It’s time to rethink cybersecurity.

For many years, organizations have focused their security efforts on endpoint protection. Firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection and anti-spyware tools are all effective to a point, but they are failing to stop the vast majority of threats.

A recent ServiceNow survey of 300 chief information security officers found that 81% are highly concerned that breaches are going unaddressed and 78% are worried about their ability to detect breaches in the first place. IBM’s 2017 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index reported a 566% increase in the number of compromised records in 2016 compared to the previous year. FireEye reported that the average time it takes an organization to detect an intrusion is over 200 days.

Endpoint security measures will only become less effective as the number of endpoints proliferates. Smart phones introduced a whole new class of threats, and the internet of things (IoT) will add billions of endpoint devices to networks over the next few years, many of which have weak or no security.

That’s why cybersecurity, in the words of Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, “needs to start in the network.” The approach that Cisco is championing recognizes the reality that breaches today are inevitable but that they needn’t be debilitating. The increasing popularity of security operations centers shows that IT organizations are shifting their attention to creating an integrated view of all the activity on their networks – including applications, databases, servers and endpoints – and adopting tools that can identify patterns that indicate a breach. For example, multiple access attempts from a certain IP address or large outbound file transfers may indicate an intrusion, and that activity can be stopped before much damage is done.

Fortunately, technology is evolving to support the network-centric approach. Big data platforms like Hadoop have made it practical and affordable for organizations to store large amounts of data for analysis. Streaming platforms like Apache Spark and Kafka can capture and analyze data in near real-time. Machine learning programs, when applied to large data stores like Hadoop, can continuously sort through network and server logs to find anomalies, becoming “smarter” as they go.

And the cloud presents new deployment options. That’s why security is rapidly migrating from dedicated hardware to cloud-based solutions using a software-as-a-service model. Grandview Research estimates that the managed security services market was worth more than $17.5 billion in 2015, and that it will grow to more than $40 billion in 2021. As organizations increasingly virtualize their networks, these services will become integrated into basic network services. That means no more firmware upgrades, no more site visits to fix balky firewalls and no more anti-malware signature updates.

It’s too early to say that the tide has turned favorably in the fight with cyber-criminals, but the signs are at least promising. It’s heartening to see Cisco making security such important centerpiece of its strategy. Two recent acquisitions – Jasper and Lancope – give the company a prominent presence in cloud-based IoT security and deep learning capabilities for network and threat analysis. The company has said that security will be integrated into every new product it produces going forward. Perhaps that’s why Robbins has called his company, “the only $2 billion security business that is growing at double digits.”

Take a unified approach to Wi-Fi security!

For many organizations, Wi-Fi access is no longer a luxury. Employees need flexible access as they roam about the office, and customers and partners expect to connect whenever they are on site. But providing unsecured access opens a host of potential security problems if access points aren’t rigorously monitored, patched and maintained. As the number of access points grows, it’s easy to let this important maintenance task slip.

Security teams are so busy fighting fires that preventing maintenance is often overlooked. Kaspersky Labs recently analyzed data from nearly 32 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world and reported that nearly 25% had no encryption at all. That means passwords and personal data passing through those devices can be easily intercepted by anyone connected to the network.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are one way to keep things secure, but 82% of mobile users told IDG they don’t always bother to use them. The profusion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) options encourages this. Gartner has estimated that by 2018, 25% of corporate data will bypass perimeter security and flow directly to the cloud.

The Wi-Fi landscape is changing, thanks to mobile devices, cloud services and the growing threat of cyber attacks. This means that Wi-Fi security must be handled holistically, with a centralized approach to management and an architecture that integrates both endpoint protection and network traffic analysis. Cisco has spent more than $1 billion on security acquisitions since 2015, and it has put in place the necessary pieces to provide this integration.

Cisco Umbrella, which the company announced last month, is a new approach to securing the business perimeter that takes into account the changing ways people access the internet. Umbrella gives network and security managers a complete picture of all the devices on the network and what they are doing. For example, by combining Umbrella with Cisco Cloudlock Cloud Access Security Broker technology, organizations can enforce policies customized to individual SaaS applications and even block inappropriate services entirely. They can also block connections to known malicious destinations at the DNS and IP layers, which cuts down on the threat of malware. Umbrella can even discover and control sensitive data in SaaS applications, even if they’re off the network.

Cisco’s modernized approach to security also uses the power of the cloud for administration and analysis. Cisco Defense Orchestrator resolves over 100 billion Internet requests each day. Its machine learning technology compares this traffic against a database of more than 11 billion historical events to look for patterns that identify known malicious behavior. Defense Orchestrator can thus spot breaches quickly so they can be blocked or isolated before they do any damage. Thanks to the cloud, anonymized data from around the Internet can be combined with deep learning to continually improve these detection capabilities. Predictive analytical models enable Cisco to identify where current and future attacks are staged. In other words, Cisco’s security cloud gets smarter every day.

Umbrella can integrate with existing systems, including appliances, feeds and in-house tools, so your investments are protected. It’s built upon OpenDNS, a platform that has been cloud-native since its inception more than a decade ago. It’s the bases for Cisco’s security roadmap going forward.

A great way to get started with Cisco Umbrella is by revisiting protection on your Wi-Fi access points. We know Cisco networks inside and out, so let us put you on the on-ramp to the future of network security.

Account of the NetApp Insight 2016 Conference

The 2016 Edition of NetApp Insight took place in Las Vegas from September 26 to 29.
Again this year, NetApp presented its ‘Data Fabric’ vision unveiled two years ago. According to NetApp, the growth in capacity, velocity and variety of data can no longer be handled by the usual tools. As stated by NetApp’s CEO George Kurian, “data is the currency of the digital economy” and NetApp wants to be compared to a bank helping organizations manage, move and globally grow their data. The current challenge of the digital economy is thus data management and NetApp clearly intends to be a leader in this field. This vision is realized more clearly every year accross products and platforms added to the portfolio.

New hardware platforms

NetApp took advantage of the conference to officially introduce its new hardware platforms that integrate 32Gb FC SAN ports, 40GbE network ports, NVMe SSD embedded read cache and SAS-3 12Gb ports for back-end storage. Additionally, FAS9000 and AFF A700 are using a new fully modular chassis (including the controller module) to facilitate future hardware upgrades.

Note that SolidFire platforms have been the subject of attention from NetApp and the public: the first to explain their position in the portfolio, the second to find out more on this extremely agile and innovative technology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiL30L5h2ik

New software solutions

  • SnapMirror for AltaVault, available soon through the SnapCenter platform (replacing SnapDrive/SnapManager): this solution allows backup of NetApp volume data (including application databases) directly in the cloud (AWS, Azure & StorageGrid) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga8cxErnjhs
  • SnapMirror for SolidFire is currently under development. No further details were provided.

The features presented reinforce the objective of offering a unified data management layer through the NetApp portfolio.

The last two solutions are more surprising since they do not require any NetApp equipment to be used. These are available on the AWS application store (SaaS).

In conclusion, we feel that NetApp is taking steps to be a major player in the “software defined” field, while upgrading its hardware platforms to get ready to meet the current challenges of the storage industry.

Olivier Navatte, Senior Consultant – Storage Architecture

Review of Télécom 2016

This was the 13th edition of this annual event organized by Comtois-Carignan. ESI Technologies participated in the Industry Day on Tuesday April 26 during which 34 presentations on topics related to telecom, IT and contact centres were offered.

For a third consecutive year, we presented a conference this time on threat evolution and data protection. Installing security devices such as firewalls or first-generation IPS was before common and sufficient to protect organizations against threats that might affect the operations of a company’s activities. Today, the rapid evolution of malicious activity requires installing new solutions to better protect our assets. Our presentation provided an excellent overview of these solutions: next generation firewalls and IPS, protection systems against advanced threats, security for web browsing, email security and unified authentication services.

Participants were able to ask questions about these pioneering technologies, protection solutions that provide control and visibility to better react to a threat detected in the environment.

During the industry cocktail, 42 partner booths were available for participants to discuss technologies and service offerings. This cocktail formula is highly appreciated by participants, giving them the opportunity to discuss and share views on presentations of the day.

If you missed the ESI presentation, please contact us so we can share its content with you.

Roger Courchesne – Networking and Security Practice Manager

Where’s the promised agility?

The world of technology solutions integrators has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.

Customers are more educated than ever before through access to a world of information available on the Internet. It is estimated that 80% of customer decision-making is made online before they even reach out to us. This is not just true of our industry. The Internet is now woven into the fabric of society and clients now go to the veterinary clinic with the belief that they already identified their pet’s disease since “the Internet” provided them with a diagnosis!

agility380w_0What about the promises of industry giants? Simplified IT, reduced OPEX, increased budgets for projects instead of maintenance, etc.?

How can we explain that we don’t witness this in our conversations with customers? How is it that we still see today clients who have embraced those technologies also admit they are now faced with greater complexity than before? Perhaps the flaw comes exactly from the fact that 80% of decisions are made based on well designed and manufactured web marketing strategies…

Regardless of the technological evolution, the key it seems is still architecture design, thought with a business purpose and IT integration strategy tailored to your specific needs with the help of professionals. Just as a veterinarian is certainly a better source of information than the Internet to look after your pet…

For over 20 years, ESI designs solutions that are agile, scalable and customized to the specific needs of organisations. ESI works closely with customers to bridge the gap between business needs and technology, maximizing ROI and providing objective professional advice.

Cloud’s Biggest Challenge: Data Sovereignty Laws

Cloud technologies are now integrated in the solutions used by companies: the promise of standardization and simplification without regard to physical or geographic boundaries, meets the requirements of corporate flexibility for an access to data anywhere, at all times on all their devices.

This explosion of virtualized data now requires countries to legislate to protect their citizens’ data, and forces cloud providers to implement practices which respect increasingly strict rules of governance, requiring from companies that collect, use and store data to keep them in the country where they were collected.

Organizations rely on the expertise of cloud solution providers but the best technology does not exempt them to think and plan, as ultimately they remain accountable for their data, no matter where they are hosted. Organizations have the responsibility to respect the laws of the countries where they operate.

How can we ensure to deal with a cloud provider who complies with the laws of the country?

It is the organization’s duty to establish proper governance rules and controls to ensure compliance of solutions in place. If technology is an invaluable resource, you must not make the mistake of being influenced by a specific solution. In other words, do your homework!

Data_Center-1024x682Create your roadmap – Where do you plan to expand your market? In case of expansion, start to gather information on the laws in force in the target countries to know the restrictions imposed by their legislation to assess what it will cost you to comply with them.
Learn about your cloud provider – Where is your data stored by the provider? Does it respect your governance rules? Is the provider able to provide proof?
Assess the strategic importance of compliance – Compliance with governance rules is not the same for everyone. How important is data protection to your business and how many resources are you willing to dedicate to it? You can manage data sovereignty on your own, or entrust it to an external provider.

Canadian integrators and datacentre providers are the way to go to give companies the option to do business with partners who understand the needs of their stakeholders, close to where they do business.

Patrick Naoum, Executive Vice-President – Strategy, Alliance and Client Solutions

See on this subject the article by Mike Ettling, President of SAP SuccessFactors: http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/26/the-clouds-biggest-threat-are-data-sovereignty-laws/

The IT Catch-22

OK, so everyone’s taking about it. Our industry is undergoing major changes. It’s out there. It started with a first architecture of reference with mainframes and minicomputers designed to serve thousands of applications used by millions of users worldwide. It then evolved with the advent of the Internet into the “client-server” architecture, this one designed to run hundreds of thousands of applications used by hundreds of millions of users. And where are we now? It appears we are witnessing the birth of a third generation of architecture, one of which is described by the IDC as “the next generation compute platform that is accessed from mobile devices, utilizes Big Data, and is cloud based”. It is referred to as “the third platform”. It is destined to deliver millions of applications to billions of users.

3rd platformVirtualization seems to have been the spark that ignited this revolution. The underlying logic of this major shift is that virtualization allows to make abstraction of hardware, puts it all in a big usable pool of performance and assets that can be shared by different applications for different uses according to the needs of different business units within an organization. The promise of this is that companies can and have more with less. Therefore, IT budgets can be reduced!
These changes are huge. In this third platform IT is built, is run, is consumed and finally is governed differently. Everything is changed from the ground up. It would seem obvious that one would need to invest in careful planning of the transition from the second to the third platform. What pace can we go at? What can be moved out into public clouds? What investments are required on our own infrastructure? How will it impact our IT staff? What training and knowledge will they require? What about security and risks?
The catch is the following: the third platforms allows IT to do much more with less. Accordingly, IT budgets are reduced or at best, flattened. Moving into the third platform requires investments. Get it? Every week we help CIOs and IT managers raise this within their organization so that they can obtain the required investments they need to move into the third platform to reap the benefits of it.

Give me your backups!

image7Backing up data is at the heart of the activities of all businesses. However, the current legislation in the countries where companies are doing business requires respect to strict governance rules in order to comply with the agencies that regulate the markets and ensure the probity of organizations and their activities. One of our clients got a visit from anti-corruption officers, who requisitioned their backups months ago. The nature of the methodology used by the client for their backups is not conducive to find information quickly for the officers, preventing them to give back the copies to the client… To remedy this situation for the future, our client seeks to purchase an archiving solution to not only comply with the law, but above all to be able to recover their data in a reasonable time.
Businesses require increasingly archiving solutions to enforce governance regulations.

Companies are required to cooperate with the authorities and answer of their actions at all times. That’s what the compliance archiving solution provides. It is characterized by the ability to conduct legal research through the history of emails, attachments and files of the company. It also provides a methodology to protect relevant data on legal hold and easily export that information for the people requesting it.

The cost of inaccessibility to the company’s backups, the time required to retrieve the data, perform a search of suspicious documents and start the process over for the next time, is much more expensive than having a compliance archiving system that will perform the same task in minutes instead of hours or even days or weeks. The value added math is simple for our clients.

Michel Rail, Senior Consultant – Architecture & Technologies

What about Big Data & Analytics?

After the “cloud” hype, here comes the “big data & analytics” one and it’s not just hype. Big data & analytics enables companies to make better business decisions faster than ever before; helps identify opportunities with new products and services and bring innovative solutions to the marketplace faster; assists IT and helpdesk in reducing mean time to repair and troubleshoot as well as giving reliable metrics for better IT spending planning; guides companies in improving their security posture by having more visibility on the corporate network and identify suspicious activities that go undetected with traditional signature-based technologies; serves to meet compliance requirements… in short, it makes companies more competitive! One simply has to go on Youtube to see the amazing things companies are doing with Splunk for example.

BIG-DATA-1I remember when I started working in IT sales in the mid 90’s, a “fast” home Internet connexion was 56k and the Internet was rapidly gaining in popularity. A small company owner called me and asked “What are the competitive advantages of having a website?” to which I replied “it’s no longer a competitive advantage, it’s a competitive necessity” and to prove my point I asked him to search his competitors out on the Internet: he saw that all of his competitors’ had websites!
The same can now be said of big data & analytics. With all the benefits it brings, it is becoming a business necessity. But before you start rushing into big data & analytics, know the following important facts:

  1. According to Gartner, 69% of corporate data have no business value whatsoever
  2. According to Gartner still, only 1.5% of corporate data is high value data

This means that you will have to sort through a whole lot of data to find the valuable stuff that you need to grow your business, reducing costs, outpacing competition, finding new revenue sources, etc. It is estimated that every dollar invested in a big data & analytics solution brings four to six dollars in infrastructure investments (new storage to hold all that priceless data, CPU to analyze, security for protection etc.). So before you plan a 50,000$ investment in a big data & analytics solution and find out it comes with a 200,000$ to 300,000$ investment in infrastructure, you should talk to subject matter experts. They can help design strategies to hone in on the 1.5% of high value data, and reduce the required investment while maximizing the results.

Charles Tremblay, ESI Account Manager

Cloud adoption: getting through the maze

Companies can no longer ignore the increasing importance of cloud computing when planning their technological investments and that they must choose from the options available on the market. Evaluating products and services based on the needs of the organization, not only for today, but above all for the future, is quite a challenge!CLOUD_READINESSBeyond the technological considerations (product compatibility, required investment, scalability of existing systems, etc.) there are the evaluation of the different providers and the services they offer, as well as the costs associated to their use. The best known cloud solutions on the market may seem attractive because they have a high visibility, often with a recognized brand, which is perceived as a guarantee of reliability. The savings announced by these solutions and their accessibility are often decisive criteria when the time comes to make a choice. It is however almost impossible to assess the real costs of these solutions, because several important variables remain unknown: the price of retained data, the cost of download per Gb, pricing for transactions, etc.
Cloud offerings are diverse and are not equally suitable for all businesses. Some heterogenous environments are not easily transferable and it can be risky, if not impossible, to migrate to the cloud without a fundamental transformation of the architecture and the ways of making within the organization. Caution is therefore required when undertaking such an important turn. Do not see cloud computing as a simple upgrade to a more powerful technology, but as a business strategy. This demands a thorough evaluation of existing processes and of the legal and technological framework of the company, coupled with an action plan with clear goals to achieve.
Few companies have an IT team able to perform the necessary analysis of current processes in the organization and of the technological and governance challenges related to them.
It is in this context that specialized integrators provide a valuable contribution to the company’s thinking. A trusted partner will help you assess your needs and your cloud adoption process to optimize your investments while reaching your business goals.
Benoit Quintin – ESI Cloud Services Director