CHICAGO—The chiefs of the countrys largest network equipment makers are sending a clear signal that security and reliability will remain top challenges for network operators, both in the enterprise and service provider markets. While IP networking and converged services promise untold benefits, they also expose the network to more sophisticated attacks.
At the Supercomm conference and expo here this week, where the telecommunications industry gathered with its suppliers, Cisco Systems Inc. President and CEO John Chambers warned that attacks on the network are going to increase in both volume and difficulty.
“Youre going to see the attacks go up not only in frequency but in complexity,” Chambers said in a keynote address Tuesday. “Security has to be synonymous with continuity.”
Ciscos security plan involves developing technologies that adapt as threats evolve. To be effective, network operators must deploy security technology in a comprehensive, premeditated manner.
“This has to be an architectural plan [in which] each element in the network is protected,” Chambers told the telecommunications audience. “Its going to be an architectural play, not individual pinpoint products.”
The CEOs of Lucent Technologies Inc., Nortel Networks Ltd., Siemens AG. and Tellabs Inc. echoed Chambers warnings in a joint keynote presentation Wednesday morning.
Patricia Russo, chairwoman and CEO of Lucent, called on the industry to work more collaboratively to address the growing security problems. If not executed well, next-generation networks could become plagued with viruses, denial-of-service attacks and other malicious programs, she cautioned.
“Its critically important that we all work together in the industry toward a more secure networked environment,” Russo said, adding that the number of vendors and service providers participating in IP networking creates a more complicated system than in the past. “Securing circuits is easier,” she said.
Russo advised that the industry must develop common security standards and practices, including standards for securing call signaling in wireless networks. In addition, authentication technologies must be deployed universally, and they must be interoperable, nonproprietary and affordable.
“Our industry is going through a time of great transformation,” Russo said. “We remain mindful that with innovation comes responsibility.”
As the traditional telephone companies move into the video delivery business to generate new revenues as voice calling revenues decline, vendors are shifting their focus. Cisco plans to expand its attention to the service provider market and is using half its research and development spending on that sector, Chambers said. “Where were going in the marketplace is pretty predictable,” he said.
To remain competitive, particularly against emerging rivals in Asia, North American service providers will have to relinquish their focus on providing mere transport and deliver better value-added services.
“If youre merely talking about voice, video and data, its too late. Its what do you do on top of that?” Chambers said. “Basic transport is going to commoditize. Its going to be brutal.”
Innovations will drive improved productivity, but businesses must change their processes along with the technologies to derive the full benefits, Chambers said. Over the next three to five years, Cisco will focus on helping customers adjust to the process changes required by new technologies.
“Until the employees want to use the technologies … you dont see any movement,” Chambers said.