The Challenges of a Changing Infrastructure

Carl Weinschenk

The implications of this interesting piece at Help Net Security are significant. Enterprises are relocating servers from branch offices to data centers in an effort to improve security and to ease compliance with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.


The problem is that such centralization can slow down high-bandwidth applications at the remote location. The answer is Web acceleration gear. This equipment, however, has security issues that must be taken into account.


At first glance, this seems like an infrastructure story. And it is. But it also is a mobility and mobile security story. For one thing, improving security at remote and satellite locations encourages mobility in the broader sense of the term. Suppose an executive who works with sensitive data drags himself into New York City each day from a home in the suburbs. Suddenly, security at the satellite office is upgraded and that exec can work from the 'burbs. He can fairly be described as a mobile worker.


The other reason is more overtly related to mobility as the term is generally used. Workers using mobile devices supported by satellite/branch offices logically will be the most affected by where the servers are, since the applications they use are the most sensitive to packet delays and other problems that can be caused by the distance the packets travel. For this reason, it pays to ask vendors and service providers what effect data center consolidation will have on mobile customer relationship management (CRM), wireless VoIP and other touchy applications.


In other words, it's one thing to keep things running smoothly in scenarios in which data retrieved from far-flung servers is delivered to desktop PCs that are connected to the local device by fat Ethernet cables. What happens, however, when a wireless or cellular platform is called on to deliver high levels of time-sensitive data to traveling workers?


We don't know the answer, of course. But we do know what the underlying message is: Corporations' gradual workforce decentralization -- from the headquarters out to telecommuters' homes, field forces and remote and satellite offices -- must be dealt with at the most fundamental topological levels. The places where people work are multiplying, and the best way to get all of them the same information and applications securely is to adjust the networks' underlying plumbing.

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