A data center is a facility that centralizes an organization’s IT operations and equipment for the purposes of storing, processing and disseminating data and applications. Because they house an organization's most critical and proprietary assets, data centers are vital to the continuity of daily operations. Consequently, security and reliability are among any organization’s top priorities.
In the past, data center infrastructures were highly controlled, physical environments, but the public cloud has since changed that model. Most modern infrastructures have evolved from on-premises physical servers to virtualized infrastructure that supports applications and workloads across multicloud environments. Application workloads are moving across multiple data centers and private, public and hybrid clouds.
Data centers are an integral part of the enterprise, designed to support business applications and provide services such as:
Today, there are reportedly more than 7 million data centers worldwide. Practically every business and government entity builds and maintains its own or has access to someone else's, if not both models.
Data center architectures and requirements can differ significantly. For example, a data center built for a cloud service provider like Amazon will have very different infrastructure requirements than a government facility dedicated to securing classified data.
Regardless of classification, an effective operation is achieved through a balanced investment in the facility and its equipment. Since data centers often house business-critical data and applications, data center security is important. It's essential that facilities and equipment are secured against intruders and cyberattacks.
The primary elements of a data center break down as follows:
Data centers have evolved significantly in recent years as enterprise IT needs continue to move toward on-demand services. There is an expression these days: The modern data center is where your workloads are.
To support this level of application elasticity and mobility, enterprises are transforming their data centers with a modern architecture. A modern data center relies on virtualization, cloud and software-defined networking to deliver application workloads everywhere; this includes physical data centers and both multicloud and hybrid environments.
A modern infrastructure allows your organization to extend into cloud services. This evolution enables flexible scaling for network, storage and compute demand surges.
The data center is no longer a closed environment with static, hardware-based computing resources but an environment with a mix of traditional and cloud computing technologies. The hybrid cloud data center helps IT organizations deliver greater business opportunities but also introduces new risks.
Data centers that span multicloud environments offer a larger attack surface, which can translate into increased complexity in networking and cybersecurity. It is critical to maintain full visibility and precise control of your data center regardless of the architecture. It is also important to implement a best practice methodology for data center security independent of the individual environments you’re running.
Legacy security infrastructures are generally flat network architectures that rely on a perimeter firewall as their only point of traffic inspection and control. Since network boundaries don’t exist as they used to, and most data center traffic is east-west, traditional port-based firewalls provide limited value in a cloud and mobile world.
For security to be effective, it must deliver perimeter security as well as build trust zones within an organization’s internal network. This ensures that traffic between apps and services of different trust levels is filtered in real time, using security services such as intrusion prevention and Domain Name System (DNS) security. The same level of protection must extend to public clouds to ensure consistent network security and segmentation in hybrid environments as well.
Security must be enforced at multiple places to follow workloads everywhere — on the perimeter, network fabric and host. Implementing best practices will help better protect dynamic data and application workloads.
The following steps can be used to roll out an updated strategy:
Read Three Use Cases for Securing a Hybrid Data Center to learn more about the evolution of the data center as well as how to secure modern data centers and hybrid clouds.