February 27, 2019 8:42 am

Why Software-Defined Security Is Key to Securing Hybrid Network Environments

Author Shivram Nayak

Enterprises have evolved over the last decade with the adoption of hybrid data centers, and dynamic application and user environments. However, maintaining a consistent security policy in these environments is a challenge when you have rigid perimeter security. Security teams have to do a lot of heavy lifting to get even minimum visibility using perimeter solutions. This limited/incomplete visibility puts a lot of pressure on the admins, resulting in misconfigurations and inconsistent security postures, paving the way for a breach.

Why a Paradigm Shift in Security is Needed

Traditional security solutions like perimeter firewall solutions which have been used by data centers for a long time are largely focused on preventing attacks from beyond the perimeter. However, recent security breaches prove that sophisticated attacks can be carried out despite investing in the latest perimeter security solutions. Some of the biggest breaches, which include Equifax, Uber, Anthem, JP Morgan Chase and Yahoo, stand testimony to this fact.

Breaches occur not because perimeter firewall solutions have become weaker, but because perimeters have begun to disappear. With users and workloads spread across a multi-cloud, multi-device hybrid environment, the perimeter in its traditional sense no longer exists. Add to this the fact that only 15% of the traffic actually flows through the perimeter firewall and you have highly risky security situation on your hands.

Segmenting using VLAN/ACLs was another security measure used to protect the network and isolate critical assets. However, when VLANs/ACLs are used to segment the data center environment, they create an additional operational burden for the administrators. This method also increases the risk of human errors in configurations. The same applies to segmenting using internal firewalls where rules need to be constantly updated. The process becomes laborious, error-prone, and time-consuming for enterprises with hundreds or thousands of workloads and users.

Adopting a Proactive Approach

To counter the challenges put forth by traditional security, software-defined micro-segmentation has emerged as the way forward. The key advantage of software-defined security solutions is that they’re platform-independent, giving enterprises the ability to work across multi-vendor IT infrastructures. A well-designed software-defined security architecture allows for micro-segmentation and visibility down to the workload level, whether you’re on-premise or spread across multiple clouds. Here’s why a software-defined security fabric helps you set up a robust security infrastructure.


One of the key advantages of moving to a software-defined fabric is the unparalleled visibility it can provide. It is a fact that the majority of network traffic is server-to-server, and most security solutions provide little to no visibility into cross-segment traffic. This is one of the main reasons why attackers are able to launch APT-style attacks. Once inside the network, attackers can remain undetected for months while they move laterally scouting for data and intel.

With software-defined security, enterprises can decipher how users access critical applications and corporate assets. Security teams can further leverage flow data statistics that provide granular visibility and threat traversal for forensics, reporting, and dashboarding. With process level visibility, security teams can detect malicious processes that are taking advantage of whitelisted policy paths to laterally move or ex-filtrate data.

Enforcing Security Policies

While gaining deep visibility is a start, enhancing security boils down to how detailed your security policies are and how deep they can be driven within your network. To do this, isolation of critical assets is the first step towards preventing breaches and cutting down the attack surface. VLAN/ACLs and internal firewalls provide network level security, but software-defined solutions allow you to segment and drive down policies to network, applications, workload, and user levels, thereby enabling policy authoring for nano-segmentation.

This decentralizes security making your security infrastructure flexible enough to accommodate dynamic application environments that are spread across multi-cloud, multi-vendor data centers. With user-level micro-segmentation, you can implement a zero-trust model that grants granular controls at host, ports and protocol level to ‘allow’ only authorized user access to critical applications, while ‘disallowing’ any other attempts to access.

Enterprises security teams today are grappling with multiple point products which are limited in their scope and an operational challenge to say the least. Software-defined security solutions can provide enterprises with a unified real-time view of their security landscape across hybrid network environments. They allow you to orchestrate detailed policies that can be enforced on dynamic workloads while giving you complete visibility into user access of business-critical applications.

If enterprises want to secure the complex mesh of business applications, workloads, users and hybrid environments, they need to consider a unified security solution which reduces complexity, enhances visibility, and fortifies security at the same time.

ColorTokens offers a unified software-defined security solution which allows enterprises to implement a proactive zero-trust architecture that can discover, visualize, and protect every asset, from hybrid data centers all the way to terminal legacy endpoints.