How effective is your technology stack for the new work paradigm?

How effective is your technology stack for the new work paradigm?

As organisations get a better foothold against the pandemic, they need to ensure that their current network security architectures are seamless and secure for remote workers.

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The need for companies to use technology to ensure business continuity has never been greater. Any digital transformation journey they take must continuously change. With the pandemic not going away and becoming endemic, the future is one where hybrid working becomes standard.

This would mean that business leaders would need to analyse their transformation strategies – some of which includes making the home as a branch of the enterprise and revamping the network architecture to combine SD-WAN and security into a cloud service.

iTNews Asia speaks to Steve Wood, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to find out how organisations can support a hybrid working model and whether existing architectures will be effective in this new work landscape.

iTNews Asia: It has been more than a year since the start of the pandemic. How successful have organisations been with adopting the necessary digital transformation strategies to keep its employees safe and productive?

The pandemic has accelerated every organisation’s digital transformation initiative as a significant number of employees have shifted to remote working over the past year. However, only 30% of digital transformation efforts meet expectations, with many of them falling short according to a recent Boston Consulting Group study.

Entrenched barriers spanning technology, processes, and operating models can impede their transformation, and for organisations to succeed, they must take a proactive approach towards defining their hybrid work strategy. Building an agile network infrastructure that can provide the same enterprise-level experience in a seamless manner while ensuring that employees have secure access to digital tools that they need to be productive, will be necessary to support this new phase of workforce evolution.  

This rapid transition also means that their IT infrastructure must be built for scalability, one that is ready to adapt, expand or reduce according to changing business needs.

iTNews Asia: What has been done to support the work experience to be effective “virtually anywhere”? Were there any challenges with their implementation and how were they managed?

The increasing adoption of IoT, cloud and other new technological devices have been driven by the need to streamline operations and improve agility of the modern distributed enterprise. However, for some organisations, this effort has been constrained by traditional infrastructures that are not well-suited to meet new business requirements.

For instance, client-based VPNs were designed primarily for occasional remote secure connectivity which was how they have been generally utilised prior to the pandemic. Now we see that their use has flipped to being a permanent connection with many employees spending the majority of their time working from home.

Not only is it difficult for IT teams to manage every endpoint effectively, but this also prevents remote workers from getting the same in-office experience at home, due to latency and unreliable connectivity. In addition to loss of productivity, this poses serious security risks to the business as users connect to consumer-grade networks for an easy, alternative solution.

We believe a better approach to this new paradigm is to consider the home as a micro branch of the enterprise. When considered this way just like a regular branch office, there needs to be end-to-end monitoring and control of the quality of the user experience. This can be achieved by deploying purpose-built enterprise-class access points to the homes of employees.

- Steve Wood, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan at Aruba

These “Remote Access Points” are a true extension of the corporate network connectivity footprint ensuring the same security, monitoring and compliance metrics that apply in the office can now apply at home. There are many benefits of this approach but none more important than the ability to actively support the quality of experience of the remote worker without deploying or developing new tools.

iTNews Asia: Why is “edge-to-cloud security” an important consideration when planning the broader digital and business goals to sustain a hybrid working model?

As the hybrid working model becomes a permanent fixture and access to corporate data transcends traditional workplace perimeters, cybercriminals are also looking for new ways to exploit any security vulnerabilities at the network.

According to Gartner, it is not uncommon for IT organisations to find IoT devices on their networks that they did not install, secure, or manage. Without visibility, this can be a major security threat for the business.

Organisations therefore require a holistic, end-to-end approach to ensure security and compliance that is addressed from the edge – where applications, users, and critical data now reside. This edge-to-cloud security enforces zero-trust best practices, including strong authentication, access control and proper segmentation resulting to faster detection and proactive response against any threats.

iTNews Asia: As organisations become more careful with their budget expenditure, why is there a need to invest in emerging cloud-based network security architectures (such as SASE)? 

Secure access service edge (SASE) addresses the need for increased network security as cyberattacks targeted at the enterprise continue to rise, which is further complicated by workloads rapidly moving to the cloud and traditional security perimeters already falling short.

By integrating advanced SD-WAN capabilities with cloud-based security services, SASE makes it possible for organisations to implement a comprehensive and intelligent security model to defend their resources across multi-cloud environments, regardless of the physical location of users or devices being used to access them.

Investing in SASE also offers organisations the flexibility to evaluate vendors and the technology stack that best meet their needs, instead of being locked-in to proprietary single-vendor solutions or settle for basic features and functionality. In a recent study with Ponemon Institute, we found that 71% of IT teams prefer a best-of-breed of solutions when architecting SASE.

Most importantly, the flexible deployment and consumption models for SASE mean that organisations can choose to implement it at their own pace – which can yield significant cost savings in the long-run.

iTNews Asia: Secure access service edge (SASE) is a network architecture that combines SD-WAN and security into a cloud service. However, SASE is still developing and can be complex to implement for some organisations, and not all its features will be readily available in initial deployments. In your view, what do you see as the challenges with adopting SASE, and how can they be overcome?

The interest in SASE has surged since Gartner coined the term in 2018, with at least 40% of enterprises expected to have “explicit strategies” to implement it by 2024, up from just less than one percent in 2018. However, there are a few roadblocks toward the successful adoption of SASE:

  • First, is the cultural challenge. In many organisations, networking and security teams still operate in silos. SASE will require a successful integration of these two functions, otherwise, it will result to additional complexities and added costs for organisations.
  • Second, are architectural challenges. SASE is still at its nascent stages and disparate offerings from various vendors can become confusing for organisations. For example, legacy hardware vendors with backgrounds in either field may not necessarily be the best SASE vendor choice as they may lack expertise in the other field. A true cloud-native mindset is crucial in a SASE-enabled architecture to ensure optimal integration capabilities.

Despite these challenges, the momentum around SASE already underscores the importance of the edge-to-cloud approach to network security, and the necessary convergence of these two important elements (networking and security) in today’s “work from anywhere normal”.

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