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Network Security Policy Management tools given a benefit rating of ‘High’ in new Gartner report

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Gartner Network Security Policy Management

A few weeks ago Gartner released its annual Hype Cycle for Infrastructure Protection, 2016[1]. It’s an impressive and exhaustive guide to the wide range of threat-facing technologies that help defend IT.

Included among these technologies is Network Security Policy Management (NSPM) tools, which Gartner gives a benefit rating of ‘High’ – which in Gartner terms means that the technology “Enables new ways of performing horizontal or vertical processes that will result in significantly increased revenue or cost savings for an enterprise”[2].

Gartner succinctly summarizes the need for and business value of NSPM tools as follows:

“User Advice: Network security administrators who wish to optimize, visualize and reduce firewall rule policies, or who are migrating rules, especially to a first-time NGFW implementation, should evaluate NSPM tools for this purpose. If an organization has multiple firewall brands in place because of acquisitions or geographical diversity, NSPM tools can provide a consolidated view of the various rule sets and how they will overlap, interact and conflict. In addition, a large organization conducting a multistage rollout will need an overarching management view. Once these initial use cases are satisfied, network security administrators should investigate whether the functions purchased are useful for ongoing rule management, or whether they wish to add adjacent functions from the NSPM vendor’s suite.

NSPM tools are not just for rule reduction, but are also for managing thousands of rules across many enforcement points. Some NSPM vendors have added capabilities for policy-within-the cloud, and for migrating security to the cloud. Users with cloud deployments or considering cloud deployments should consider NSPM. These tools are usually implemented as on-premises software and hardware, although some managed security service providers use NSPM tools to optimize managed firewall services for their customers. Managed security service (MSS) customers should inquire as to whether NSPM-based services are available.

Business Impact: To the degree that an enterprise struggles with firewall diversity, complexity and large tangled rule sets, along with strict regulatory requirements that mandate visibility into firewall policy change management, these NSPM tools are relevant. For that reason, these tools are most present within large enterprise environments and regulated industries. They are increasingly delivered as services by MSS providers and security professional services firms, which will broaden the reach and relevance of network policy management products.[3]

We certainly agree with Gartner’s assessment and believe it directly aligns with what we’re witnessing in the field. Network security policy management today is still relatively manual and error-prone, often slowing down the business and creating outages that disrupt operations as well as compliance violations.

When you add cloud and SDN into the mix, the problems are compounded. The number one reason we’re seeing enterprises flock to the cloud is for the agility and ease it offers when deploying business applications. Yet when it comes to network security, the cloud introduces a software-defined security architecture that is fundamentally different from that of physical networks. Therefore in order to operate at ‘the speed of cloud’ companies are realizing that they need to be able to manage cloud security groups alongside their traditional on-premise firewalls in a way that ensures security and compliance across the entire hybrid environment, and supports the connectivity requirements of business applications wherever they may reside – without introducing operational blind spots and silos.

Another trend we’re seeing is that the rise in cyber-attacks is moving the cybersecurity discussion beyond the IT organization. More and more CEOs and board of directors need visibility into the company’s cybersecurity risk posture and initiatives. But security personnel are focused on protecting servers, data and identities, and they don’t have visibility into the business outcomes of their activities. As a result they are often unable to communicate effectively with business stakeholders.

We believe that next-generation NSPM tools need to take a business-centric approach to security management to address these challenges. This means:

  • We need to provide uniform visibility of security, through a single pane of glass, across the entire network infrastructure, including business applications and their connectivity flows – on premise and in the cloud. This helps cut through complexity, and deliver more robust policies that tighten security, ensures continuous compliance, while at the same time enabling business processes.
  • We need to be able to tie cyber threats to critical business processes in order to prioritize remediation efforts, as well as effectively communicate with and provide the necessary reports to the board and shareholders.
  • Finally, we know that for security to be relevant, it must operate at the speed of business. Therefore we need to intelligently automate manual time-consuming security processes and enhance them with business context, bringing modern, zero-touch agility to network security policy management.

Its only through a business driven approach can today’s global organizations manage security based on what matters most – the applications that powers their business.

[1] Source: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Infrastructure Protection, 2016, by Greg Young, July 6, 2016.

[2] Source: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Infrastructure Protection, 2016, by Greg Young, July 6, 2016.

[3] Source: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Infrastructure Protection, 2016, by Greg Young, July 6, 2016.

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