Industry Trends

Converge Networking and Security to Get the Most Out of 5G

By Jonathan Nguyen-Duy | May 27, 2021

Companies across industries continue to follow trends like digital transformation, Internet of Things (IoT) adoption, and remote work to gain better business outcomes and provide better user experiences. But each of these initiatives makes the network perimeter more complex and expansive, especially when considering the extended IT infrastructures they create. Home offices, branches, data centers, and multiple cloud platforms require a new approach to security across all edges, including the LAN, WAN, data center, and cloud. 

The rapid transition to remote work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for organizations to readjust their business continuity plans. Responding to these changes shows that business continuity must include flexible, anywhere, anytime, secure remote access to information in any application on any device and from any location. More importantly, businesses must do this at scale. In order to do this, and to fully realize the potential of these technology decisions, organizations must converge networking and security. 

Welcoming the Promise of 5G

As organizations continue to shift their work and business models, 5G’s high-performance capabilities enable new value-added innovations. Over the last few years, companies have begun to deploy more connected devices to collect and share information. This, in turn, has helped them develop predictive, proactive processes for better performance and user experiences. 

Just some of the use cases for 5G include:

  • Autonomous production lines
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Remote surgery
  • Smart cities
  • AI-assisted traffic management

5G networks make it easy to use connected devices. However, these devices ultimately expand the attack surface and increase IT complexity, opening the door wider for cyber criminals to access corporate networks.

Taking an Integrated Approach to Secure 5G 

To achieve the full potential 5G promises, enterprises must implement broad, integrated, and automated solutions that integrate security, networking, and compute work. Keeping these three isolated in separate tools fails because today’s networks are highly fluid. Security must be integrated with the business demands that shift and shape the network. 

Both users and applications count as identities to networks, and those identities extend across the on-premises and off-premises distributed network. Networks work to provide consistent, end-to-end access and performance for any transaction. However, traditional security products still focus on securing a specific place in the network. At best, these tools monitor a single network segment. 

For contactless commerce business models to work, they need networking, security, and computing integration to work together in a single solution that provides high speed with tight performance values. In other words, security and networking must integrate as a single system. By building a security-driven networking strategy, organizations can ensure that whenever their networking infrastructure evolves or expands, security adapts and scales automatically. As an integrated part of the networking infrastructure, this protects the user’s or device’s extended identity, ensuring consistent protection while also enabling accelerated performance across all network edges. 

How to Solve Performance and Connectivity Challenges

Physical integration is just the first step to creating a security-driven networking strategy – organizations must also ensure strong performance and interconnectivity between security and networks. As the world transitions to 5G and edge computing, network and security policies must constantly adapt to meet evolving requirements. It is also important to note that digital innovation is no longer a future goal; it is the present state. High-performance connected devices will continue to create new network edges, often on an ad-hoc basis or for a limited time. Virtual reality and augmented reality-based communication provide new immersive experiences, and collaborative experiences that use streaming media and interactive tools will be critical to businesses. 

None of these changes will be standalone. Building out new technologies will tie multiple services together in new ways with intelligent systems like smart transportation, buildings, cities, and infrastructures. The convergence of networking and security is the only way to ensure continued data confidentiality, integrity, and availability across highly distributed networks. 

Preparing for the Future of 5G

5G is only the start of how technology and connectedness are changing the world. To meet these challenges, next-generation security solutions must be built on the principles of convergence, integration, adaptability, and performance. 

New technologies lead to new business requirements, all of which require enhanced performance and agility. Only a converged approach to security and networking can answer the call. Organizations need to do more than just make a few network architecture changes in response to the shift to cloud and edge computing that comes with the emergence of 5G networks. Integrating networking, security, and compute is a new approach that can also deliver better outcomes and experiences. 

This is a summary of an article written for Network Computing by Jonathan Nguyen-Duy, Vice President, Global Field CISO Team at Fortinet. The entire article can be accessed here.

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