Given the risks associated with Web based applications, a key focus area for a security oriented CNS is to provide sophisticated Web content filtering and granular policy control that leverage dynamic rating algorithms and can accurately identify and categorize web content in real time.
Another important security concern is the rapid growth of malware. For example, a recent report from Cisco identified almost 290,000 unique instances of malware on the Web in June 2011. That's almost triple the number of unique instances of malware that Cisco found on the Web in March 2011 (105,536).
To protect against malware, a CNS should be able to identify sites or content that are either suspicious or are known to distribute malware. In order to be effective, a CNS that provides Web content filtering or malware protection needs a source of intellectual capital, such as Blue Coat's WebPulse service, that identifies known and suspected vulnerabilities. Ideally the CNS also offers comprehensive anti-virus scanning for additional protection from any form of malware that is contained in file attachments.
Because of the breadth of what is meant by network management, it is possible to find management-focused CNSs that provide a wide range of functionality. For example, Virtela manages security products such as IPSs and firewalls. Meraki manages basic networking functionality, such as routers. When evaluating any of these solutions, IT organizations need to determine how wide a range of vendor's products the solution can manage and how much expertise the vendor has with those products.
According to the IBM report, most IT professionals view the data stored on mobile devices and how that data can be misused or lost as a serious security threat.
That view creates a marketplace opportunity for a CNS, such as the one provided by Virtela, that provides mobile device management. The need for such a service is reinforced by a recent report that concluded that many IT organizations are struggling to support the growth in mobile employees.
In contrast to popular types of cloud-based functionality such as VoIP, security and management, desktop virtualization is a topic that has received a lot of attention in the trade press, but has not been widely implemented.
Our market research data indicates that there is not much interest in a CNS, such as the one provided by Dell , that offers desktop virtualization functionality. However, that could change over time.
Over the last few years, IT organizations have begun to broadly adopt SaaS and IaaS solutions and numerous market research reports indicate that the adoption of these solutions will increase significantly over the foreseeable future. However, with the exception of communications and collaboration, to date the SaaS solutions that have been adopted have largely been enterprise business applications such as CRM or ERP and the IaaS solutions that have been adopted have been basic compute and storage.
The research contained in our report indicates that the market is potentially approaching a fundamental shift in terms of how IT services are provided. The research indicates that IT organizations have a strong interest in obtaining many traditional IT services from a cloud vendor.
When evaluating these CNS solutions, the bare minimum that an IT organization needs to understand is the functionality that it provides. However, since CNS is another form of public cloud computing, IT organizations also need to determine if the CNS solution delivers on the promised benefits of public cloud computing while also eliminating, or at least minimizing, the negative aspects.
Metzler is vice president at Ashton, Metzler & Associates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.