SD-WAN Security a Headache?

One of the early challenges in the burgeoning SD-WAN market is addressing security, and that includes both the reality and the customer perception of how secure this new service offering can be.

For example, service provider MetTel finds some customers try to run their own IPsec tunnels over the SD-WAN platform, creating new problems for themselves, because they aren't convinced the existing software-defined wide area networking service is secure, says Ed Fox, vice president of network services.

"When we go into a situation where the customer might not have MPLS today, but at their branches they're doing VPN and IPsec tunnels -- they're kind of making their own mesh -- those particular customers present a challenge when they deploy because they still want to run their IPsec tunnels over the SD-WAN solution and you lose a lot of what the SD-WAN solution gives you."

That additional encryption reduces network traffic and application visibility, and diminishes the benefits of utilizing SD-WAN. But some security operations teams remain concerned over the notion that bringing in an Internet connection to support bandwidth-intensive applications in the branch will expose them to new security threats.

"You have this situation where you have tunnels over tunnels over tunnels, which in some cases actually increases the packet size so much that there are certain things that we have to do -- particularly when LTE is part of the solution -- because those networks are very packet-size sensitive," added Fox. "So we have to make sure we take extra precautions in those situations."

Fox noted the importance of talking to customers during on-boarding of SD-WAN services to avoid this security challenge, and determine if the customer wants to maintain control over their tunnels or rely on MetTel to encrypt their traffic. MetTel currently has more than 90 customers with greater than 2,000 sites supported with SD-WAN, and has partnered with VeloCloud Networks Inc. for more than two years for SD-WAN services.

In an interview with Light Reading, VeloCloud's Vice President of Marketing Mike Wood echoed Fox's sentiment that it's important for operators to talk to enterprises deploying SD-WAN not just about its overall benefits but also its secure architecture. For example, during initial deployment, the VeloCloud SD-WAN device activates only after credentials are downloaded from the orchestrator or the branch manager authenticates the device via a link emailed by the orchestrator.

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But if users don't understand that the SD-WAN service is secured and data encrypted using IPsec tunnels at the device, keeping messaging, control and management secure, Wood says, they may feel the need to add their own IPSec tunnels, creating the problems Fox describes.

In order to achieve interoperability with current and future security systems, VeloCloud created the SD-WAN Security Technology Partner Program to afford enterprises the choice to integrate the SD-WAN service with their preferred security technology. The program launched in April, enabling VelcoCloud to service chain security offerings with security partners including Check Point Software Technologies, Zscaler, IBM Security, Palo Alto Networks and Fortinet -- which MetTel also works with for its cloud firewall product. (See SD-WAN Buzz Spills Into Reseller & Partner Space.)

Next page: Multiple approaches to secure SD-WAN

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