During Cisco Live 2020, I had a chance to sit down with Khalid Raza, Distinguished Architect with Cisco. If the name sounds familiar it’s because he was also the CTO and Co-founder at Viptela before they were acquired by Cisco back in 2017. He’s a brilliant thinker who has some very astute observations about the way that technology works today and where it’s headed in the future. Here’s the video that we shot for the interview:
The Perimeter Has Changed
Some of my highlights from this discussion include his look at the way that apps have been designed for years to look for strong perimeter security as the fence that keeps the cows in at night. We can’t rely on that idea anymore. Just having a single firewall at the border isn’t enough any longer. The real perimeter security for any organization has to be right at the edge. What edge is that, you ask? That new edge is wherever your users or your data might live. Your users are all at home right now working away in their newest remote branch locations, like their living rooms. The data they are accessing is in the cloud. Your private data center might be serving a hybrid function. It could also by lying fallow, waiting for your workers to return at an uncertain time in the future.
To Khalid, the future looks more distributed. The data and cloud will live close to the edge of the network where the users are. The idea of a physical perimeter won’t exist. The users may have some kind of hardware or software SD-WAN running in order to connect them to the cloud or to their private work files. But that edge and perimeter security will be transient and very virtual because our users are going to have to connect wherever they happen to be at the time. The idea of a protected inside network is going to be in the past like ARCNET or Nokia cell phones.
That’s not to say that there won’t be some kind of centralization, though. We are still going to need centralized policy and control, according to Khalid. We can’t rely on distributed edge nodes to do all the thinking. Instead, what we’re going to see is a world where the edge nodes are protecting users and doing all the forwarding of packets and the policy and security posture is going to be pushed down from a central control structure that has visibility everywhere. That’s critical to ensure that everyone is working with the same set of secured credentials and protections while accessing data in places like the cloud. We can’t hope that things are going to be “right” with a vastly distributed edge. Instead, we need to coordinate and control it all to ensure it’s going to work properly.
Bringing It All Together
Khalid is a very perceptive person. He knows the future of the workforce has been radically changed and that the distribution of cloud and end users has just been accelerated. He also has some fascinating takes on the state of IT in the healthcare industry that you definitely want to check out in the above video. As I mentioned during the interview, a distinguished architect that has already been a part of a successful acquisition probably knows exactly how things are going to turn out in the technology space. I wouldn’t bet against him this time around either.