Q&A: Avaya Chief Technologist Jean Turgeon on Securing the Smart Cities of the Future

How are vendors like you linking IOT with security? What are the challenges?

To address and enhance security as part of a Smart City initiative, many devices, such as cameras, sensors, wearables, etc., need to be deployed and implemented. All these require connectivity at the edge of the networking infrastructure. Of course, carrier wireless will play a key role in this, but many will require connectivity to the city infrastructure. Even the carrier-connected devices will likely have to connect securely back to some common analytics infrastructure securely.

All these are what we refer to as edge devices, which is what the Internet of Things (IOT) or Internet of Everything (IOE) is all about. The challenge is how to securely connect all these devices at the edge of my city network, and connect securely the ones through a carrier or third-party infrastructure?

This means we need much more agility to add tens of thousands of devices to a network that, in the past, would require multiple physical networks to scale and not compromise security. IOT and security, as well as scalability and reliability, all need to be seriously evaluated. What is the point of deploying IOT if it cannot scale, is not secure and not reliable? That wouldn’t be too smart, would it?

In the end, it converges to the need for next-generation architecture to address the next-generation Smart Cities needs. You can’t remain with a 20- or 25-year-old client/server architecture. This architecture allows IP hackers, once through your firewall, to instantly gain visibility to your entire network thanks to IP hopping.

Unfortunately, many vendors are trying to fool the market by renaming and shifting complexity from one place to the other and hoping customers will not notice.

Due diligence is definitely required to achieve these objectives. The good news is that there is a solution to this: a next-generation matrix architecture based on Ethernet transport and optimized for IP services, regardless of their connectivity methodology. This approach literally makes your entire network invisible to hackers.

Avaya introduced SDN Fx for that exact reason, to scale, enhance security, deliver best-in-class reliability and provide the best foundation to Smart Cities and IOT/IOE.

Using this technology, we’ve demonstrated nearly 15,000 cameras running over a single converged infrastructure with one protocol, experiencing 500ms or better recovery times. This is the kind of infrastructure shift Smart Cities require to save lives, enhance resident experience, and enable new services the community will benefit from.

From your travel around the world, how do you see governments looking at national security from an IT perspective?

Cybersecurity is top-of-mind for governments now, and into the foreseeable future.

In fact, I am sure many are starting to reconsider corporate support for BYOD, and certainly SDN, where open code architecture is being promoted and expected to help drive business agility. From a more fundamental security point of view, governments and enterprises are very concerned about anyone penetrating their corporate networks and assets, which exposes their intellectual property and of course, potential citizens and customer information.

Therefore, seeking solutions that reduce the ability for hackers to gain access and visibility of their IP infrastructure and topology tops the minds of decision makers in the private and public sector.

There are solutions out there that can assist, however, they require a shift in mindset and a transition from legacy architecture. Customers need to urgently open their minds and quickly evaluate what’s on offer. The key to a viable solution is to embrace an ecosystem of technology to address these needs.

No one vendor can do this on their own, which reenforces the need for an open architecture away from proprietary schemes. The good news is that there are solutions out there, the bad news is that if private and public enterprises are looking at the same vendors that built their networks 20 years ago proclaiming they can do it all, this approach will fail.

My recommendation is for them to open their minds to an open architecture, and yet controlled with accountability from specific technology experts, which will provide pieces to the puzzle. This is clearly very complex and challenging.

You’ve traveled around the Middle East. What tops the mind of public safety owners, and what can you tell us about their vision and their challenges?

For the last year, I’ve met most of public safety owners in the region and my observation is that public safety and potential exposure related to it, tops the agenda in the Middle East. The issue is that while most look at “emergency services response” as the best answer for public safety, the current emergency response centers have shockingly serious limitations.

With mobile devices being the main mode of communications, you may want to ask if legacy PSAP systems can locate users in the event of an emergency. The traditional model was not built with mobile devices in mind, and hence, it was easier to tie a location to a hard phone in your home or office. Today however, numbers are associated with a person and not with a location, or even a device. Where is that person located, and how can he or she be helped in crisis?

I have been pleasantly surprised with some areas in the region where applications have been developed to provide instant location services as the person in crisis dials for emergency. Without getting into details, this means some systems have already established both a voice and data channel, allowing location to be immediately sent to a central command, as the individual dials for emergency. This is very positive to see, but, as you can imagine it is not broadly implemented in all countries. Some are clearly lagging behind.

In addition, the next step is to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities and also enable a discrete video channel when dialing for emergencies.

One benefit of the data channel through simple functionality is SMS; this means a video can be pushed to the person in crisis. Imagine someone having a heart attack in a restaurant right next to you. You are not CPR trained; what do you do?

What if the emergency services operator could instantly forward you a video showing how to perform CPR? This can save a life. What if someone was trying to rob a bank, what if your mobile device could be instantly converted into a video surveillance input for the emergency response team to have a live video feed of the situation as they are en route to the bank?

This is what I call “Smart Safety,” and the use cases are unlimited. Smart Safety is now live in many parts across the world and the region, but there is a wide opportunity to progress and make it consistent across countries.

Do smart cities create security challenges? What are they?

I think it is the opposite, if they are truly implementing a “Smart City” solution. Smart City is more than just enabling Wi-Fi services. My observation is that there is a new trend taking shape: while Wi-Fi is certainly one of the services, part of most Smart Cities initiatives that I am seeing are adding video surveillance and analytics in very large scale, which is quite difficult when using a legacy infrastructure.

As governments provision all these new capabilities and services to their smart cities, they will have to review their infrastructure to be able to scale and meet the real-time analytics requirements.

They would also have to consider adding sensors technology to address various needs contributing to making the city safer. As an example, if the city uses natural gas, they may want to implement sensors to detect the flow and potential leaks of gas throughout the city to quickly react to a potential issue. For instance, governments can leverage video surveillance analytics to be able to intelligently track an Emergency Response Vehicles and control the lights and reduce the time to destination and collision potential.

In many cities around the world, street lights are a source of wasted energy, which can be remotely controlled throughout the night depending on cars and people traffic intensity. By leveraging real time analytics, this can be easily achieved, reducing electricity consumption without compromising residents or visitors security.

There are many examples like this, but I would summarize in saying, Smart Cities will improve security as opposed to augment or create security risks if properly implemented.

Nations have different visions of what Smart Cities are. What is a Smart City from your perspective?

Smart Cities are about enabling new services to better service your population. This is about making your city safer, offering new services while enabling consumers to use to drive net new revenues or in some cases focused only on providing a better experience to visitors and tourists.

If residents feel safe, get best-in-class services, and feel their city is at the forefront of offering new services, they will be happier and they will share their feelings with others and especially on social media.

In the Middle East we refer to the “Happiness Index.” Smart Cities are all about delivering on that objective. It is about providing best-in-class services, making governments and cities stand out from other destinations around the world.

People have many destinations to choose from. They can live anywhere. Would you want to live in a city not committed to improving the population quality of life? All of these define what Smart Cities are all about. Drive the “happiness index” to new levels and have the world know about your city being the best, most secure and interesting city to visit and potentially move to.

From a technical perspective, how can governments make their cities safer?

Cities have to move to a different architecture model to support next-generation “Smart-X” services. The legacy client-server model has served us well, but over the past 25 years, have increased in complexity and made reliability a huge challenge due to complex protocols required to address all of these business needs.

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Aiming Towards an Unfettered and Secure IoT

Last week, we heard bold claims by a networking vendor that they could make the Internet of Things (IoT) safe because they “own” the network. One of the ways they plan to do this is to certify products to take advantage of network security capabilities.

As a player in the networking space that is addressing IoT security, Avaya agrees “that there aren’t enough people on Earth to run the network the way it’s being run today, when you look at the scale of IoT.”

But, we strongly disagree on a number of other claims and respectfully offer these counterpoints:

  • One Pipe, One Gatekeeper:

    Their point of view shouldn’t be surprising—they are a vendor that has long relied on proprietary approaches designed to keep out the competition. The plan to certify devices to run on their network is yet another cog in the wheel whereby they soundly eliminate competitors and increase their revenue instead of allowing the market to decide who has the better approach to securing IoT. This brings us to our next point.

  • Innovation: Supporting or Suffocating?

    Does a single vendor governing who and what has access to the network encourage innovation or does it stifle it? While the concept of whitelisting is generally good, it requires a significant level of execution to be effective without hindering innovation. The sheer scale of the IoT means that it’s likely billions of devices will ultimately be connected. Each type needs to be certified, demonstrating compliance to a standard that gives them permission to onboard. Not impossible, but this is not the domain of a single vendor. In addition, as the market continues to trend towards more flexible networks and elasticity enabling greater innovation, the one-vendor-owns-the-network approach is rigid and exclusionary. The ecosystem for devices becomes extremely limited.

  • Say Bye-Bye to Your Legacy Equipment:

    While newer devices may be able to incorporate new standards and technology, there are still many, many legacy devices in operation that don’t have that level of intelligence. Many of these devices are regulated and would require significant back porting to support the operating systems they run. Requiring a forklift to remove non-compliant legacy devices is a huge moneymaker for some vendor—something we’ve seen them do in the past. But, for the company that needs to change their entire legacy operation, it may mean closing the doors due to a prohibitively expensive demand to update. Alternatively, they will be forced to manually manage the whitelists for legacy devices—an extremely cumbersome process.

An Alternative Approach

Avaya has already taken ground-breaking steps in securing IoT—steps that are much less costly and cumbersome, and support the innovation that IoT stands for by its very nature. Let me elaborate:

  • Automatic Onboarding, Configuration and Management:

    While the competition suggests that its approach will include not only “IoT onboarding and management capabilities, it will go beyond security to include automation of other tasks like network configuration that administrators would otherwise have to do.” Hello there. Let me introduce myself. This is fundamental to Avaya SDN Fx™. More than 800 Avaya customers are already enjoying the unique simplicity delivered through automation to the edge found in Avaya Networking. However, it’s still networking. Fundamentally, IoT needs to be separate from the network. While interaction between the solutions may offer benefits, any IoT solution needs to be capable of providing unique value regardless of the network underneath.

  • Keep What You Have, Use What You Want:

    IoT is gazillions of unique endpoints like medical imaging equipment, video devices, specialty printers, and more. Thus, you must protect 100% of your devices for a secure network. To manage this, and to secure legacy devices and a broad ecosystem of devices, Avaya built the Open Network Adapter—a small adapter about the size of a deck of cards enabled with an Open vSwitch. The Open Network Adapter allows these special devices to automatically connect to the network with a granular security profile based on their individual communication characteristics. Once fitted with the adapter, a session can be automatically set up, torn down and re-established—even if moved to a new location. This ensures that devices always have the proper security and can be tracked for both logistics and analytics purposes.

  • Securing the Future and Making Whitelisting Practical:

    Avaya’s SDN Fx IoT solution takes a different approach by providing proxy capabilities for devices to protect existing investments. This lets budgets be focused on innovations that are important to the business strategy. The SDN Fx IoT solution is based on the concept of intelligent profiling to dynamically understand the expected conversation patterns of whitelisted devices. This is important, as devices can be spoofed or hacked. Many IoT devices are in public domains where people may have physical access. They are often implemented by non-IT personnel and may not be secured to the level an enterprise expects. Gaining permission for whitelisting the device is a low threshold most will be willing to accept. From there, IT is free to characterize the traffic patterns of the devices and dynamically narrow the security profiles to a very refined set of flows within the whitelist.

  • Hyper-Segmentation for Hyper-Secure Networks:

    For those looking to evolve their defenses beyond an overlay solution and fully integrate their end-to-end security, Avaya’s SDN Fx provides a perfect complement to the IoT solution with automated connection into hyper-segments directly from the Open Network Adapter. Recently, we announced the hyper-segmentation capabilities of Avaya Networking. This end-to-end segmentation creates isolated traffic lanes within the network that limit where a hacker can go. They can’t get to the core and wreak havoc with sensitive data and operations. With hyper-segmentation, you get on the on-ramp to a dedicated toll road, where you are the only car on the road. Your isolated road leads directly to your destination, with no off-ramps. No one can see you, and you can’t see anyone else. But more importantly you can’t get off at any other destination than your own.

Avaya has already done much of the work needed for securing IoT that the other networking vendor is proposing, although we’ve left out those aspects that are not in the best interests of customers and innovation. While they are trying to make this about the network, the network has yet to stop many of the recently publicized breaches.

Any IoT device has the potential to be compromised whether remotely or physically, so end-to-end security is absolutely necessary, but absolutely should not be an old school, proprietary approach. Instead, it starts with micro-segmenting between applications and extends that level of separation and obfuscation out to the device and cloud edges. Anything less is like a football player taking the field with full pads but no helmet. Most hits will be absorbed, but the ones that aren’t can be the most damaging.

World’s Largest Surveillance Camera Provider Awards Avaya Technology Partner of the Year

You need more than just sophisticated surveillance video cameras to catch it all. Although cameras are an important part of the equation, the quality of your surveillance video is only as good as the quality of the network infrastructure that it runs over.

Blurry video, lapses in video footage and delays in pulling up video footage: all of these major complications can result from a poor underlying network … and cause serious security lapses. According to a 2014 report from ZK Research, 70 percent of surveillance issues can be attributed to less than rock-solid network quality.

Axis Communications, the global leader in network video, recognizes the importance the network plays in delivering high-quality and secure surveillance. At its 10th annual Axis Connect & Converge Conference, Axis − the world’s No. 1 provider of surveillance cameras − named Avaya its 2015 Technology Partner of the Year.

Avaya offers a network optimized for video surveillance. Leveraging Fabric Connect, an Avaya network uses Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), which eliminates the need for multiple protocols and enables simple endpoint provisioning. This gives the network greater scalability, performance and simplicity than traditional IP network offerings, leading to more flexible and reliable support for Axis video surveillance cameras.

When a spotty network means spotty surveillance, customers look for reliability. An always-on network means safer hospitals, cities and even schools, such as in the case of joint Avaya and Axis customer Holland Hall. Due to increasing calls for safety for students and faculty, Holland Hall implemented a new video surveillance system with 50 Axis cameras and an Axis video management system (VMS), with the capacity to add more cameras as needed.

“We just dropped in our IP video surveillance system and it works without impacting our student network,” said Henry Finch, the school’s director of IT. “We can spin up whatever we need on the security side knowing we don’t need to wait until after school.”

To learn more about how video surveillance is made easy with Avaya, click here.

SDN Solutions Provide the Tools to Revolutionize the Enterprise

The recent buzz in the industry is astonishing. I would dare to argue that we have never before seen this level of activity and innovation around networking, not even during the heyday of the early 2000s. Not a day goes by without an SDN-related vendor announcement, a new startup entering the fray, or a new alliance being formed. Truly exciting times indeed!

However, amidst all this activity it is sometimes difficult to see the greater trend: SDN and related industry developments have initiated a far more fundamental shift. SDN and peripheral developments are fundamentally altering the value network of the industry as value creation moves from traditional networking products to innovative, agile, software solutions.

As an extension, these technologies for the first time provide customers with the potential to provide application-controlled infrastructure agility across compute, storage, and network beyond the pure IT-centric automation solutions. This development finally enables enterprises and service providers alike to close the agility gap that has existed in most organizations, so that the business and the infrastructure can evolve in parallel.

Initial SDN offerings have focused largely on infrastructure automation and virtualized overlays to mitigate the lack of agility in the underlying, legacy network infrastructure. But in parallel, a new breed of SDN solutions is emerging that is providing far higher business value beyond the IT domain. These new solutions will enable innovators in various industries to definitively enhance their positions in the value network and the competitive landscape.

You might ask: What is the underlying issue driving these developments? Looking back over the past 20 years and the changes that have taken place in corporations globally since the emergence of IT and the Internet, it is obvious that value networks have been redrafted, as organizational structures have flattened and increasingly adopted matrix structures to deal with the needs to increase business agility.

In application development, where this change was mirrored, we have moved to agile development to cater for the need to quickly deal with uncertainty. Infrastructure virtualization has allowed us to keep up with the agility requirements in the data center.

However, the underlying networking infrastructure has remained complex and inflexible and has thus limited the deployment of more agile end-to-end solutions in many cases.

Life on the New Frontier: a Case Study

Emerging SDN applications and, to a lesser extent, selected SD-WAN solutions differ from traditional automation solutions in that they attempt to closely link business processes and supporting applications with the infrastructure, thus enabling the business to reconfigure on the fly as needed. They are the new frontier, beginning to enable even more innovation and efficiency, and will eventually deliver the real value of SDN in the enterprise.

To illustrate this, let me provide a sample use case:

Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs) are a subset of contact center operators that handle calls for a third-party organization–typically a high-volume, low-margin business where performance improvements can provide significant competitive advantages. BPOs operate the contact center voice infrastructure and access their clients’ backend systems to provide services. In most cases, BPOs also span multiple geographies and languages, increasing complexity.

This means BPOs need to operate the contact center voice service infrastructure and applications, both of which are mature. Incumbent vendors are providing a range of innovative and mature systems and applications to manage these systems. These systems, in essence, mirror the BPO’s business processes.

The other systems that BPOs operate are their multi-tenant data networks, which need manual and complex correlation to the need to securely segment customers in the data center, the WAN, and the campus. These networks are often so complex that a large, multi-site deployment of a new customer can take weeks or months to plan, schedule, and implement–adding significant cost, delaying revenue, reducing business agility and posing a risk to existing customers’ SLAs.

An SDN application deployed in this environment that is able to translate the business process to the infrastructure and agent settings on the fly can reduce infrastructure cost, lower implementation cost, and shorten time-to-service to minutes, hence fundamentally altering the competitive landscape.

This is just one simple example of the power that SDN can offer in business environments to provide a true “game changer.” Other examples exist in just about any industry, from healthcare to industrial environments and from hospitality to media, to name just a few.

Time to Change the Game Plan

SDN applications that link business processes to all infrastructure components and enable businesses to alter the configuration of the business on the fly are real game changers and provide capabilities that have never been available in the full infrastructure stack to this extent, certainly not in networking.

However, successful reconfiguration of the enterprise and taking full advantage of SDN, requires a non-traditional approach to embedding IT into business processes. It also requires different skills and processes in the IT organization, with multi-domain knowledge and DevOps capabilities being key requirements. All this offers exciting new opportunities for IT staff willing to take the plunge.

Software-defined anything, as Gartner refers to it, is clearly still in its early stages–or, in Gartner’s representation, in an early phase of the hype-cycle. However, SDN is having a significant impact today, and we are only just scratching the surface of what this technology can offer enterprises. Maximizing the business benefit of SDN will require different skills and novel approaches. SDN is not just the next IT initiative.

Consequently, organizations interested in SDN should be sure they make these initiatives broader business initiatives, and executives should be sure they understand the possibilities that these new technologies offer their businesses.