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Security Strategies

CenturyLink Powers Up Managed Security

CenturyLink's acquisition of security services firm netAura LLC, announced last week, is just the latest indication of how that company is expanding its managed security profile. In February, the network operator announced an expansion of its managed security services portfolio. Now it is layering new depth of expertise on top of that. (See CenturyLink Enhances Managed Security and CenturyLink Buys Security Firm.)

Managed security has become a key service offering for most companies serving the enterprise market, for some obvious reasons: Not only is there growing concern over damage done sophisticated cyber attacks, there is increased realization by businesses that it is no longer possible to build a secure perimeter around their operations, and having a trusted network partner is increasingly required. CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) is not early to this security party -- its biggest US rivals such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Enterprise Solutions and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) are already major players here -- but the company is now buttressing its portfolio.

With its netAura acquisition, CenturyLink is bringing on board specific expertise that has been focused on engineering and developing custom security solutions for enterprises and government units, and consulting on security solutions as well. Nathan Shanks, president of netAura, now joins CenturyLink as senior director, Security Infrastructure Management. He sees one critical function as ensuring the company's managed security services platform is ready to scale and meet future service needs. In addition, he says, his firm brings along the ability to combine managed services which cover most of a company's needs with customized attention to specific details.

"We build and manage infrastructure for managed security service providers. That's how we got engaged with CenturyLink -- they asked us to solve a challenge for them and we started down that venture for their managed security platform," he says. One key question was how to make sure the core infrastructure expands over time to handle growth in traffic and not just today's feature set but future feature sets as well.


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That's something netAura had done, and still does, for its Fortune 200 clients, using its analytics capabilities to determine if a company's intrusion detection/protection infrastructure was designed to handle its future workload.

As security specialists, netAura realized that many clients like the managed service model but can't adopt it completely. "There are components of their workloads, which are usually some of the largest, the most complicated aspects and the most sensitive, that will never be outsourced," Shanks tells Light Reading in an interview.

"We just worked with CenturyLink on a company, where we had a win," he notes. The customer was willing to outsource 80% of its security business to the managed services suite, but 20% of that business must be handled on site, without leaving the state or the county, or even the customer's core data center. Those workloads are the ones that aren't easy, and you have to do it in custom fashion." So while the intent is to make managed security solutions less customized and more operational, so they can be sold at scale, the reality is many large customers have security requests that still have a custom component, and that is what netAura's engineers and specialists will be able to provide. Over time, those custom solutions evolve into things that can also be sold at scale, he notes.

That process has already begun. As part of its managed services suite expansion announced in February, CenturyLink offered Security Log Monitoring, a service which performed log correlation and monitoring using event data from many different servers, and incorporating 24x7 backup by security analysts.

"That was a design we brought to CenturyLink to enable them to take on multiple hybrid IT configurations in one delivery platform," Shanks explains. "We hope to continue to walk down that path and enable that last 20% of workloads, as well as incorporate a lot of those designs of flexibility into the core delivery story of CenturyLink."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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