Our insight


We're often talking about software-defined networking (SDN), and how the latest generation of hardware has the intelligence to simplify the provisioning and management of networks. Added brains bring the ability to support new security features like Cisco TrustSec, but we've also moved away from the labour-intensive configuration of individual devices, and towards simplified, centralised administration.

That's great for convenience, allowing admins to configure and support branch networks from a single controller, but if there's a weakness in the system, or if an unauthorised user gains access, isn't software definition a disaster waiting to happen? We asked network solutions architect Richard Harvey and senior cyber security consultant Adrian Clarke to put our minds at rest.

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Cyber security is important in any industry, but the retail sector presents some particular challenges. A large-scale operation can be distributed over tens of sites, have thousands of employees, and handle the data from millions of customers, each making multiple transactions - in person and online.

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It's been nearly a couple of weeks since I came back from VMWare 2017, and even now my head's still spinning a bit. I'd always planned an extended trip to Barcelona, initially to take a couple of days' holiday, but in the end almost the full six-day stretch filled up with meetings, briefings and workshops.

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Last week Daren Vallyon - our data centre solutions architect - got to meet VMware supremo Pat Gelsinger. I'll let Daren recount his adventures at VMworld Barcelona, but meanwhile I wanted to focus on a theme of Gelsinger's August keynote speech at the Las Vegas event.

One of his key points was that the security landscape is crowded with vendors offering targeted, often worthy, solutions, which operate in silos. The net effect is that it's hard to get an overall security picture, which is in itself a risk. As Gelsinger introduced a new virtual-machine-whitelisting product AppDefense, he explained that the industry as a whole needed to deliver more security.

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Time moves quickly. It seems like minutes since the top of the year, but here we are in Q3 and I've been at Ideal for eight months. A lot has happened. A lot more is happening, and this feels like a good point to pause for reflection and take a look at what the future holds for Ideal and its customers.

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Let’s step back to 1995. AOL (America Online) was one of the biggest internet providers, and hackers and pirates from the warez scene - an underground community specialising in illegal software distribution - were conducting the first ever phishing attacks, using AOL instant messenger and masquerading as AOL employees. With the novelty of such attacks working as a catalyst, they tricked many users into verifying their accounts or sending over their billing information.

Sound familiar? Many of the techniques developed back then have become well established, and are still commonly used. In fact, in many ways phishing hasn’t changed at all.

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Our series of interviews with women who work in IT and the technology sector was started by co-founder Claire. It's a response, in part, to the lack of female applicants for our job vacancies, which is just one reason why we're very pleased to have Georgina Scott-Picton working with us this summer.

As someone yet to embark on her career in IT, we wanted to find out more about her experience so far, and what motivated her to seek a career in technology.

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It's a few weeks since Cisco announced the next step in its journey toward simplifying and automating network provisioning and management: Cisco DNA Centre. Building on the APIC-EM, which we've been using for a while to help configure intelligent wide-area networks (iWAN), Cisco promises that DNA Centre will be a transformative tool in network design, provisioning, policy management, and support. It's up to people like me to work out whether and when that promise will be fulfilled.

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I've already written a bit about segregating enterprise networks, and about the new technologies that are making this easier and more effective. As Ideal's solution architect for networks it's something I get asked about a lot, so I thought it might be helpful to look at this from the customer point of view. You can probably boil it down to three questions: Do I need to segregate?, What do I need to segregate? and How do I segregate?

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For a long time, technology has existed in silos: hosted, cloud-based, on-premises, data centres, LANs v WANs v SANs - and that's before you even start to consider all the different proprietary brands, operating systems, backends and consoles it takes to make the average IT operation operate - some manufacturers can't even make all their own products talk to each other. But something interesting is happening with APIs, and the walls between systems are, perhaps, beginning to come down.

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We've been building an increasingly close partnership with Palo Alto Networks - the disruptive next-generation security company behind innovative products like Traps. Last month I was out in Vancouver for Ignite, PAN's annual cyber security conference, and as PAN's UK and Ireland Technical Champion of the Year 2016 I had the privilege of a one-to-one with its engaging founder, Nir Zuk.

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