In my opinion, The Jetsons and The Flintstones just might be the two best cartoons of the 80’s. Not surprisingly both shows were produced by the powerhouse team Hanna-Barbera,– but while the Jetsons represented the “Space Age,” the Flintstones represented the “Stone Age.”
You can make the argument that modern day networking offers the same parallels. The technology running on our networks represents the Jetsons. Modern day smart phones, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, intelligent process automation and robotics are all things that couldn’t have been imagined a decade ago – at least outside of science fiction. With technology continuing to advance year to year at such a rapid pace, we’ll soon be using our smart phones for teleportation.
But while we can all agree we have Jetsons technology running over our networks, the networks themselves are from the Flintstones era. Digging into the protocols that are common in networks today, what people may not really realize is that OSPFv2 was standardized 26 years ago – in 1991 (OSPFv1 in 1989). The Stone Ages, right? BGPv4 was standardized in 1995 and the first versions of multicast go back to 1986. These protocols haven’t evolved much, but they are now asked to support an environment that has changed dramatically; being far more dynamic and mobile with greater real-time demands and where cyber-attacks only continue to increase in frequency and sophistication.
Digging into security, the argument can be made that it is these very routing protocols that are contributing to the catastrophic damage inflicted by modern-day breaches. Let’s use the commonly referenced example of the Las Vegas casino that was breached through its Internet connected fish tank. The hacker, having entered the network, was sitting on a VLAN and therefore was associated with an IP address. With that IP address, he is now part of a flat routing table where the entire network could be discovered with minimal effort. In this case, the hacker gained access to the casino’s high rollers personal information and the damage was done.
So, what do we do? Tunnels, abstractions and management platforms, can’t mask the fact that that our underlying protocols are showing their age. The best approach is to bring the protocols that we use to design our networks up to date. Address the root cause of the issue.
One answer is the IEEE / IETF standard, Shortest Path Bridging. Standardized in 2012, Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) brings networking into the right decade. It was designed to make networks more flexible, more resilient and more secure. It eliminates the need for protocol overlays and simplifies the network by using just a single control plane for all the networks routing, switching, multicast and VPN requirements.
The other thing that this technology addresses is the ever-growing need for security. Security and the network must be symbiotic. Having the right network design can go a long way in bolstering security. Shortest Path Bridging (which is sold and marketed as Extreme Fabric Connect) enables a stealth network design where end to end secure zones can be set up with ease, at scale. Going back to the Fish Tank example, the hacker only gains access to an isolated connected fish tank segment – he can’t move anywhere. Furthermore, due to the stealth characteristics of the technology, all the hacker would be able to see is a single hop back out to the Internet. It’s this type of network design that can ensure that a breach is a mere incident… not a catastrophe.
Sound like a science experiment? Maybe… but it’s far from it. It is a field proven technology with deployments large and small that span every industry across every corner of the globe, powering high profile events, like the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, flawlessly.
Interested in learning more about Shortest Path Bridging / Extreme Fabric Connect?