Storage networking connects devices, arrays, and databases through fiber, switches, routers, and network protocols, allowing enterprises to access stored data from different locations.
As such, storage networks are vulnerable to a variety of cyberthreats that could cause outages, make critical application data unavailable, and result in major financial loss.
Enterprise Storage Forum interviewed Heather Giovanni for her perspective on the development and growth of storage network security in the market:
Giovanni is a VP of software engineering for HPE Storage. She started her career at HPE, then spent time at other companies and recently returned to HPE to take on this role. Previously, Giovanni was VP of engineering at Palo Alto Networks, working on the Cloud Next Generation Firewall platform, and worked at Aruba Networks, where she was the executive sponsor and a key leader for the first release of AOS-CX. She holds a degree in computer science from California State University, Sacramento and lives in Roseville, California with her family.
The storage network security market
Enterprise Storage Forum: How did you first start working in the storage network security market?
Giovanni: I’ve been in the embedded space and specifically the networking space for quite a long time, essentially since I finished college! I went from networking into security and then into storage. I recently returned to HPE to work in storage. I was ready for a new technology area and wanted to dig into some of the complexities of storage, specifically around networking and security. I am bringing together different parts of my professional history, while also working in an area where I am learning new things.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite thing about working at HPE?
Giovanni: My favorite thing about working at HPE is the people and the teamwork. The mental fortitude that the team has when we band together to take on big projects — it’s inspiring. That’s what led me to boomerang back to HPE.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What sets HPE’s approach to storage network security apart from the competition?
Giovanni: One thing that really sets us apart is our history. We are a company that has been through many seasons and many transitions and that is such a strong part of our story. So when we are engaging with customers, we can really understand their pain points as they manage transitions — because we’ve been there. For customers who are making the move to the cloud, we know what that’s like!
We are using our experience as a company to inform what we offer and how we engage our
customers. That’s why we are taking a hybrid approach to the cloud, so we can meet customers where they are.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one key security technology that particularly interests you?
Giovanni: Maybe not a technology exactly, but one area that interests me is data protection. There is so much data being created all the time. Storing and protecting that data in a very strong secure system is critical, and how you manage and optimize the storage device is important too. So it is a complex and highly relevant area of our industry.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one storage network security technique that teams should implement?
Giovanni: One technique I’d recommend is for teams to create strong relationships with their vendors and partners. For us at HPE, we always want to help customers solve the problems they are facing. When a customer tells us what their business need is and what their concerns are, we can make sure they get the exact right solution.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one overall storage network security strategy that companies should implement?
Giovanni: I would say the most important strategy for network security is to think about your network as a whole thing. Especially when building or upgrading/refreshing a network — see all the pieces and how they fit together to ensure optimal operations.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is the biggest security mistake you see enterprises making in their storage network deployments?
Giovanni: One potential security mistake is when customers go with a collection of “best-in-breed” solutions in their network. What often happens is that the components get stitched together in a way that’s not cohesive. I think about it like this: I like to bake — and there is a big difference in buying flour, butter, and sugar versus making a cake. Storage network security is the same way — think about the outcomes, then find the right recipe for your environment; don’t just find the right ingredients.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What are some current trends in the storage network security market that are promising?
Giovanni: I started working in embedded systems, because it was a challenge: it was constrained resources, and it was a long-lived product, so we had to meet a high technical threshold with everything we delivered. As technology — and tech life cycles — changed, that changed. But I think the current trend is bringing us back to a place where there is a high level of detail in our product development, and I find that promising — for my work, personally, and for our industry.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What are the biggest factors that are driving change in storage network security?
Giovanni: The cloud. But it is driving change now differently than it was a few years ago. What we are seeing is more and more options for cloud-based solutions — which means vendors and customers need to be more and more conscientious about what they’re creating and deploying. It used to be “cloud or not”; now we have public cloud, private cloud, on-prem, air-gapped and all manner of as-a-service and licensed products running on top of our networks. Navigating and optimizing across all of these cloud combinations is a big factor that is driving change right now.
Enterprise Storage Forum: How have approaches to storage network security changed during your time in the market?
Giovanni: I think network security has become a more elegant market. When I first entered the industry, networks were more straightforward; now, between cyberattacks and increased computing power and speed, network security has become more nuanced. Which requires more thoughtful development and a higher degree of software engineering and technical problem solving. Which is something I enjoy!
Enterprise Storage Forum: Where do you predict the storage networking security market will be 5 or 10 years from now?
Giovanni: The proliferation of data is definitely shaping networking security and will continue to do so. Capturing, storing, and protecting data is a critical issue. We are seeing more legislation around records retention and privacy protection — that is going to continue to have an impact on our industry.
Why is it important to secure your SAN environments? Read more about why SAN security is critical.
Personnel in storage network security
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one technology your team wants storage networking and security professionals to know?
Giovanni: More than any one technology, I think it’s important for networking and security professionals to know how different technologies work together. For example, at HPE, we have compute, we have storage, we have networking, and we have services. Understanding how the different technologies work together will help network professionals get the right setup for their workflows.
Enterprise Storage Forum: If you could give one piece of advice to a storage security professional in the beginning of their career, what would it be?
Giovanni: Just jump in! I think sometimes there’s a reluctance and there’s an overthinking that happens in engineering, and I would say just jump in and find ways to contribute. Ask questions, pursue the areas that interest you, and don’t be afraid to get excited about a project. The rest will fall into place.
Enterprise Storage Forum: With the shortage of tech talent, how is your team finding and retaining professionals to work in storage networking security?
Giovanni: For us, there are two main ways. One is professional networking. That’s always helpful for keeping connections within the industry and knowing when there might be an opportunity to connect past colleagues with current openings. The other is college recruiting. There’s a lot of really great talent coming out of the universities and recruiting early career professionals gives us the chance to bring in new perspectives and skills. I have been involved in recruiting with some of our local universities here in California — my colleagues at other HPE campuses are doing the same thing — and we are hiring some really great young professionals right out of college.
Enterprise Storage Forum: For the greatest business impact, what should storage networking and security professionals be focusing on most in their roles?
Giovanni: Storage and networking professionals should be focusing on network resiliency. Data, whether it’s customer data, transaction data, inventory data, etc., is critical to businesses. Focusing on protecting your data — and your ability to access the data — will have significant business impact. A network strategy that reduces risk and minimizes disruption should absolutely be a focus.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your top professional accomplishments?
Giovanni: Probably the Aruba AOS-CX. It was a two-plus-year project, leading a large team, and it was a roller coaster! We built a product that was all new hardware, all new software, and the biggest build from the ground up project I’ve led. It was a challenging project, but I am really proud of the team I worked with and the product we brought to market.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite part of working in the storage network security market?
Giovanni: My favorite part is working with people who have a strong drive to solve technical problems. I love that moment when you get the team together and say this is the problem and there is this great — almost electric — energy within the team. People’s wheels start turning, and they light up with ideas, and I love it.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your favorite parts of the work week?
Giovanni: I am in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and those are my favorite parts of the week. We have a hybrid approach to work, so I arrange my schedule to take advantage of quiet focus time on days I work from home and in-person collaboration time with my team on days I’m in the office. It’s great to jump into a conversation in the hallway or use the big whiteboards in the conference room for high-energy collaboration and connection.
Enterprise Storage Forum: How does it encourage or inspire you?
Giovanni: Seeing the ways people are creating connections and working together in new and different ways has been really encouraging. Our work life and patterns have changed so much in the last few years, and people have had to be creative and intentional in building connections and communicating with colleagues — and we’ve done it! I find that encouraging.
Enterprise Storage Forum: Do you have a favorite way to recharge during the workday?
Giovanni: Fresh air and caffeine! I love to pop out for a little walk or grab an afternoon coffee — or both at the same time.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What are your favorite hobbies or ways to spend time outside of work?
Giovanni: Since it’s October, I’d have to say my favorite hobby right now is Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday — I love designing and making costumes, I love dressing up, I love decorating, all of it.