REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- 2020 Vision -- The single most important trend in networks over the next five years will be security. However, service providers will need an attitude adjustment if they plan to really make security an organization-wide priority.
Ahead of Tuesday's 2020 Vision Executive Summit, Heavy Reading surveyed nearly 400 industry executives on their views of the network evolution over the next five years. Overwhelmingly, respondents, including 144 service providers, 32 2020 Vision attendees, 10 Heavy Reading analysts and 11 Light Reading editors, indicated that security is the most critical issue facing the telecom industry over the next five years. More than 95% of the total respondents rated security essential (76%) or important (20%). (See Do You Have a 2020 Vision?)
It's a big challenge and one that will continuously need to be addressed, something everyone acknowledges. The problem is, most just don't see it as their problem. Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Patrick Donegan, who presented the survey results Tuesday and hosted Light Reading's Mobile Network Security Strategies show last week, said that while everyone sees the importance of security, most leave it to a dedicated team that struggles to keep up with increasingly prolific and sophisticated attacks. (See Palo Alto Urges Prioritizing NFV/SDN Security, Ericsson Calls for Data-Centric Security Approach and Mobile Ops Must Hike Security Spending .)
"As an industry, we do believe security is a big problem and it's got to be fixed, but 'it's not my problem, and I'm not going to fix it,'" Donegan said of the prevailing attitude. "It's someone else's job."
Most carriers have a small security team kept busy firefighting attacks on a daily basis. As the volume and sophistication of attacks continues to grow exponentially, that small team is finding it harder to keep up. They are being told to step up their game and develop new security techniques for everything the operators want to develop, like the Internet of Things, virtualization and the cloud. They are not, however, being given bigger budgets or extra support. (See AT&T Adds Virtual Layer of Security.)
"Where's the budget increase for it, and is the rest of the organization prepared to step forward and help out? No, because it's a big problem, but it's not my problem," Donegan reiterated.
Another interesting finding from the survey that meshes with operators' perception of security is that respondents were optimistic about the future of the telecom industry, but a little less so about service providers' ability to adapt to it. Of the service providers, 82% believe the outlook is positive. That said, only 28% of the service providers themselves believe that service providers, in general, will be successful at transforming their business models. More than a third of 2020 Vision's attendees were not confident that will happen at all.
"Our outlook for the industry would seem to be very, very positive, but the outlook with respect to service providers and their ability to capture these opportunities is very different," Donegan said. "Right now most of us are unconvinced the service providers are gearing up to take those opportunities ... We're talking about more than 2,000 service providers worldwide. It's a colossal body of companies."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading