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IBM Cloud Pak for Security aims to unify hybrid environments

IBM Security is shifting its strategy with a new Cloud Pak designed specifically to unify data from multiple security tools and vendors through accessing federated data.

IBM this week launched Cloud Pak for Security, which experts say represents a major strategy shift for Big Blue's security business

The aim of IBM's Cloud Pak for Security is to create a platform built on open-source technology that can connect security tools from multiple vendors and cloud platforms in order to help reduce vendor lock-in. IBM Cloud Paks are pre-integrated and containerized software running on Red Hat OpenShift, and previously IBM had five options for Cloud Paks -- Applications, Data, Integration, Automation and Multicloud Management -- which could be mixed and matched to meet enterprise needs.

Chris Meenan, director of offering management and strategy at IBM Security, told SearchSecurity that Cloud Pak for Security was designed to tackle two "big rock problems" for infosec teams. The first aim was to help customers get data insights through federated search of their existing data without having to move it to one place. Second was to help "orchestrate and take action across all of those systems" via built-in case management and automation. 

Meenan said IT staff will be able to take actions across a multi-cloud environment, including "quarantining users, blocking IP addresses, reimaging machines, restarting containers and forcing password resets."

"Cloud Pak for Security is the first platform to take advantage of STIX-Shifter, an open-source technology pioneered by IBM that allows for unified search for threat data within and across various types of security tools, datasets and environments," Meenan said. "Rather than running separate, manual searches for the same security data within each tool and environment you're using, you can run a single query with Cloud Pak for Security to search across all security tools and data sources that are connected to the platform." 

Meenan added that Cloud Pak for Security represented a shift in IBM Security strategy because of its focus on delivering "security solutions and outcomes without needing to own the data."

"That's probably the biggest shift -- being able to deliver that to any cloud or on-premise the customer needs," Meenan said. "Being able to deliver that without owning the data means organizations can deploy any different technology and it's not a headwind. Now they don't need to duplicate the data. That's just additional overhead and introduces friction."

One platform to connect them all

Meenan said IBM was "very deliberate" to keep data transfers minimal, so at first Cloud Pak for Security will only take in alerts from connected vendor tools and search results.

"As our Cloud Pak develops, we plan to introduce some capability to create alerts and potentially store data as well, but as with other Cloud Paks, the features will be optional," Meenan said. "What's really fundamental is we've designed a Cloud Pak to deliver applications and outcomes but you don't have to bring the data and you don't have to generate the alerts. Organizations have a SIEM in place, they've got an EDR in place, they've got all the right alerts and insights, what they're really struggling with is connecting all that in a way that's easily consumable."

In order to create the connections to popular tools and platforms, IBM worked with clients and service providers. Meenan said some connectors were built by IBM and some vendors built their own connectors. At launch, Cloud Pak for Security will include integration for security tools from IBM, Carbon Black, Tenable, Elastic, McAfee, BigFix and Splunk, with integration for Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure clouds coming later in Q4 2019, according to IBM's press release.

Ray Komar, vice president of technical alliances at Tenable, said that from an integration standpoint, Cloud Pak for Security "eliminates the need to build a unique connector to various tools, which means we can build a connector once and reuse it everywhere."

"Organizations everywhere are reaping the benefits of cloud-first strategies but often struggle to ensure their dynamic environments are secure," Komar told SearchSecurity. "With our IBM Cloud Pak integration, joint customers can now leverage vulnerability data from Tenable.io for holistic visibility into their cloud security posture."

Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst and fellow at Enterprise Strategy Group, based in Milford, Mass., told SearchSecurity that he likes this new strategy for IBM and called it "the right move."

"IBM has a few strong products but other vendors have much greater market share in many areas. Just about every large security vendor offers something similar, but IBM can pivot off QRadar and Resilient and extend its footprint in its base. IBM gets this and wants to establish Cloud Pak for Security as the 'brains' behind security. To do so, it has to be able to fit nicely in a heterogeneous security architecture," Oltsik said. "IBM can also access on-premises data, which is a bit of unique implementation. I think IBM had to do this as the industry is going this way."

Martin Kuppinger, founder and principal analyst at KuppingerCole Analysts AG, based in Wiesbaden, Germany, said Cloud Pak for Security should be valuable for customers, specifically "larger organizations and MSSPs that have a variety of different security tools from different vendors in place."

"This allows for better incident response processes and better analytics. Complex attacks today might span many systems, and analysis requires access to various types of security information. This is simplified, without adding yet another big data lake," Kuppinger told SearchSecurity. "Obviously, Security Cloud Pak might be perceived competitive by incident response management vendors, but it is open to them and provides opportunities by building on the federated data. Furthermore, a challenge with federation is that the data sources must be up and running for accessing the data -- but that can be handled well, specifically when it is only about analysis; it is not about real-time transactions here."

The current and future IBM Security products

Meenan told SearchSecurity that Cloud Pak for Security would not have any special integration with IBM Security products, which would "have to stand on their own merits" in order to be chosen by customers. However, Meenan said new products in the future will leverage the connections enabled by the Cloud Pak.

"Now what this platform allows us to do is to deliver new security solutions that are naturally cross-cutting, that require solutions that can sit across an EDR, a SIEM, multiple clouds, and enable those," Meenan said. "When we think about solutions for insider threat, business risk, fraud, they're very cross-cutting use cases so anything that we create that cuts across and provides that end-to-end security, absolutely the Cloud Pak is laying the foundation for us -- and our partners and our customers -- to deliver that."

Oltsik said IBM's Security Cloud Pak has a "somewhat unique hybrid cloud architecture" but noted that it is "a bit late to market and early versions won't have full functionality."

"I believe that IBM delayed its release to align it with what it's doing with Red Hat," Oltsik said. "All that said, IBM has not missed the market, but it does need to be more aggressive to compete with the likes of Cisco, Check Point, FireEye, Fortinet, McAfee, Palo Alto, Symantec, Trend Micro and others with similar offerings."

Kuppinger said that from an overall IBM Security perspective, this platform "is rather consequent."

"IBM, with its combination of software, software services, and implementation/consultancy services, is targeted on such a strategy of integration," Kuppinger wrote via email. "Not owning data definitely is a smart move. Good architecture should segregate data, identity, and applications/apps/services. This allows for reuse in modern, service-oriented architectures. Locking-in data always limits that reusability."

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