GSK combines networking and security for cloud migration

The most widespread networking principles a few years ago included cloud integration, virtualization and software-defined networking. Today, networking has entered a new era, according to ONUG co-founder and co-chairman Nick Lippis during a session at the recent ONUG Fall 2023 conference in New York City. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the widespread consumption of AI, cloud services, multi-cloud, remote access and IoT.

Areas that were once important to networking remain, but others have also emerged. As a result, networking needs a new model to manage this complexity, Lippis said. This new networking model prioritizes security as the two disciplines further align with organizations.

When GSK — a pharmaceutical company based in London — began its digital transformation journey to the cloud, the organization took an integrated approach to networking and security. This approach is essential to the migration process, said Mohamed Khalid, GSK’s director of enterprise architect hosting services, in another conference session.

Networking and security in GSK’s digital transformation

GSK’s internal customers work R&D to discover new drugs. They work with an influx of data coming from various sources around the world, such as research laboratories, universities and third-party partners.

Khalid says his team needs to help customers collect data and glean insights, as well as help them develop medicine at scale. They need to leverage digital transformation to use new technologies for faster drug discovery and development, and adopting the cloud is the first step in the process.

“We know this isn’t possible in the data center, and the cloud allows us to provide these new services at rapid speed and scale,” Khalid said.

GSK has many locations in regions around the world, so the organization chose to adopt cloud services from two providers to build a multi-cloud environment to support its data. When GSK’s infrastructure team built its cloud platform, Khalid said they had three main goals in mind:

  1. Create a reliable and secure cloud platform.
  2. Enable self-service to support customer UX.
  3. Connect the entire cloud environment.

The network fabric plays a key role in enabling connectivity between GSK’s multi-cloud environment and network content, SaaS and third-party partners, Khalid said. In addition, the network provides secure control over devices such as firewalls and API gateways.

“Without the network, we cannot create a foundation,” Khalid said.

Security integration further helps GSK streamline how it offers secure cloud controls. For example, Khalid said that using identity and access management (IAM) allows his team to use resource hierarchy, a process that creates shared parts of the network. GSK can provide details on certain slices and explain policies from cloud providers. The policies feed into GSK’s security information and event management platform, which security professionals use to monitor the attack surface.

Cloud application owners in the research business unit will be part of the entire unit from research to project where resources are available. Segmentation allows users to access only specific resources within this part of the network. Khalid said his team developed this feature for customers and used IAM at the network perimeter.

For more technical applications, depending on its needs, GSK uses network macrosegmentation or microsegmentation on top of the existing IAM feature. The application operates on its own virtual cloud network, and Khalid said his team can decide which users can access certain parts of the cloud.

GSK also uses routing and firewall policies to control traffic flows between segmented virtual cloud networks. GSK is currently in the process of deploying a control plane to manage traffic between multi-cloud networks in different regions, Khalid said.

Simplified operations with integrated networking and security

Although GSK’s initial goal for digital transformation was to move to the cloud, it integrated networking and security to aid the process. The path that GSK has taken to integrate networking and security is one that many organizations have taken or will eventually take. According to Lippis, 35% of the 276 IT professionals surveyed by ONUG said they have combined their network operations center and security operations center into one incident response center. Another 10% said they consolidated their teams.

Lippis said that data management is one of the main benefits of an integrated network and security approach because it gives organizations more insight into the network. This visibility allows network professionals to gain confidence in their system, which facilitates the implementation of additional technologies, such as AI and machine learning.

Regardless of whether organizations choose to combine networking and security for digital transformation or to simplify complex management, the lines between the two fields will continue to blur as organizations apply the bag. -ong network management strategies.

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