Niagara Networks' Open Visibility Platform Brings Network, SecOps Together

eWEEK ANALYSIS: IT leaders need to integrate network and security operations to protect organizations today and into the future.


Businesses that struggle with security mostly have a hard time deploying new solutions or replacing old ones. By keeping things as they are, businesses risk not meeting the growing security demands of their networks. There’s no time to waste, since networks are always changing and security threats are constantly evolving.

Traditional Security Methods Have Not and Will Not Work

For this reason, businesses must rethink how they approach network security and act fast when deploying new systems and tools. Compared to a decade ago, today’s network security landscape looks a lot different. ZK Research found that large enterprises have an average of 72 security tools and it takes 103 days to find a breach after it happens—more than double the 45 days it took just five years ago.

Despite spending $75 billion annually on cybersecurity, per ZK Research estimates, enterprises are still falling behind. One big challenge for businesses is getting the right traffic to the security tools, both for in-line and out-of-band monitoring. Adding a solution to the network for hosting and inline or out-of-band traffic is a complex process.

The opening up of company networks to comply with work-from-home mandates driven by COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem. The harsh reality is that businesses and the world will never be the same. Success today is being able to connect workers to each other and cloud-based applications securely. This is causing businesses to adopt new security tools at an unprecedented rate. Looking post-COVID-19, secure connectivity will extend to people, applications and things. This will further add to the complexity and drive the need to rethink security and networking.

Network Visibility: A Core Component of Cybersecurity

Network visibility is essential for IT security. Visibility platforms, also known as network packet brokers, enable rapid adoption of security tools while providing the underlying visibility necessary to understand what to deploy where. As that axiom goes, you can’t secure what you can’t see. Yet, many visibility platforms currently on the market are based on older architectures, which follow a disconnected approach of deploying network and security tools in silos. Such platforms don’t meet the needs of modern businesses going through digital transformation. As businesses move to the cloud, increase mobility and become more connected through the internet of things (IoT), they gain new functionality but also additional security risks.

Niagara Network Offers Open Visibility Platform

A new visibility platform is emerging that brings a higher level of agility to security. The Open Visibility Platform from Niagara Networks is an open, network packet broker-based platform that works as an intelligent cross-connect and can host and manage any third-party security solutions that run on it. Niagara Networks’ high-performance network visibility solutions can be used for both security and network management and monitoring. The company provides all the components for a visibility platform at data rates up to 100 gigabits per second (Gbps).

There are several ways in which the Open Visibility Platform brings security and network operations together, so security and networking teams can focus on common objectives instead of operating independently with different goals.

First, the platform removes restrictions of deploying new network technologies. The platform can host any virtualized solution, old or new. It can also accommodate proprietary solutions and ad-hoc solutions used temporarily for testing purposes.

Security Tool Chaining Is Enabled with an Open Visibility Platform

Second, the platform enables intelligent tool chaining, which is important for establishing the order of security operations. There has to be logical sequencing and management of network security. For example, a web or application firewall should be in a path before an intrusion detection system (IDS) or an intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and each must be treated differently. In addition, network requirements can be upheld to ensure performance and availability and prevent solutions from impairing the network.

Third, the platform can handle core traffic-processing utility functions, such as deduplication and decryption. Carrying out these tasks centrally on a visibility platform can boost performance of individual security apps or devices.

Last but not least, the platform goes beyond improving security operations. It generates intelligent network traffic data that can be used to build a robust, reliable infrastructure. IT departments should frequently analyze the data generated by a visibility platform to understand what is happening within a network. This way, IT can stay one step ahead of potential problems or blind spots as the environment changes.

Whether it’s Niagara Networks or another vendor, businesses should choose a visibility platform based on modern criteria. Some vendors claim that their solutions meet basic network security needs, but what they’re really offering is closed and proprietary.

The optimal choice is an open and unrestricted visibility platform that can accommodate any solution without compromising network operations. Only a platform built on the principles of digital transformation can deliver.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.