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Turnaround times are continually shrinking

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Does this sound familiar? “The amount of change we are dealing with across our networks is increasing fast, while the turnaround time for delivering seems to be always shrinking.” 

I recently sat down with an enterprise network manager at a large insurance services company. During our chat, he gave me some excellent insights into the demands and challenges facing network and IT teams in global enterprises, and how his team plans to address those challenges by automating its security management processes.

The insurance company operates globally, and therefore its IT infrastructure is extremely complex and supports a large number of critical applications.  Moreover, the range of insurance services it delivers to both corporates and consumers changes rapidly in response to evolving market needs, so the company needed a way to respond quickly to these business and market changes. As part of its multi-year plan to streamline and transform its network architecture the company is moving to software defined networking (SDN) model.

The network manager told me that he feels his team currently works very efficiently, but recognizes that there’s still room for improvement.  The team currently handles around 30 firewall change requests per week, and that this number is expected to dramatically increase soon as they begin to consolidate their estate to reduce the number of physical firewalls on the network perimeter, and the number of vendors they work with.

He pointed out that automation will be key to mapping network traffic and application connectivity flows, and ensuring that consolidating the estate doesn’t introduce any unexpected vulnerabilities or problems.  It will also be essential when his team starts migrating applications to cloud environments, to ensure they are kept secure and compliant.

The network manager explained that another key driver for automating change processes was the need to focus his skilled staff on strategic enhancements, rather than handling manual, relatively low-value changes.  Right now a full change approval cycle normally takes on average around 7 days but since some of the change requests from application owners or project managers are not correctly defined, or are missing details, the process can take much longer. Furthermore, the engineer pointed out that even after a change has been made, other issues often emerge that need fixing, because of a lack of understanding of the complexity of the network environment and the business context of the changes.  However, he believes that using AlgoSec to automate these processes will dramatically shorten the change approval cycle, and support better communication and understanding between network and application teams.

In fact ultimately the network manager aims to give project managers the ability to make changes to applications without needing to involve the security team at all.  AlgoSec’s BusinessFlow will ensure that the changes maintain security and compliance automatically.  He estimated this could cut an entire day out of the change process and reduce the turn-round time, which will help accelerate the business.

He also praised AlgoSec’s ability to document application and connectivity automatically, which is something that the organization’s IT teams have lacked in the past.  He stated that the documentation makes it easy for other people or teams to see how applications work and what connectivity they rely on, without the need to involve the IT team every time.

In conclusion, the network engineer explained that as his organization’s network and business change and become more dynamic, end-to-end automation of change processes will be critical in supporting the organization’s future growth.

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