Window on WANs

May 20 2009   1:21AM GMT

Verizon dives into deep end of network services pool

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

Technology trade shows can be surreal places, especially when the location is Las Vegas where fantasy takes a quick left turn and everything eventually turns up in an all you can eat buffet.

At Interop this week, which has evolved to become one of the more important networking events in the industry, the ghost of Elvis and lesser entertainers were everywhere as vendors on the exhibit floor resorted to showgirls, D-list magicians and even a full-scale boxing exhibition to attract attendees and collect an audience for new product pitches.

A handful of companies even collaborated to create a beer safari on the exhibit floor, offering a taste to people who trekked from booth to booth. Others took a more ‘rat pack’ approach and provided martinis, olives and garnishes included. Ah, Vegas!

Verizon Business provided one of the more unique venues for a press briefing at Interop, when plans for a conference room apparently fell through and executives met poolside at the Mandalay Beach Hotel in private Garden Cabana #8. To get there, I had to take a short cut through the Bikini Beach Bar, which not so oddly was populated only by rough-looking males sporting an interesting assortment of tattoo body art.

Once there, I took off my sport coat and rolled up my sleeves – after all, we were poolside – and dived right into a conversation about IP networking advances, cloud- based tools that improve application performance and a new partnership with CA, Inc. that could very well push Verizon further into managed services. Elvis would be proud, at least if he were a network administrator for a large West Coast enterprise. Thank you very much.

The agreement with CA, announced on Tuesday, builds upon an existing long-term relationship and further cements the company’s ability to provide network management, monitoring and reporting tools to its expanding client base. It also extends the company’s global MPLS-based network offerings, collectively known as Private IP, which has been available on the market for at least nine years.

The idea is to provide services and tools to customers who want to take their data and network infrastructures into the clouds, by deploying services throughout the network and eliminating the need for costly and duplicitous individual installations. As a speaker at one of many Interop sessions noted, cutting back on unnecessary deployments and consolidating assets are the ‘hard dollar’ values of cloud computing, virtualization and all the other buzz words that are a marketer’s dream.

Capabilities that stem from the stronger agreement with partner CA include a new suite of fault management, monitoring tools and reporting capabilities – collectively called Asset Assurance – that can be used to spot network problems, re-route traffic around problem areas and provide a bit of pre-emptive maintenance by sending out alerts when something may fail.    Asset Assurance relies on CA’s Spectrum Infrastructure Manager to provide network management and monitoring capabilities, as all as a range of other SaaS-based tools aimed at device monitoring, alerts, fault isolation and root-cause analysis.

Adding to this is an enhanced Internet Security Assessment service, that can be used to analyze potentially harmful network traffic and other nasties that might easily bring a system to its knees;  and an updated managed services capability for Verizon Secure Gateway-Firewall that can keep an eye on data, voice and video traffic as it flows between public and private networks. Both of these capabilities are managed by Verizon.

Security and keeping a close watch on networked managed resources is a key part of Verizon’s announcement at Interop, which goes well beyond just sniffing around for possible denial of service attacks and unauthorized associations. Verizon’s new security tools keeps tabs on how your network should function, what protocols and software should be installed, and identifies all of your approved hardware and software assets, says Conti.

The second piece of the pie is an enhancement of the firewall on the secure gateway that manages the flow and policy compliance of applications bouncing in and out of the cloud and through a corporate WAN or LAN. This includes partner programs and applications, which account for roughly 32% of all breaches in a network, according to Verizon research.

“What you see is a progression to protecting and mitigating threats before they even reach the network,” notes Conti.

When it comes to viruses and malicious network traffic, if it happens in Vegas it won’t necessarily stay in Vegas, and that’s the word served up poolside at Garden Cabana #8.

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