But within this apparent uniformity, complexity hides itself, often in ways companies are not fully aware of. For instance, in the 270 assessments carried out by Dimension, the average network was running 28 different versions of Cisco's router OS, IOS (Internetwork Operating System), with 11 assessments showing over 100 versions. Of the latter, Campbell said, "This speaks of a company that is not in control."
As networks have become more uniform around standards and more commoditized, vendors have responded by competing in terms of features and development, which has created more complexity within the product families of dominant vendors such as Cisco. As complexity rises, so do the problems associated with management. Dimension also found that many network devices looked at in its assessments suffered from a range of configuration and policy violation issues in ways connected to this theme.
The deeper problem was that many networks were simply now indefensible at the level of devices anyway, said Adrian Seccombe, representing the independent security think tank, The Jericho Forum.
"I can see the reason why organizations are in a pickle, as they are stuck between the two worlds, realizing that their networks are not secure and not having developed a security architecture that assumes that their networks are not secure," Seccombe said.
The Jericho Forum advocated a security concept called 'de-perimeterization' in which a network's security edge was where the application and data resided rather than where the physical devices happened to be.
"The fact is, that they [enterprises] believed the FUD that the older generation of security vendors spouted to keep them building ever higher firewalls and ever deeper, data leakage protection moats," he said.