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Speaking at the 2015 Ignite conference in Las Vegas, Columbia Sportswear global IS communications manager, John Spiegel, told delegates how the joint solution from the two vendors allows for security policies to be tied to applications as they move dynamically around virtual machines.

American retailer Columbia Sportswear will enhance its network security by deploying VMware NSX and an integrated firewall service from Palo Alto Networks, helping the company save millions of dollars as it moves to a software defined data centre approach.

Against a backdrop of high-profile data breaches in the retailer sector, security has quickly become a priority for firms. Speaking at the 2015 Ignite conference in Las Vegas, global IS communications manager, John Spiegel, told delegates how the joint solution from the two vendors allows for security policies to be tied to applications as they move dynamically around virtual machines.

“With Palo Alto virtual network firewalls we will be able to add next generation security on top of NSX. Together they will strengthen our security solutions and importantly provide an answer to the question of how you properly secure the data centre,” said Spiegel.

“For years our security has been like an egg - hard on the outside soft on the inside. NSX will allow us to boil that egg and create application containers inside the data centre. In essence the core will now be dense like the shell."

Spiegel also explained that addressing security concerns in an automated software-defined environment has simplified deployment of its networking services, helping reduce costs on infrastructure.

“There is another reason the business is so excited about [the NSX deployment], I call this the power of saving otherwise. If Columbia Sportswear were to conduct this project in the traditional way, using physical hardware and physical solution and physical approach, our costs would have been an additional $2 million,” he said. 

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“Additionally it would have taken 12 months to implement. Right now we are adding security to our data centre at one third the cost and one third of the time. Securing our systems in the right way, moving faster, transforming while keeping an eye on the bottom line. This will be a big win for us.”

The project is part of Columbia Sportswear's plans to adopt a software defined data centre (SDDC) model. A term created by VMware in 2012, the SDDC involves extending virtualisation techniques popular with compute into networking and storage and managing it through an automation and orchestration layer. 

This will enable the company to focus on one of three IT department roles outlined by Spiegel: the running of the data centre, which offers little business value; ‘grow’, which includes investment in systems such as ERP; and ‘transform’.

“The transform part helps the business break away, and it is the true game changer, the new system that allows  your business to have an edge on the competition. This is the goal of the SDDC,” he said.  

However, he warned that investment in technology is just one part of the SDDC puzzle. Managing the cultural change as traditionally siloed roles such as networking, compute and storage engineers, and development team is a challenge as companies automate control of infrastructure.

“Late last year we reorganised our teams. We brought in infrastructure, operations and development together. This was to change the way we work and transform our teams. If you are going to embark on making the SDDC a reality, my advice is this - the technology is only 20 percent of the equation,” he said.

“The other 80 percent, which you may not be thinking about will actually determine the success or failure of your project.”

Spiegel added: "We started sending people to DevOps conferences. Also changing the seating - bringing the server team closer to the network team, bringing security inside, putting development on the same floor and creating collaboration zones.  If you put people closer together it is interesting to see what happens - those fiefdoms start to fall, people start to collaborate and that is where you get the success.”