Aging enterprise networks face security risks, obsolescence

Majority of enterprise networks have outdated, misconfigured, insecure devices not up to the task of supporting BYOD and virtualization, a new study finds

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"Technology upgrades become more complicated when there are multiple IOS versions and each new device has be tested to ensure that it works with legacy equipment," according to the report. "Older versions of iOS may be unable to support newer technologies and communications services, such as video, resulting in network degradation, downtime, and reducing business agility."

The big picture in all this, according to Dimension, is that organizations need to take a more holistic approach to viewing and managing their networks. "In particular, the appearance of four new PSIRTs with relatively high threat scores should be a warning sign for organizations to ensure their IOS patch management processes are comprehensive and that they make full use of administration tools such as AAA to ensure only authorized users have access to their network devices," the report recommends.

802.11n is coming
Insufficient patching and configuration aren't the only problems enterprise networks are suffering. On average, 40 percent of all devices have been past EoS (end of sales) status for the past four years. "Technology past end-of-sale (EoS) status must be regarded as an aging asset and will be increasingly unsupportable and exposed to risk as it progresses toward LDoS (last day of support)," according to the report.

This increasing obsolescence could be attributed to two factors, according to the report: First, companies may be opting to hold on to aging networking gear due to financial challenges as the global economy has struggled. The second factor could be more robust product-development cycles, which can result in an increase in the overall number of products that must go EoS in order to make way for newer platforms.

In clinging to aging equipment, companies may find themselves at a disadvantage if they want to embrace virtualization, video, and mobility. "The last two years has seen a shift from 'product-oriented development' to architectural-oriented development' in order to ensure support for the larger macro-technology trends," according to the report. "The best example of this is within Cisco's Borderless Networks product portfolio where every major routing and switching product family has undergone a refresh in the past two years."

One-third of all access points are 802.11n-capable, nearly triple the amount Dimension in its previous report. 802.11n represent a significant improvement over previous standards: 150MBps to 300MBps as compared to 54Mbps with 802.11g. "Given the market trend toward increased mobility and anywhere, any device, any application end-user demands, it is likely that 802.11n access point penetration will be greater than 50 percent next year," the report predicts. "However, the continued adoption of 802.11n (through new deployments as well as the replacements of existing older access points) will put significant pressure on the network wiring closet. In order to fully leverage 802.11n capabilities, access switches will need -- at a minimum -- to support Gigabit Ethernet to accommodate the 150-300MBPS bandwidth capability and Power over Ethernet to power the devices."

Dimension's overarching recommendation is for organizations to stop neglecting their networks as they embrace bandwidth-intensive applications. Rather, companies should embrace a TLM (technology lifecycle management) approach to carefully and continually assess the state of their networks and ensure they have the infrastructure in place to securely support those services.

This story, "Aging enterprise networks face security risks, obsolescence," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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