Matching Your Value to a Carrier-Support Mode‪l‬

 

Network complexity, industry consolidation and cost compression have affected carrier customer-care levels over the last decade. Lightstream’s Mark Feil decrypts the reasons behind this shifting landscape and outlines concrete steps businesses can take to find the right balance between connectivity, price and customer care.

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Reducing the Complexity of Securing SD-WAN Environments

In today’s remote-working world, many enterprises are transitioning to software-defined networking in their wide area networks, or SD-WAN, in place of traditional MPLS-based WANs. Is it any wonder network and IT professionals are fully embracing SD-WAN? Where they once had to deal with the challenges caused by an architecture overwhelmed by an ever-increasing load of data and devices, IT departments now are able to increase bandwidth, improve connectivity, and enable multicloud applications via a single, centrally managed WAN edge platform.

MPLS-based wide area networks allowed for centralized security policy and enforcement across the organization. While SD-WAN enables lower latency and faster access to cloud and SaaS applications, it also raises significant security issues. If a corporate enterprise has 200 locations, transitioning to an SD-WAN topology now expands the footprint of locations that must be secured, audited and monitored from a handful of data centers in the MPLS world to all 200 locations in an Internet-based SD-WAN architecture. That’s a tremendous burden for IT leaders to take into consideration as they are not only deploying a new WAN architecture, but they also must make sure it is properly secured. So as SD-WAN fosters tremendous transformation, it also increases the potential for major vulnerabilities within the organization.

SD-WAN topologies enable greater network visibility and centralized management of the distributed network This in turn allows IT personnel greater insight into the applications traversing the WAN between locations as well as to the Internet. When properly secured, SD-WAN enables “internal” network segmentation on an organization’s WAN without forcing all Internet-based traffic to flow through the headquarters location. However, it is imperative that additional security tools be implemented. Networking and security technology have come a long way, but still there is significant room for advancement. No cybersecurity infrastructure is perfect, and that fact is proven daily by the number of successful cyberattacks experienced by businesses worldwide.

As organizations increasingly move to the cloud, many have turned to a cloud access security broker (CASB) or one of the cloud-based caching, proxying, and security devices to confront data security and governance challenges. Secure access service edge (SASE) frameworks have been gaining traction as these are designed to connect and secure geographically dispersed branches and other endpoints to an enterprise’s data and application resources, whether internal, cloud-based, or Internet-based. Despite – or perhaps due to – this rapidly emerging technology, it is more important than ever for IT teams to come together to determine where to do the appropriate level of security introspection and inspection.

The Convergence of Security and Networking

Where security and network procurements were once handled separately, network and security decisions increasingly are being made at the same time and more often with the same solution, according to Gartner. It predicts that as part of a desire to minimize branch sprawl, more customers will look to partner with vendors that offer a combined security and networking solution or as part of a broader ecosystem.

Likewise, this convergence is prompting convergence of networking and security teams. Frequently the question is who owns the SASE product set? The answer: it doesn’t matter.

Securing SD-WAN can be a complex and overwhelming undertaking, and one that should not be initiated without networking and security teams joining forces long before the SD-WAN is deployed. The two teams must collaborate on how to take the organization’s architecture and security posture from its current state to where it needs to go for future growth and success. Three steps to get started include:

  1. Evaluate Your Services Chain
    Analyze your edge services chain to identify what network functions need to be supported and integrated into the SD-WAN. By analyzing what components need to be physical, virtualized or combined/collapsed, your organization can determine if a single SD-WAN appliance will meet the need or whether a more complex deployment model is needed. Be sure to look at it from the lens of security, including regulatory compliance.
  2. Identify Must-Have SD-WAN Security Capabilities
    Learn the different security features of various SD-WAN vendors and line them up against your organization’s requirements. Some must-have security capabilities include policies for on-demand security, encryption, distributed denial-of-service DDOS protection, unified threat management (UTM)/firewalls, and threat intelligence.
  3. Fill Security Gaps
    Address missing security needs with managed services. 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, and best practices for security and industry-specific compliance. 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.

The Case for Outsourcing

As SD-WAN adoption expands, there is a surge in managed service providers augmenting the enterprise IT staff. Organizations are finding that they must refocus valuable internal IT resources to carry out their core goals. The software-defined nature of SD-WAN lends itself to leveraging third-party providers that can alleviate the burden on overworked IT staff. The smartest IT leaders will turn to a provider with expertise in network, security, and cloud to gain 360-degree visibility into network and security actions as well as cloud governance

 

 

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.

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.

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The Evolution of the CIO: The Convergence of Technology and Operations and How Enterprises Must Adapt

In a recent report entitled Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond, a Gartner contributor boldly stated that by 2024, 25% of traditional large-enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.” No one can argue that as enterprise processes have become digitized, today’s CIOs are being challenged to shoulder many tasks that traditionally fell under the operations umbrella. Over the past few decades, technology has helped streamline processes and create efficiencies across the enterprise, making IT support integral to every organizational silo, from marketing to finance to customer support.

How the role of the CIO changed in 2020

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations worldwide to rethink the way they do business. IT teams scrambled to set up remote working capabilities for the majority of staff, which was no small feat from an operational standpoint. As we enter 2021, many are still successfully working from home thanks to operational controls, technology and the support staff that maintain it.

All of this has taught us how important ‘composability’ is in business. According to Gartner, one of the keys to enabling business success in 2021 and beyond, is to engineer your organization for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty. That means accelerating digital business initiatives so that you’re able to quickly and smartly react to external circumstances and optimize business processes accordingly.

Companies that are cloud natives already have an advantage. However, as CIOs are increasingly being called on to enhance operations and help make their organizations more nimble, they have less time to focus on important initiatives such as cloud management and security.

The impact of digital transformation in the enterprise

External pressures are forcing the C-suite to evolve, and new roles keep popping up in response to this digital transformation. The organizational silos that have always existed are now becoming somewhat obsolete. Enterprises that were once vertical in nature are being flattened by digitization. As they become more horizontal, they’re increasingly resistant to the vertical roles that once governed them.

So how are business leaders supposed to overcome these challenges and equip their organizations with the composability they need to accomplish future goals? In the wake of such a drastic digital conversion in 2020, how do you build a C-suite that works with this new model? Who should report to whom? And finally, how should CIOs think differently in the coming year? Future-proofing the enterprise won’t be easy, and it will likely require significant changes.

Closing the gaps in what technology can do and what your business wants to do

Since people are often opposed to such change, it is not recommended that an internal leader conduct such a drastic shakeup. Instead, it is recommended that you engage a project management organization or other third-party consultant to analyze your business and technical processes. It’s also wise to partner with a culture consultant who can bring an outside view and help facilitate a smooth transition. You may find that outsourcing some of your IT services will free up your CIO and support staff so that they can focus on their core business which is now heavily centered on enhancing operations.

When outsourcing, it’s best to find a partner with multiple views of the environment in order to address any gaps in service. Keep in mind that what you knew yesterday about the tech stack is not necessarily what you’ll need to know in the future. IT professionals should no longer consider themselves purely technologists but rather business optimization professionals, and outsourcing the baseline technology set will allow for that shift. The ideal partner can expertly manage your cloud environment and provide value through technical and operational best practices, cost optimization and a specific focus on security and compliance.

While Gartner’s view is that the roles of CIO and COO will merge in the coming years, it is unlikely that internal IT teams are ready for a total transformation. The breaking down of operations and IT silos has been a very slow process that may never be complete. Some CIOs don’t believe it would be entirely appropriate, as there are still many COO responsibilities that do not quite fit into the CIO’s business model. So, we may see a new title taking over this role in the future. As with everything, there will be early adopters such as cloud-native businesses and others where the bulk of operations are already in the digital environment, as well as organizations such as those operating with legacy systems that may never adopt it.

The bottom line is that a CIO’s role, and that of its support staff, is no longer just about technology. Holistic thinkers know that as we move forward, the focus should be more about the overall business and culture of an organization. COVID-19 forced the operational model to change overnight, and it’s impossible to go back to the way it was before. The past year highlighted how CIOs can drive digitalization across the organization — and how their shift in focus from purely IT to contributing to overall business operations is integral to future success.

To learn about how Lightstream can help your organization overcome complex technology convergence challenges through a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services, visit www.lightstream.tech.

Lightstream Helps Major Software Provider Achieve Business Growth with AWS Even During Pandemic

Industry:  Technology

Cloud Managed Services Empower MasterControl through Business Optimization, Cost Control and Enhanced Security within AWS

Business Challenge

As a leading provider of Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS), MasterControl prides itself on maintaining the highest standards of quality and operational excellence. In fact, the organization’s cloud-based QMS system is titled MasterControl Quality Excellence™. With some of the largest regulatory agencies and life-science companies in the world depending on MasterControl to help them expedite the process of providing people with life-changing products, they can’t afford to leave quality and compliance to chance.

MasterControl is an innovator in the use of cloud technology and started down the path of public cloud with AWS in 2010. They eventually became overwhelmed with the day-to-day contractual management of AWS and sought out a technology provider that could help them streamline processes, fine-tune security and contain costs. They found that partner in Lightstream, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner that offers a variety of services to assist organizations in assessing, designing and managing their AWS environment.

Over the years, Lightstream has helped MasterControl to find better ways to grow their business with AWS while controlling costs. Lightstream’s assistance with onboarding new accounts and achieving savings discounts has enabled the company to overcome obstacles as they bolstered software development initiatives. AWS and Lightstream supported MasterControl as the company expanded into Europe and Asia Pacific, which expansion was made much faster and more seamless due to the cloud.

As most business leaders know, this magnitude of expansion is almost always accompanied by growing pains. MasterControl’s IT team found that it was being stretched thin and no longer had time or sufficient resources for the ongoing monitoring needed to detect potential cloud security issues. They had to find ways to manage security and reduce cloud spending as they worked to establish a strong global presence. Travis Ruiz, Director of Cloud Services at MasterControl, once again collaborated with long-time partner Lightstream to come up with a solution.

Solution

Lightstream knew that its Cloud Managed Services offering could provide MasterControl with enhanced financial optimization along with the security oversight that is critical in order for the company to prosper even during times of crisis. Cloud Managed Services helps companies to improve the day-to-day administration and management of their cloud infrastructure through a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services. Lightstream’s gold level service package identifies changes that must be made in MasterControl’s cloud environment for security, technical and financial optimization. Lightstream then implements the changes necessary to remediate the financial aspects of those optimizations, while MasterControl’s in-house team is able to remediate any security and technical issues Lightstream detects.

Lightstream negotiated an Enterprise Discount Plan (EDP) with AWS on behalf of MasterControl in order to achieve a considerable expense reduction. Cost optimization measures have been amped up with additional savings plans and in-depth reviews and revisions to its Reserved Instances contracts. Extensive tagging features and Lightstream Connect customized reporting were established to help the company save time and gain greater visibility while analyzing expenditures and appropriately allocating costs.

Business Outcomes

Since Lightstream began providing Cloud Managed Services to the company in 2017, MasterControl has been able to meet their stringent budget constraints, even during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Like most organizations, MasterControl faced many challenges in 2020 as customers weren’t as active as they once were, which was negatively impacting the company’s revenue stream.

Financial Optimization

Despite this, they’ve managed to stay on track with the help of an eight percent discount on AWS costs along with additional savings. A dedicated team at Lightstream has ongoing interaction with MasterControl’s executive officers, regularly delivering detailed reports and savings summaries that demonstrate how Lightstream is helping the company reduce expenses.

Enhanced Security

MasterControl’s internal IT team is able to focus on keeping its cloud environment safe and secure with the help of Lightstream’s ongoing monitoring, analysis and reports that give insight into potential technical and security threats and concerns that must be remediated.

Business Growth

While MasterControl’s cloud journey with AWS propelled the company’s international growth, Lightstream has ensured business optimization and significant ROI along the way. Lightstream has helped MasterControl to scale down spending without lowering their high standards for quality, compliance and security. The company has managed not only to remain viable during this tumultuous time, but it’s starting to grow again even in the face of an economic downturn.

As MasterControl continues its steady expansion, Lightstream is unwavering in its promise to add value and foster growth within the AWS cloud environment. Lightstream stands ready to support MasterControl well into the future, with ever-broadening service offerings that can continue to help it succeed in its quest to maintain the highest standards of quality, safety and operational excellence.

What MasterConrol had to say:

“We appreciate that Lightstream goes above and beyond to enrich our AWS cloud environment. Our long-term partnership with them has allowed us to keep customer success and innovation at the core of our operating philosophy without compromising on the cost and efficiency of our cloud infrastructure. We’re on track for continued growth with cloud technology firmly at the center of our product and services map.”

-Travis Ruiz, director of cloud services at MasterControl

Why IT is rethinking Best of Breed Management tools

Most of today’s IT leaders take a Best of Breed approach to procuring solutions and toolsets for their enterprises. They seek out the top-tier providers for each service, whether it may be for bandwidth, managed network, managed security services, managed firewall, or endpoint protection. The commonly held belief is that by partnering with the leading vendor for each service, they can build an end-to-end IT environment that’s bullet-proof. Makes sense, right? Not exactly.

While it’s very common for silos to develop within infrastructure and support, it can create major obstacles for already strained IT departments. Co-managing multiple systems and vendors with little cross connectivity and integration between each is a complex and resource-draining process.

Inevitably, each provider has its own shared responsibility model that they strictly adhere to. Each model is unique, and they do not communicate or compromise with other service providers to make up for their inherent differences. This leaves considerable disparities and gaps in service that internal IT departments are required to fill in. Furthermore, deploying and maintaining an app that works within each of these environments can be extremely complicated and time consuming.

Real-world scenario #1

A major retail website experiences a breach in its data security. This breach causes millions of buyers to have their financial records exposed to the public Internet. Individuals scramble to disable accounts, dispute unauthorized charges, change passwords, and expedite getting new credit cards. Meanwhile, fingers are pointed at the retailer and the reputation of their brand is at stake. The company’s cloud service provider promptly releases a statement that due to the nature of its shared service model, the breach was due to no fault of its own, but rather the result of negligence or an error made by the managers of the retail site. In addition to helping its victimized customers, the retail company is faced with significant legal consequences followed by months or even years working to restore its reputation. The painful reality for this company is that all of this could have been avoided by having a single provider manage its network and cloud security and eliminate the gaps in service that put customer data at risk.

Real-world scenario #2

A tier 1 manufacturing company has a global network they are being forced to operate in a remote work environment due to restrictions caused by the Covid19 pandemic. From the CTO’s perspective, they are having problems with supporting business units with network outages and moves, adds, and changes. They believe they are in need of a network services provider, however that provider must be able to seamlessly work with their other IT vendors. They soon discover that while it is possible for different service providers to work with one another, it comes at an exorbitant, unnecessary cost to their internal IT department. In short, the enterprise’s disparate vendors – all working in silos – are causing network connectivity problems, security issues, and an overly complicated move/add/change process.

A practical solution

By taking an integrated, “big picture” approach in each of these scenarios, the right service provider can customize an end-to-end solution that consists of any combination of bundled services. For instance, the manufacturer originally seeking network services is offered a comprehensive solution consisting of network and managed services, managed firewall, and managed endpoint security. Going forward, they will have one NOC handling any potential issues and ensuring their environment’s uptime. A single SOC to examine security and mitigate any potential threats. One provider managing all aspects of their IT environment with one single interface for them to work with. When presented with an integrated solution that is single-handedly responsible for Managed Security Services, SOC as a Service, SD-WAN solutions, and NOC as a Service, this customer has an “Aha!” moment. As the solution is being rolled out, the organization is looking forward to working within a safer, more streamlined environment designed to eliminate service gaps and help them realize greater efficiencies while cutting costs.

Expert advice

More than ever, IT departments within organizations are being burdened by securing and retaining talent, procuring and maintaining toolsets, and overcoming budgetary constraints. To assist with this arduous process, the experts at Lightstream recommend taking a 3-step approach to their solution procurement strategy.

First, recognize the challenges your organization is having difficulty overcoming. Next, have a general idea of what the solution to your problems might be. And finally, understand the roadmap for your technology. Will a mobile workforce be a factor in the future? Where is your enterprise currently, and where would you like it to go? Don’t be afraid to use a whiteboard mentality, and don’t be constrained by what you think technology can offer. Clearly articulate your goals and allow the provider to come up a customized solution that supports all of your business units globally.

The current pandemic has forced us all to think differently about the future. It has exposed challenges across industries and within telecom and IT, it has exposed gaps in the network community. In this new world, customers are struggling to promote connectivity and security in networks that weren’t designed to support mobile workforces. Security has been forced to take a back seat, and network capacity is being stretched very thin.

It is critical to partner with a provider who understands all of this and who can customize a solution to not only help you overcome your current challenges, but who can also help you reach your future goals.  Contact us to learn more about Lightstream’s integrated offerings and how we can help you simplify the procurement process and decomplicate your IT environment.