As lean IT teams find more ways to use LTE and 5G for enterprise networking, VPN architecture must evolve to reduce resource strain and accommodate growth
Everyone knows a secret language or two. For some it’s the mysterious dictionary of teen slang, for others it’s the scientific terminology used in medical diagnoses, and for many IT professionals, secure network connectivity solutions such as virtual private networks (VPN) are a language all their own.
In the increasingly wireless world of enterprise networking, technical lexicon is evolving as new tools continue to pop up to advance WAN edge and 5G security and protect devices on expanded networks. But that doesn’t mean VPN is on the path to extinction. Rather, VPN tunnel technology has an opportunity to keep and perhaps increase its market share by evolving to become more simple, scalable, and automatic.
Why are traditional WAN VPNs challenging for IT teams to manage and scale?
Although largely effective in hiding browsing activity, sensitive data, and IP addresses from hackers, WAN VPN architecture is difficult to manage and hasn’t evolved much over the years to support the emerging trends of mobile workforces and cloud-based applications.
One of the biggest struggles when managing VPNs is their rigidity. Traditionally intended only for satellite offices and a remote workforce, the initial setup of a VPN is complex and generally not meant to be tinkered with once established, making it difficult to meet the needs of a growing enterprise.
As companies shift from a centralized campus to distributed sites across cellular and wired broadband networks, the time and resources needed to establish new sites on a VPN and monitor the activity of each individual address is often more than lean IT teams can manage. Additionally, without adequate VPN tunnel monitoring systems in place, triage of security incidents can be sluggish as IT teams are burdened with the task of sorting through alert lists, line by line, to determine the incident cause and protect adjacent connections.
How emerging VPN technologies are making VPN management easier for IT teams
Agility and simplicity are key hallmarks in the evolution of enterprise WAN VPN. Here are several ways in which the next generation of secure connectivity can adequately support an expanding enterprise.
Speak the language of the user
While machines prefer numbers, humans prefer names. So, the language of VPN should closely mirror natural human language. By replacing IP addresses with personified titles like “Sandusky branch” or “Kansas City kiosk,” IT teams can rapidly identify the location of a security incident to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.
Incorporate automation to reduce strain on resources
Nearly 55% of senior IT professionals rank lack of automation as the no. 1 challenge in security operations and management, reflecting their inability to manually investigate and respond to notifications across increasingly complex 5G networks (Insight Enterprises Inc., 2021).
This supports the idea that the next iteration of VPN must have the ability to auto-adapt for performance, security, and failure through artificial intelligence and machine learning. When automatic VPN functionality like built-in orchestration of tunnels and analysis of user patterns are incorporated into WAN edge security solutions, the burden of manual labor and risk of human error decline.
Simplify the addition of new users and devices on the VPN
Solutions marketed to enterprises in a 5G Wireless WAN (WWAN) environment should always cater to scalability, and VPN is no different. By offering the ability to reuse IP addresses, augment physical or virtual hardware to meet the needs of growth, and add additional bandwidth blocks as needed, companies can expand the number of connections in their network without the fear of bogging down IT teams with a complete VPN overhaul.
Reduce attack surface
As the surface area of a network grows, so do its vulnerabilities. To help reduce attack surface and protect the enterprise from bad actors attempting to gain access to the network, future WAN VPN solutions must:
- Eliminate complexities
- Increase tunnel, user, and event visibility through tools such as VPN tunnel monitoring and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS)
- Obscure IP addresses
- Include architecture that promotes adoption of a 5G zero trust strategy, also known as ZTNA solutions
By implementing these strategies, future iterations of VPN will remain relevant, trusted solutions in the wireless edge security playbook.