Cisco reimagines data security in AI era

April 22, 2024 | 16:33
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Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), a major name in software, network and cybersecurity, unveiled a radical new approach to securing data centres and clouds on April 18, in response to the increasing demands the AI revolution has put on IT infrastructure.

Cisco is redesigning how people harness and protect AI and other modern workloads with an industry-first - Cisco Hypershield. With this unprecedented innovation, Cisco is tipping the scales in favour of defenders, building on its recent announcements to accelerate AI infrastructure with Cisco’s Ethernet switching.

Cisco reimagines data security in AI era

Cisco Hypershield protects applications, devices, and data across public and private data centres, clouds, and physical locations - anywhere customers need it. Designed and built with AI in mind from the start, Hypershield enables organisations to achieve security outcomes beyond what has been possible with humans alone.

"Cisco Hypershield is one of the most significant security innovations in our history," said Chuck Robbins, Cisco chair and CEO. "With our data advantage and strength in security, infrastructure, and observability platforms, Cisco is uniquely positioned to help our customers harness the power of AI."

Hypershield is a revolutionary new security architecture. It’s built with technology originally developed for hyperscale public clouds and is now available for enterprise IT teams of all sizes. More a fabric than a fence, Hypershield enables security enforcement to be placed everywhere it needs to be. Every application service in the data centre, every Kubernetes cluster in the public cloud, every container and virtual machine.

It can even turn every network port into a high-performance security enforcement point, bringing entirely new security capabilities not just to clouds, but to the data centre, on a factory floor, or a hospital imaging room. This new technology blocks application exploits in minutes and stops lateral movement in its tracks.

"AI has the potential to empower the world’s 8 billion people to have the same impact as 80 billion. With this abundance, we must reimagine the role of the data centre – how data centres are connected, secured, operated and scaled," said Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager for Security and Collaboration at Cisco. "The power of Cisco Hypershield is that it can put security anywhere you need it – in software, in a server, or in the future even in a network switch. When you have a distributed system that could include hundreds of thousands of enforcement points, simplified management is mission-critical. And we need to be orders-of-magnitude more autonomous, at an orders-of-magnitude lower cost."

Security enforcement with Hypershield happens at three different layers: in software, in virtual machines, and in network and compute servers and appliances, leveraging the same powerful hardware accelerators that are used extensively in high-performance computing and hyperscale public clouds.

Hypershield was built on three key pillars. The first pillar is AI-Native. Built and designed from the start to be autonomous and predictive, Hypershield manages itself once it earns trust, making a hyper-distributed approach at scale possible.

The second pillar is Cloud-Native. Hypershield is built on open source eBPF, the default mechanism for connecting and protecting cloud-native workloads in the hyperscale cloud. Cisco aquired the leading provider of eBPF for enterprises, Isovalent, earlier this month.

The third pillar is Hyper-Distributed. Cisco is completely reimagining how traditional network security works by embedding advanced security controls into servers and the network fabric itself. Hypershield spans all clouds and leverages hardware acceleration like Data Processing Units (DPU) to analyse and respond to anomalies in application and network behaviour. It shifts security closer to the workloads that need protection.

Cisco, with its industry-leading expertise in networking, security and extensive partner ecosystem, together with NVIDIA, is committed to building and optimising AI-native security solutions to protect and scale the data centres of tomorrow. This collaboration includes leveraging the NVIDIA Morpheus cybersecurity AI framework for accelerated network anomaly detection, as well as NVIDIA NIM microservices for powering custom security AI assistants for the enterprise. NVIDIA’s class of converged accelerators combine the power of GPU and DPU computing, to augment Cisco Hypershield with robust security from cloud to edge.

"Enterprises across all industries are seeking the security that can protect them against ever expanding cyber threats," said Kevin Deierling, senior vice president of Networking at NVIDIA. "Together, Cisco and NVIDIA are leveraging the power of AI to deliver a powerful, incredibly secure data-centre infrastructure that will enable enterprises to transform their businesses and benefit customers everywhere."

As a revolutionary new security architecture, Hypershield is solving three key customer challenges in defending against today’s sophisticated threat landscape. The first is distributed exploit protection. Attackers are adept at weaponising newly published vulnerabilities faster than defenders can patch. With defenders seeing nearly 100 new vulnerabilities every day, according to Cisco Talos Threat Intelligence, this can lead to catastrophic results. Hypershield delivers protection in minutes by automatically testing and deploying compensating controls into the distributed fabric of enforcement points.

Second is autonomous segmentation. Once an attacker is on the network, segmentation is key to stopping their lateral movement. Hypershield perpetually observes, auto-reasons, and re-evaluates existing policies to autonomously segment the network, solving this in large and complex environments.

Third is self-qualifying upgrades. Hypershield automates the incredibly laborious and time-consuming process of testing and deploying upgrades once they are ready, leveraging a dual data plane. This completely new software architecture allows software upgrades and policy changes to be placed in a digital twin that tests updates using the customer’s unique combination of traffic, policies, and features, then applying those updates with zero downtime.

Built into the Security Cloud, Cisco's unified, AI-driven, cross-domain security platform, Cisco Hypershield is expected to be generally available in August. With Cisco’s recent acquisition of Splunk, a developer of software that searches, monitors, and analyses machine-generated data, customers will gain unparalleled visibility and insights across their entire digital footprint for unprecedented security protection.

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