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Policy and security management in the IoT and network virtualization world

Image: A report by TM FORUM

IoT and virtualization offer huge opportunities for service providers but critical security issues must be tackled first. Take a look at the key challenges and potential solutions.

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About the report

Two of the most far-reaching phenomena now taking shape in the world of networking are the Internet of Things (IoT) and the virtualization of networks in the form of the software-defined network and network functions virtualization (SDN/NVF).

It is widely held that, in a mature iteration, the IoT will be typified by the large-scale and continuous generation, capture, internetworking, analysis, management, utilization and exploitation of unprecedented volumes of different types of data. IoT data sources could include sensors, probes, monitors, devices, machines, platforms, systems, applications, people and even animals.

After a somewhat slow start the SDN and NFV market is now rapidly speeding up. According to one recent forecast from IHS Infonetics, the carrier SDN/NFV hardware and software market will be worth $11 billion by 2018, while another analysis from the same company estimates the enterprise and data center SDN controller and SDN-capable Ethernet switch business could be worth $18 billion in the same year. Meanwhile, the 2015 Market Sizing Report from SDxCentral reckons the combined revenue of SDN, NFV and other next-generation networking initiatives – which that organization collectively styles "SDx networking" - will exceed $105 billion a year by 2020.


The successful realization of a large-scale IoT, and the development of a mainstream virtualized network market, are to some degree interdependent outcomes. In particular, the volume of IoT data envisaged – tens and even hundreds of zettabytes have been projected – requires a radically different approach to networking.
Policy and security management are non-trivial challenges for both the IoT and virtualized networks that can efficiently, flexibly and economically accommodate IoT traffic.

The advent of the IoT could bring additional security issues into the existing networked threat landscape. Virtualized networks also raise additional security issues. Notably, the separation of the control and forwarding planes in SDN, and the key role subsequently allocated to the SDN controller in the virtualization scheme of things, makes that component a natural target for cyberattacks.
In practice virtualization can be an enabler of better policy management and improved security, both of which play into the idea of increasing the operational agility of enterprises, organizations and IoT ecosystem providers.

The other side of the SDN-enhanced policy and security coin is concern about the security of virtualized networks and services themselves.

Security breaches can be both external and internal in origin. While firewalls can prevent and protect against external attacks, a hacked machine inside the firewall can spread viruses, malware and other unwanted data and content throughout the network

This article looks at the huge opportunities offered by IoT and virtualization and highlights some of the significant security challenges that must be addressed first. It also suggests some possible solutions which make the automatic detection, isolation and repair of infections possible.

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