Business & Technology

Service Provider Security in an Era of Software Defined Anything

By Richard Orgias | July 29, 2018

Change is a constant in the worlds of service providers. But it gets more interesting when we look at what’s changing, why, and what it means to service provider operations and their customers

This story starts with the growing adoption of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technologies. The ability to create and deliver complete portfolios of networking services in software promises unprecedented flexibility and performance at a much lower cost than previous generations of hardware building block-based networking architectures. And in the technology sector, faster/better/cheaper is always a winning value proposition.

Meanwhile, escalating concerns about cybersecurity has emerged as a key decision factor for the customer community. Customers for new generations of SDN and delivered network services have a right to ask, “How secure is it?” The result is that what customers demand quickly develops into key selling points for vendors of both enabling technologies services.

Networking and Security Services Convergence

Service Providers have been quick to respond to the demand for robust cybersecurity to support new generations of virtualized and SDN-based offerings. These new capabilities provide choice to the customer and differentiation to the provider. Services like SD-WAN are at the center of a redefinition of networking services, built around innovative software-centered technologies. In this case the same SDN approach that enables agile, low-cost networking services can also add robust security services at very competitive cost. Here, as a side note, I might add that Fortinet has become a leading proponent of Secure SD-WAN infrastructure solutions that blur the lines formerly separating “networking” and “security” product categories.

This dawning era of “Software-Defined Anything” has triggered a flurry of disruption across the IT services space. Communications services providers (CSPs), managed security services providers (MSSPs), cloud, and hyperscale service providers of all persuasions are expanding their offering menus, partnering with former competitors, competing with former partners, and blowing up their own business models.

Customers, of course, want it all. Robust security. Reliable, high quality networking. Low costs. And a rapid pace of service innovation to keep them ahead of their competitors. Customers also believe that they can best approach this nirvana when their vendors collaborate. The last thing they want is for finger pointing to dominate vendor interactions.

Multi-Level Digital Transformation

At the highest level, this is all about the worldwide digital transformation of business, society, and government relationships. Enterprise customers are surfing the opportunities and dangers of digital transformation at the macro-scale. They understand that surviving digital transformation is merely a precondition to thriving in it. The more progressive enterprises look to service providers not merely to defend their transformation programs from cybersecurity interference, but to enable business change with quantified, contained, and acceptable risks built in to the transformation program.

In the service provider economic sector, rapidly advancing digital technologies are creating some interesting times. It’s also safe to say that business conditions of 2023 will be very different than those of 2018 and those of 2028 are impossible to predict. As always, however, when the winds of change blow, leaders adjust their sails.


Read more on the Fortinet Service Provider Hub about technical and business factors relevant to successfully delivering security, networking, and IT services.