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Cisco's Chambers on Security: Make It So

When Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the fictional "Star Trek" Enterprise wants something done, he tells his subordinates, "Make it so." It's a line that the leader of the world's largest networking firm, Cisco's John Chambers, borrowed during his keynote address at the RSA security conference to describe how security should work.

For Chambers, security is not a point product. Rather, Cisco's (NASDAQ: CSCO) CEO argued that for security to actually work in the modern threat economy, it requires an underlying architecture spanning multiple facets of the network.

"For those of you that know Cisco very well, you know what I say to my chief information officer. I say I expect your goals to exactly align from IT with what I want to do, and oh, by the way, make it secure," Chamber told the RSA audience. "Make it so."

"I'm telling all of you here in the room, 'make it so,' and what you have to do is do it architecturally," he added.

Chambers said that in today's business environment, security must be embedded throughout an enterprise architecture. That's increasingly important as mobility becomes a way of life and the lines between personal and business time blur. People simply just want their content wherever they are, Chambers said, which raises new requirements for securing that content.

Added to that are the opportunities and challenges of the cloud and virtualization. Chambers noted that in the new, virtualized cloud network, users won't know where their content is actually coming from. It could be on their local network, device or a datacenter thousands of miles a way.

"That's exciting to me as a networking player because I'm going to sell a lot of stuff, but it's a security nightmare," Chambers said.

While a virtual, cloud-networked world represents great opportunities for collaboration and innovation, the security risks are real. In response, Chambers argued that security needs to be part of the solution from the beginning.

"I don't want to underestimate the challenges but I think innovation and security can co-exist," Chambers said. "But you have to do it architecturally, and you have to phase it in. If you implement an ineffective security system at the beginning, you kill innovation."

Chambers commented that the ability to collaborate with confidence is key to his own daily activities. He said that he had 200 virtual meeting with customers in the first quarter alone and meets with heads of state virtually as well. The need to ensure those meetings are secure is paramount, and that's a requirement baked into all facets of the network architecture.

While Chambers noted that Cisco itself continues to issue new product releases, in his view the company is just staying ahead of the bad guys right now. Earlier this week at RSA, Cisco announced new cloud security services to help coordinate global threat correlation.

Chambers argued that whatever platform an enterprise chooses, it's important not to just have point solutions. Instead, in his view, the network should be viewed as the platform for security, with whatever users implement needing to be self-defending and automatic to deal with rapidly emerging threats.

"How do you stay ahead of Confickers and rouge states?" Chamber asked the crowd. "Without an architecture, you don't."