Long before the technical term “Cloud” became a household word, networks have existed in some shape or form. A network typically involved hardwiring servers together using other hardware-based components, such as routers, switches, hubs, firewalls, etc. But given the huge and dramatic advances in technology, especially with the Cloud-based platforms (such as AWS and Microsoft Azure), networks can now become “virtualized”.
Network virtualization simply means that the devices and cabling that were once present in a physical form are now represented as software-based mechanisms, in a virtual form. Thus, it has been given the term “Virtual Network”. The only physical components needed are those that will allow the IP-based data packets to be transmitted from the point of origination to the point of destination, with the usual intermediary hops along the way.
The two types of Virtual Networks are:
- The External Virtual Network, in which physical networks that are connected can now be connected into separate virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs). Conversely, physical networks that are not connected directly can come together as one unit, or one common VLAN.
- The Internal Virtual Network: These are typically found on Cloud-based platforms, and only one Virtual Machine (VM) is needed to control the entire network. This is in contrast to the External Virtual Network, where multiple servers may be involved.
There are numerous benefits to using a Virtual Network, and some of the strategic advantages include the following:
- Hardly any hardware is required.
- It allows for the workloads to be flexible.
- It allows for drastic increases in workload provisioning if the business environment warrants it.
- Ease of scalability is a huge advantage, as network resources can be increased and/or reduced in a matter of seconds, as needed.
How Virtual Networks Can Be Used to Secure Resources
Apart from the advantages described above, another great benefit that a Virtual Network can bring to a company is that of securing shared resources and assets. Elements of this approach include the following:
- Isolation. Although the Virtual Networks may be interconnected in the Cloud, the bottom line is that they are still isolated from one another. They are also separate from any physical hardware in the network. Thus, it is quite easy to deploy what is known as the concept of Least Privilege. This is the situation where you give your employees only the bare minimum of access rights necessary to perform their daily job duties. Virtual Networks are typically set up this way by default unless you change the configuration settings. Cloud-based infrastructures are usually hosted in a shared environment, where all tenants in one physical server make use of the same processing and computing resources, with the risk that leakage from one tenant could spill over into the others. The isolation of the Virtual Networks prevents from this from actually happening.
- Segmentation is easier. Given today’s Cyber threat landscape, many businesses today are now opting to divide their entire network infrastructure into multiple segments. So rather than having just one main network, there now multiple networks, referred to as subnets. In a way, this is like adopting the Zero Trust Framework, in which multiple zones of defense are created. The main premise here is that if a Cyberattacker were to break through one Virtual Network, the statistical probability of them breaking through the others and reaching the crown jewels becomes almost nil. Also, micro subnets can be created within one primary subnet, with each of one serving a different purpose, known as tiers. For example, one could serve the necessary resources for the web server, another would provide the resources for the database, etc. Although this may sound complex, it is actually very easy to configure and deploy when using a Virtual Network. This approach adds even more redundancy, which increases security.
- Advanced tools can be used. When making use of a Virtual Network, much more sophisticated tools can be created and deployed to help enhance the levels of security in your Cloud-based platform. For instance, many Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) packages can be easily inserted in the lines of the Virtual Network on a real time basis. The bottom line here is that you will be able to enforce, distribute, and enable far superior threat monitoring services into your Virtual Network as opposed to using a Physical Network. Also, any policy changes or updates you make to your overall Security Policy will be quickly reflected in the Virtual Network.
- A more balanced approach is taken. As mentioned earlier, many organizations are now opting to move entirely over to the Cloud. But there are still those that are opting to stay with their On Premises infrastructure. In this regard, a Virtual Network will allow for an equal balancing of resources in both kinds of environments. So, if a company decides to take this hybrid type of approach, the Virtual Network can easily pick up the slack where the Physical Network may be lagging. For example, if there is a point at which slowdowns or bottlenecks are becoming a problem in the Physical Network, that part could be provisioned over to the Virtual Server to eradicate the issue in a matter of seconds.
Overall, this article has examined what a Virtual Network is, and the benefits it brings in protecting a company’s Cloud environment. Although deploying a Virtual Network can be done in a short amount of time, it still requires careful planning. After all, you don’t want to have any downtime in your network infrastructure, both from the Cyber and productivity standpoints.