Network Security is Red Hot in 2014

Red Hot BallsI recently completed a Network Purchasing Intention study with ZK Research media partner Tech Target. The goals of the survey were to get a good understanding of how network spending will shape up for the remainder of the year, and to see what’s hot and what’s not.

One of the leading questions was, “What are the company’s top 3 initiatives over the next 12 months?” and there were three responses that stood out. The third most popular answer was “data center network upgrades” (25%). No surprise that data center was one of the top drivers, given the focus on cloud, virtualization and software defined networks. The second most-chosen answer was “Wireless LAN/WiFi Networks” (27%). Again, no real shock here given the momentum around BYOD today. The top answer to this question was… (drum roll)… “network security” with 31% of the respondents ranking this a top initiative.

With all the momentum around data center initiatives and BYOD I was a bit surprised to see security rank #1. In fact, in the 2013 survey, network security was #4 behind WiFi, data center, and network management tools. This year security jumped from 11% in 2013 to 31% for 2014.

So why the big jump for security? One explanation is that over the past few years IT has spent so much time figuring out how to on-board consumer devices and pushing stuff to the cloud that security was almost the ‘forgotten-about’ item. Now that BYOD and cloud migrations are underway, IT has the opportunity to step back and understand the security implications of the initiatives of the past couple of years.

Another reason is that security is now a top concern for business leaders. Another early question in the aforementioned survey was, “What business issues are the main drivers of your organization’s network investments?” Here again we see “securing the business” as the top answer, with a whopping 49% of the respondents, up from 25% in the previous year. While the second-most-popular answer was “enabling worker productivity”, the third-most-common response was “disaster recovery/compliance requirements” — also security related. So now that security has bubbled up and become a bigger business issue, it’s become a top network initiative, because, as they say, we all know what flows downhill.

The final piece of the puzzle which may explain the big kick in security focus was the question, “Which of the following technologies or projects have required more time and networking resources than last year?” The top three responses this year are the same as the top three the previous year: “server virtualization”, “network security” and “wireless networking”. However, of these “big three” responses, server virtualization and wireless networking fell slightly, where network security jumped up several percentage points.

I would like to point out that it occurred to me that the demographics of the survey might have skewed the responses, so I took a look at the areas of responsibility for the responders: LAN hardware, wireless technologies and WAN engineers all were represented with an equal number (or more) responders than security, so skewing toward security pros wasn’t a contributing factor.

So it appears that after a couple of years of being only hot, network security is moving back into the realm of being red hot. It’s not like the security vendors have suffered greatly – the sector never really ‘cooled’, it’s just degrees of hotness. However, given the fact that security is now a top business driver and it’s taking more time from the network manager, expect the heat to last at least a couple of years.

Image credit: Gordon Joly (flickr) / CC-BY