Edge Computing, 5G & IoT: Risks and Opportunities for Service Providers

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Service providers are undergoing a technological revolution in the name of agility. They’re transforming computing infrastructures to gain service dexterity, provide new and improved applications to digitally native consumers in an app-driven world and deliver interactive content delivery services to new generations of customers who demand them.

The overarching goal? Leverage automation and a new generation of software- and service-defined architectures to improve the digital experience for consumers and businesses alike, all the while providing a secure experience.

To accomplish this, service providers are undergoing several business and architectural transformations, including moving to the “edge.” Service providers are transitioning away from core network designs by deploying new network infrastructure at the edge that will host key application resources, thereby reducing latency.

5G Networks, Edge Computing, IoT and Cybersecurity

The move to edge computing environments, the deployment of 5G networks, the mass adoption of IoT devices and the need to keep all of this secure have had far-ranging impacts for service providers.

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For edge computing to thrive, the underlying architecture will be distributed in the cloud and will no longer be dependent on dedicated appliances. The corresponding implementation and deployment of carriers’ networks will evolve to expand capacity, reduce latency and lower costs/power requirements.

To reinforce this open environment, organizations driving network agility will have to virtualize their network functions, resulting in less control over the physical elements of the networks in exchange for the cost benefits of flexible resource allocation. Services are also no longer restricted to service providers’ networks or content and will exist in external network domains, increasing the geographical coverage for subscribers. This means that services can rely on physically closer, virtualized network resources for more efficient delivery of content to the connected device.

As part of the transition to edge computing, service providers will implement network slicing in which network providers “slice” portions of network resources to offer specialized services for specific application types, all the while remaining in the same physical infrastructure.

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5G networks piggyback with network slicing because that will bring higher bandwidth and lower latency for today’s digitally native consumers. In addition to serving as the foundation for the aforementioned digital transformation, 5G networks will also deliver the integral infrastructure required for increased flexibility. Driven by global demand for high-speed internet access, the business landscape will only increase in competitiveness as service providers jockey to deliver improved network capabilities.

New Cybersecurity Risks

But these transformations come with new cybersecurity risks. As network architectures evolve to support third party applications, increased consumption of multimedia content and the interaction of data and services via IoT devices, they will create security vulnerabilities if cybersecurity isn’t prioritized and integrated into the network from the get-go.

Current carrier networks are not capable of handling the security requirements of multi-cloud, widely distributed networks. The same capabilities that allow edge computing platforms to deliver lightning-fast connectivity also allow hackers to execute larger, more sophisticated cyberattacks. SOC engineers at service providers already face difficulty in predicting and preparing for today’s attacks, becoming easy prey in the multi-cloud universe.

When combined with IoT devices, unprepared service providers can be overwhelmed by the next generation of security threats. For example, 5G networks shift the current network paradigm by redefining what “fast-paced” will be. The digital and virtual transformation utilizes more cloud applications dependent on various APIs, multiplying the complexity of interconnected devices that rely on more responsiveness, such as virtual healthcare solutions. This becomes a key issue for 5G network managers because of the increased number of potential vulnerabilities if they are not properly protected.

Take network slicing as another example. Network slicing offers traffic segmentation that is designed to isolate disruptions, but it also complicates network security because it requires more multitenancy and policy management to remain contextual.

And New Opportunities

But these risks come with new opportunities. Securing both 5G networks and edge computing architectures should not be viewed as an operational cost but rather as a new business opportunity/competitive differentiator that is integrated throughout the overall architecture.

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Just as personal data has become a commodity, service providers will require a security architecture that keeps data secure while improving the customer experience via a mix of availability and security functions. New outbound protection requirements have emerged to identify anomalous behavior to help identify misuse of resources and provide a meaningful remediation model to large scale IoT deployments.

Read “Sharpening the Edge: 5G Networks, Edge Computing, IoT and Their Implications on Cybersecurity for Service Providers” to learn more.

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