Why it’s Vital to Ensure Strong Security in a Hyperconverged Data Center

Bogdan Botezatu

February 24, 2017

Why it’s Vital to Ensure Strong Security in a Hyperconverged Data Center

Among the hottest trends in data center technology today is the growth of hyperconvergence, an IT infrastructure framework in which virtualized computing, networking and storage components are tightly integrated within a data center.

In this type of software-centric IT environment, servers, storage systems and networking equipment such as switches work together through a single appliance. By its very nature, a hyperconverged framework can provide a more simplified IT environment. The potential benefits of this approach include easier management of all the integrated components of the data center, cost savings, improved data protection and greater scalability.

The concept of hyperconvergence emerged from the idea of a converged IT infrastructure, which includes the implementation of a pre-configured software and hardware system for simplified management. Where the two differ is that with a converged data center the different components can be separated, while in a hyperconverged data center the components are tightly integrated and cannot be separated from each other.

Demand for hyperconvergence is clearly growing. According to research firm Gartner Inc., the market for hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS) was expected to increase 79% to nearly $2 billion in 2016. Gartner said HCIS will be the fastest-growing portion of the market for integrated systems, reaching nearly $5 billion by 2019.

A survey of more than 750 IT professionals worldwide, conducted by 451 Research in July and August 2016, shows that 40% of enterprises are using a hyperconverged infrastructure, which the firm said represents the next evolutionary step of standard converged infrastructure. It expects that number to rise substantially over the next two years.

Nearly one quarter of the 451 Research survey respondents indicated that they have hyperconverged infrastructure either in a pilot phase, or in plans for future adoption. The survey shows that three quarters of organizations now using hyperconvergence are using the solutions in their central data centers.

"Loyalties to traditional, standalone servers are diminishing in today's IT ecosystems as managers adopt innovative technologies that eliminate multiple pain points," said Christian Perry, research manager at 451 Research. "Innovation inherent in converged systems, and in hyperconverged infrastructure in particular, is driving process efficiencies and agility that are increasingly tangible."

Another 2016 study, by International Data Corp. (IDC), said the worldwide market for converged systems including hyperconvergence increased revenue 11% year over year to $2.5 billion during the first quarter of 2016.

End-user organizations within the mid-market and even in the outer edge of the enterprise data center continue to prioritize simplicity in all aspect of the user experience, and this is at the heart of the rapid growth rate within hyperconverged systems, said Kevin Permenter,

Hyperconverged infrastructure comes with its own set of cyber security issues. As Gartner notes in a research brief, hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS) in a software-defined data center need to be protected from attacks against the control plane, data plane and management infrastructure.

“Blocking most of these threat vectors should be easy enough for HCIS vendors, yet they deliver walled gardens whose predetermined levels of security depend on the targeted market segment,” the firm said. Gartner recommends that companies strictly control the entrance and exit paths of data, prepare for large breaches, and continue to ask solution vendors for controls.

To be effective in a hyperconverged environment, security technologies need to be able to understand the environment so that performance can be maximized without the loss of security functionality. Therefore, agility is a critical feature that must be embedded in the security layer in order to cope with rapid changes of the software defined environments.

Organizations need to have security models that are as flexible as the underlying infrastructure. Security must be capable of supporting infrastructures that are automated and quickly spun up and spun down. Traditional security tools do not provide the required level of performance and automation needed for a hyperconverged infrastructure,

Gartner has recommended that enterprise deploy products that are specifically designed for the protection of hybrid cloud workloads. The security architecture must be an integral part of the migration toward hyperconvergence and software-defined data center environments.

In short, IT and security executives must select security solutions that are enablers and not detractors for the transformative shifts now happening in the data center, including the move to hyperconvergence, software-defined technology and hybrid cloud infrastructures.

 By taking the proper steps, enterprises can ensure not only that they are maximizing the efficiency of their data centers, but are doing so in the most secure manner possible.

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Bogdan Botezatu

Bogdan Botezatu has spent the past 12 years as Director of Threat Research at Bitdefender. His areas of expertise include malware deobfuscation, detection, removal and prevention. Bogdan is the author of A History of Malware and Botnets 101. Before joining Bitdefender, he worked at one of Romania's largest and oldest universities as network administrator in charge of SecOps and policies.

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