Information Technology (IT) professionals. It features experts and thought leaders in cloud, security, and networking and dives into how organizations are adding complexity to their IT, and what to do about it. The first four episodes include:

So Many Tools, So Little Time

  • More than ever, IT departments are being burdened by securing and retaining talent, procuring and maintaining toolsets, and overcoming budgetary constraints. Lightstream’s Mark Feil discusses why IT leaders should be rethinking deployment of best-of-breed management tools and pushing back on Managed Service Providers to deliver better value despite these constraints.

The Top Three Security Mistakes You’re Making in Microsoft Azure

  • With its scalable structure, pay-as-you-go pricing and 99.95% SLAs, it’s no wonder Microsoft Azure is a long-time leader in the IaaS space. With all of this flexibility and reliability comes responsibility, especially around security. Lightstream’s Ty Annen shares three common Azure security mistakes and what to do about them.

Got SD-WAN? Great! Now Let’s Talk About How to Secure It

  • SD-WAN is fueling the customer experience and transforming modern networking. It is also pushing distributed Internet connectivity, which introduces security vulnerabilities if not addressed properly. Lightstream’s Kurt Richter and Rafal Los combine their deep networking and security expertise into a powerful podcast on the intricacies of SD-WAN security and a 360-degree view of how to address it.

Bringing Cloud Security and Application Modernization Together

  • Modernizing your applications has many roadblocks, not least of which is the simple mental roadblock of getting the job done. Lightstream’s Ty Annen offers clear insight on how to break down the task while ensuring that cloud security remains an essential piece of the puzzle. Hint: there’s no need to surf eBay for network cards.

About Lightstream

Lightstream provides full-service cloud, connectivity, and security solutions to enterprises worldwide with a focus on managed services for all three, as well as cloud infrastructure implementation, security, and support.

Lightstream is an AWS Security Competency Partner, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, a Microsoft Cloud Platform Gold Partner with Security Competency, and was named Palo Alto Networks Public Cloud Partner of the Year in 2018 and 2019. Visit us at http://www.lightstream.tech or LinkedIn.

Media Contact

cynthia.lawton@lightstream.tech

Top Security Predictions that WON’T (But Should) Happen in 2021

If you’re scoffing at the predictability of a trend-related blog post in January, we couldn’t agree more. In an effort to be slightly less predictable, we’re taking a different approach by letting you in on what the cyber security community predicts will not happen this year. Industry veteran and Vice President of Security Strategy at Lightstream, Rafal Los recently took to social media to ask, “What’s the thing that probably won’t happen in cyber security in 2021?” Some of the responses from his followers were expected, others, not so much. So, without further ado…let’s take a look at their anti-trends for the coming months.

Tied for #1: Password Elimination & Meaningful Asset Management

Let’s face it, passwords and asset management seem like they’ve been a thorn in the side of the security industry since the invention of the computer. In fact, the first computer password was developed in 1961 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for use with the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS). Yet 60 years later – long after CTSS has given way to the modern Windows and OSx systems in use today – the general consensus is that passwords won’t be going away anytime soon. What is driving this skepticism?

For starters, we still don’t have a better way to protect our personal and enterprise data. Thumb prints and facial recognition are promising, but they still haven’t proven themselves to be ironclad. Adding to that are the security challenges COVID-19 has forced enterprises to overcome. With many companies now operating in work-from-home (WFH) environments and the very real possibility that this will be an ongoing strategy in the post-pandemic economy, remote workers are at a huge risk for identity-related breaches. Corporate IT is struggling to maintain control of computer-related assets, including software, unauthorized devices and loss of security.

Knowing that passwords are here for the foreseeable future and that asset management has never been more challenging, 2021 presents an opportunity for IT leaders. This is a critical time to adopt new ways to improve the identification, tracking and management of employees, applications and devices that access resources.

#2: Widespread Zero Trust Adoption

It’s hard to argue that the adoption of Zero Trust principles is anything but required for cybersecurity to advance. So, despite Zero Trust being at the foundation of Lightstream’s offerings, and what analysts and professionals feel is the future of security, there appears to be a lack of confidence in it being widely adopted in the coming months. It could be that many see Zero Trust as a tool or a widget to be installed – when in fact it’s a rethinking of the way systems interact and behave. Zero Trust goes at the root of security – identity and data – oddly the two things cyber security understands the least. There is something of significance here, but we’ll save that for a future article.

Enterprises should widely embrace a model that shuns the assumption that everything behind the corporate firewall is safe, or that there is such a thing as “behind the corporate firewall” anymore. The security of every organization depends on a new way of thinking, and the Zero Trust model of “never trusting, always verifying” would be hugely beneficial in an environment where remote working is becoming the norm. Lightstream’s Managed Security Services platform incorporates automation, Zero Trust concepts, best practices and industry-specific compliance to help IT leaders manage costs effectively, reduce complexity and improve the efficiency and efficacy of data center, network and cloud security.

#3: Fully Patched Environments/Systems

“Patching. It was a problem in 1999, and the social media responses prove that it continues to be a problem in 2021. What makes this such a difficult task?” ponders Rafal Los. Patching is the process of applying ‘fixes’ to existing deployed software packages, most often from the vendor, when flaws are identified and resolved. Similar to applying a physical patch to a garden hose to prevent water from leaking out, the purpose of the cyber security patch is to cover the vulnerability, keeping attackers from exploiting the flaw. Much like how water usually finds a way to break through that patch in your garden hose, attackers are experts in finding ways to circumvent applied patches when the underlying cause is not fully remediated. Therefore, enterprises must ramp up their vulnerability management strategies in the coming year.

The process of identifying, categorizing, prioritizing, and resolving vulnerabilities in operating systems, enterprise applications (whether in the cloud or on-premises), browsers and end-user applications is no small feat. It’s an ongoing process that requires considerable time and resources, which makes it an initiative that enterprise IT might best consider outsourcing.

#4: Elimination of Phishing

It’s clear that no one expects phishing to go away, nor do we expect people to stop clicking on phishing lures – yes this includes you, security professionals. So, it’s not a huge shock that this is among the anti-trends predicted for 2021. Phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated every day, so it’s imperative that corporate IT do their best to stay one step ahead of attackers. This may involve taking a multi-faceted security approach to lessen the number of phishing attacks and reduce the impact when attacks do occur.

#5: Unification of C-Suite & Security Professionals

There are many cynics in the cyber security industry that see a lack of executive accountability (with the exception of the Chief Information Security Officer). This threatens to further deepen a dangerous rift between security professionals and the companies/boards they support. Therefore, there is a major opportunity for companies to develop strategies to ensure accountability “goes both ways,” as we like to say.

#6: Effective Use of Machine Learning

People are still broadly skeptical of Machine Learning in cyber security. This subset of artificial intelligence has been significantly hyped since its inception, yet it still hasn’t fully come to fruition. Rafal Los considers that while it sounds exciting, perhaps we might be a bit premature in the belief that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions without human intervention. Besides, we’ve all seen what happens when machines become “artificially intelligent” – and we’re pretty sure we don’t like the ending of that movie.

Other Notable Anti-Predictions

There were several other responses to Raf’s social media posts worth mentioning. While you’d be hard pressed to find someone that expects the number of breaches to go down or malware volume to decrease, they surprisingly didn’t make it into the top six predictions. Could that be due to industry optimism, or perhaps it’s just that we’re all tired of talking about these topics? On the flip side, the elimination of WindowsXP systems made the top 10, which is astonishing since it officially became unsupported way back in 2014 (seriously, what’s it going to take?).

Software-security-related items appear several times, making it obvious that there are some who still have little faith in software security. Rafal Los blames the contentious relationship between security professionals and developers. According to Raf, a typical security professional/developer exchange [still] goes something like this:

Security professional: “You’re doing it wrong.”

Developer: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Show me.”

Security professional: “It’s not my problem. Fix it.”

Clearly, this is another area where there is major room for unification in 2021.

Contact Lightstream to find out how we can help you unify strategies to build secure, generational capabilities that can help your organization accomplish its goals for 2021 and beyond.

Got SD-WAN? Great! Now Let’s Talk About How to Secure It

SD-WAN is fueling the customer experience and transforming modern networking. It is also bringing the internet to all of your locations, which can introduce security vulnerabilities if not addressed properly. Lightstream’s Kurt Richter and Rafal Los combine their deep networking and security expertise into a powerful podcast on the intricacies of SD-WAN security and a 360-degree view of how to address it.

 On Apple 

 On Spotify

SD-WAN Benefits in the Time of COVID

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Enterprises globally have had to shift their operations and shut their offices to help slow the spread of the disease. The result: In the blink of an eye, millions of employees tapping corporate networks and applications that mostly reside in the cloud from their home-based remote offices.

To say this this work revolution has been a strain is certainly an understatement.

Ill-prepared businesses are having to adjust to this new norm while ensuring they can secure, support, and manage their remote users and avoid unpredictable user experiences in the last mile. At the same time, security is more important than ever as corporate data moves into unsecured spaces.

This “forced” digital IT transformation in just under two months has had a notable impact on enterprise networking. In fact, an IDC survey of 250 large-to-medium-size companies in June found that almost half of all respondents—48%–reported they will increase investment in advanced automation platforms to reduce the manual management of the network.

These new challenges highlight why now is the perfect time for enterprises to consider an SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network) architecture to power their businesses and networks. SD-WAN is a WAN overlay architecture that allows enterprises to leverage any combination of transport—including MPLS, dedicated Internet, broadband, and LTE services—to securely connect users to applications.

SD-WAN improves cloud and on-premise application performance by optimizing enterprise network connectivity, in turn maximizing user experience and boosting productivity.  SD-WAN platforms also provide greater visibility into what’s happening across the network. At the same time, SD-WAN solutions can proactively recognize and remediate many network issues in real-time, thus reducing impact to productivity and collaboration.

A Higher Level of Service & Agility

SD-WAN gives enterprises a higher level of service and more intelligence into what the WAN is doing. That means when the enterprise tasks the CIO with adding features such as live streaming across the WAN, SD-WAN provides that flexibility, often with little to no intervention required from the IT organization.

SD-WAN typically provides greater application intelligence, examining network traffic, identifying the application, and making classification and forwarding decisions accordingly. Network management teams can use this application-awareness to prioritize their business traffic across the entire WAN or for individual branches or remote users.

That’s key because the source of application and network issues across a network can be considerable. Branch information can be collected and centrally processed in the SD-WAN policy engine and technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence can perform a proactive diagnostic of network reliability or application performance.

All of this can save IT organizations significant time and effort in deploying, reconfiguring, and troubleshooting, improving the remote IT operational experience as well as the end user experience.  In short, by employing SD-WAN, enterprises can get a better handle on their connectivity, their bandwidth, their network, and their applications—allowing businesses to operate smarter and more efficiently, especially during this new remote era.

Security Considerations

While greater application intelligence and visibility can be useful for security teams, SD-WAN technology can also open the door to security challenges if not property addressed.

Because SD-WAN solutions bring distributed Internet to multiple locations within an enterprise, firewall technology is necessary to keep data and applications safe. Many SD-WAN providers have already integrated firewall technology and other security features into their products. Industry consolidation between SD-WAN providers and security providers is also on the rise, such as Palo Alto Network’s recent acquisition of CloudGenix.

The key is to make sure you work with a partner who understands clearly how to secure SD-WAN solutions effectively with clear KPIs that work well with your IT organization.

Layering in Managed Services

The added network automation provided by SD-WAN affords organizations with significant benefits, but enterprises can further operational gains by layering managed services on top.  This allows an organization to redirect valuable IT personnel’s attention from “keeping the lights on” to activities that drive additional value to the company.

These services can range from Managed SD-WAN solutions to Managed Security Services that address security from the network’s edge all the way to the cloud, and incorporate automation, Zero Trust architecture, and best practices for security and industry-specific compliance.

To be sure, anything an organization can do to get its people doing more of what drives value to the enterprise sets a business apart from its competitors. SD-WAN is built to do just that.

From tapping an improved cloud-based delivery system to maximizing scalability and productivity to seamless security, SD-WAN will make smart businesses look, work, and perform smarter.

In these uncertain times, that can be a game changer.

 

Lightstream Helps a Large Restaurant Chain Fast Track Digitalization and Save Millions

Industry:  Retail

Managed Services for Network and Cloud Simplify Billing, Improve Bandwidth Speed and Reduce Costs

Business Challenge

Consumers have choices, especially when it comes to fast-casual dining. When people are considering restaurant options, they are looking for fast service, convenience and tasty food delivered with quality and excellence at an affordable price. And they won’t settle for less. Restaurant executives understand this. As a result, they continually strive to deliver high quality, innovative service to their customers, to stay ahead of the competition.

In today’s connected world, consumers increasingly browse menus online and place orders remotely. Restaurants need a high-performing voice and data network to accommodate these demands.

In 2015, Lightstream began working with an international fast casual restaurant chain to address several network challenges. At the time, the company had over 2,000 restaurants and was struggling with an expensive, complex telecommunications network. They were experiencing connectivity issues at the stores, and it was costing tens of thousands of dollars every month in wireless cost overruns.

Solution

When Lightstream first engaged, the team began with a thorough review of the company’s existing network infrastructure and service providers. Each store was configured with a primary connection for voice and data with a wireless 4G connection for backup, and the company used hundreds of different providers across the country.

At the restaurant level, the company’s network was designed for uninterrupted service. If the primary connection went down, service immediately switched over to the 4G network. The change happened seamlessly—users were oblivious to the failover, and service continued as usual. The network, however, was not monitored closely. The company often was unaware when a switchover occurred, and stores could operate on the 4G network for a long time, causing wireless costs to skyrocket.

Because the company had hundreds of different telecom providers, the finance organization was overwhelmed with invoices flowing in from across the organization from the various vendors. Consequently, sorting through invoices every month was time-consuming and inefficient, requiring painstaking research to ensure the billing was accurate.

To resolve these challenges, Lightstream consolidated the company’s entire telephony infrastructure, replacing them with lower cost, higher bandwidth connectivity options, and streamlined the number of providers. In addition, Lightstream added network monitoring and event management services, so that any network outages or anomalies and would be identified and resolved without any added burden on the company’s IT organization.

Since that initial engagement in 2015, the company has grown to 3,000 restaurants, and the organization’s infrastructure has evolved. Today, SD-WAN is deployed across the infrastructure, and the company has invested heavily in moving workloads to the cloud.

As the company has grown over the years and its needs have changed, Lightstream has expanded its relationship providing network monitoring, event management, telephony, field services (installation, cabling, and wiring) and cloud infrastructure optimization.

Business Outcomes

Reduced Costs / Increased Bandwidth

Working with Lightstream’s technical experts, the company consolidated its voice and data network, reducing the number of circuits and carriers and increasing bandwidth to the stores at the same time. This substantially simplified billing—reducing the number of monthly invoices from well over 100 down to one.  All of this has generated millions of dollars in cost savings.

Reduced Connectivity Problems / Improved Service Availability

In 2015, the company was struggling with excessive wireless overage charges. Lightstream’s Network Managed Services for network monitoring and event management helped solve those problems, improving service availability and reducing wireless overage costs by a factor of ten. Network Managed Services includes proactive monitoring and carrier management, managed services through the support of our 24/7 network operations center, dedicated customer service managers and optional field services.

Cloud Infrastructure Optimization

The company has invested heavily in the cloud.  Currently nearly half of its revenue comes through digital sales which depend on the cloud infrastructure.

In 2017, cloud costs accounted for about $150,000 annually. Today, due to the growth of digital sales, cloud costs have increased by a factor of more than 100.  To keep costs in check and to optimize cloud investments, the company utilizes Lightstream’s Cloud Managed Services to help them gauge monthly trends and capture billing anomalies within their environment. This helps them avoid wasteful spending accounting for nearly one million dollars annually in savings. Cloud Managed services helps clients manage the day-to-day administration and management of their cloud infrastructures with a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services.

Digital sales are expected to grow as consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before. As a result, the company continues to invest heavily in cloud and rely on services from Lightstream to help optimize cloud infrastructure costs, while delivering better user experiences for their customers.

 

 

Larry H. Miller Dealerships Supercharges Network Infrastructure with SD-WAN

Business Challenge

As a large organization with 65 car dealerships spread across the western United States, keeping everyone connected in real time was paramount. Unfortunately, LHM Dealerships’ network suffered from intermittent loss as well as frequently degraded wide area network (WAN) connectivity. This had a significant negative impact on the company’s ability to transact business and serve its customers.

These issues made applications slow or even unavailable, especially with cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) offerings, most notably the company’s dealership management software (DMS). The DMS software serves as the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) application for their car dealers, and its availability and performance are mission-critical to the organization’s sales operations.

New LHM Dealerships CIO, Michael Van Orden began to research networking options. He believed the continued emergence of software-defined WAN showed promise as an enterprise-level solution for his organization. In fact, LHM Dealerships used an early example of SD-WAN technology from a different vendor. The company decided that their fast-growing business needed an enterprise-class network infrastructure. After evaluating a variety of products in this nascent market, in June 2019 LHM Dealerships decided VMware SD-WAN was the right fit.

Solution

After deciding on VMware SD-WAN, the network team at LHM Dealerships engaged Lightstream for a proof of concept (POC). This initiative took place from August to October 2019 and was deployed at two data centers, LHM Dealerships headquarters, and three dealership locations. The project completely replaced the older networking platform with the new VMware SD-WAN solution at these three dealerships.

LHM Dealerships saw the VMware SD-WAN advantages immediately. Staff remarked on the improved network visibility at the dealerships involved with the POC. This enhanced monitoring capability wasn’t possible with the older networking technology.

The POC was, however, not without its challenges. For example, shortly after the migration, one of the dealerships began experiencing VoIP handset reboots and call drops during business hours. LHM Dealerships engineering staff, Lightstream engineering personnel, VMware support, and the telephony vendor support converged on the problem and ultimately identified the issue as outdated telephony code resulting in non-standard Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) formatting that was thus incorrectly matched by the VMware traffic policy engine. Once identified, the problem was easily remediated on the telephony platform. The two dealerships on a different, newer telephony solution experienced no such issues. Other issues surfaced throughout the POC which were identified, diagnosed, and resolved by the combined LHM, Lightstream, and VMware teams.

Stress-testing VMware SD-WAN also offered a few insights during the project. The project team engaged multiple video streams, data traffic, and phone calls at one of the dealerships in the POC, essentially flooding the branch site with network traffic. The VMware SD-WAN logic prioritized the network traffic per their requirements with no end-user problems.

The team then disconnected one of the two primary network circuits. They could see the remaining circuit flooded with all the traffic but the software again prioritized the packets. And even though some video was delayed, the prioritized voice phone calls and data requests to the data center were not affected.

Next, the team disconnected the remaining primary circuit and all traffic rolled over to the standby cellular network. VMware handled the transition so well, the phone calls didn’t even drop while rolling over to the standby cellular network, handling all the extra bandwidth traffic and disconnects with no issues. In the end, a successful POC led to a full rollout of VMware SD-WAN across LHM Dealerships’ entire network infrastructure.

For the full rollout of the VMware SD-WAN platform, the LHM Dealerships and Lightstream team formulated an aggressive project plan. The goal involved installing the new networking solution in the rest of the company’s 62 dealerships by the end of 2019, while accounting for blackouts during peak holiday periods. An aggressive timeline was required to ensure a successful project outcome. The project team began the implementation in the second week of October, with a projected completion date of December 23.

Business Outcomes

The LHM Dealerships networking team immediately noticed the tangible benefits of the VMware SD-WAN solution. Van Orden highlighted the enhanced availability, redundancy, and intelligent application optimization enabled by the VMware SD-WAN Dynamic Multipath Optimization™ (DMPO) algorithm across a hybrid WAN consisting of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), broadband Internet, and 4G/LTE paths. “We no longer had to manually direct traffic flows across individual circuits,” said Van Orden, “The VMware SD-WAN platform just figures it all out dynamically on its own, while allowing us the freedom to override in special cases if we wish.”

Operationally, Lightstream provides full managed services on the infrastructure, including carrier event management, as well as Tier 3 network architecture and operational support. Even though the infrastructure now self-heals by adjusting around network or hardware failures, Lightstream’s managed services ensures such failures are quickly identified, diagnosed, and remediated, thus preventing end-user outages resulting from the confluence of an unremediated failure coupled with a future failure.

Since deployment of the VMware SD-WAN solution, LHM Dealerships reports no infrastructure downtime, arguably the most important metric of any network. “Through multiple tests as well as unplanned outages with a hard-down primary WAN circuit,” Van Orden noted, “the built-in forward error correction (FEC) still optimizes the traffic with one circuit. When both primary circuits go down, the redundancy provided by the VMware SD-WAN platform seamlessly performs a rollover to a wireless cellular circuit serving as a backup.”

LHM Dealerships also highlighted how the VMware DMPO algorithm helps network circuits optimize their applications, ensuring bottlenecks never cause performance issues for critical applications. Additionally, the enhanced monitoring capabilities provided by the VMware SD-WAN Orchestrator coupled with Lightstream’s managed services makes troubleshooting and resolving any network problem a simpler and faster process.

The next-generation software-defined VMware infrastructure benefits both LHM Dealerships and its customers. Previously, a customer in a dealership waiting room streaming Netflix programming potentially caused network performance issues for the mission-critical operations. Now, LHM Dealerships can keep the guest wireless access on a separate segment and configure that segment with a lower network priority, while guaranteeing top priority for critical company functions—a positive “customer experience” on multiple fronts.

Customer Quote:

“It’s just opened our eyes to things we haven’t seen on our network before, and facilitates a lot of troubleshooting that we’ve been able to do without the need to have a CCIE on staff.”

Michael Van Orden
CIO, LHM Dealerships