Monday, 09 November 2020 19:32

Beyond security appliances: the cloud approach to corporate networking

By Budd Ilic, Zscaler

GUEST OPINION by Budd Ilic, ANZ Country Manager, Zscaler: When you think about corporate data networks, they’ve changed dramatically during the past decade. Initially walled gardens with little or no connection to the outside world, they gradually evolved into infrastructures intertwined with other networks and the public internet.

Now, in 2020, the nature of the corporate network has changed even further. Increasingly, it’s actually being replaced by the public internet altogether. Thanks to security strategies such as zero trust, the old digital walled gardens have become a relic of another computing era.

The future of appliances 

The change comes amid the increasing use of cloud resources by organisations of all sizes. Rather than building and maintaining their own on-premise IT resources, many are opting to take advantage of cloud-based alternatives. They’re attracted by the prospect of reduced costs and improved flexibility.

While such an approach is appealing, it brings with it some new challenges when it comes to security. Legacy appliances were never designed for the world of cloud platforms and user mobility. Indeed, as applications and data stores move out of the datacentre and into the cloud, traditional secure web gateways become essentially obsolete.

As a result, many security hardware vendors have taken the approach of offering cloud instances of their hardware appliances. However, while this might sound like a good approach, it could be likened to building a video streaming service using thousands of DVD players. It simply can’t be scaled.

There are other issues when it comes to performance. Physical appliances and virtual machines can’t inspect all content and SSL traffic at scale. Having some traffic to go uninspected, particularly the majority of traffic that’s encrypted, is risky due to the sizable percentage of attacks hiding in SSL traffic.

Then there’s the challenge of point products which many businesses have been adding to their security infrastructures to help stave off new types of attacks and provide new services and functionalities. Managing and integrating all of these products results in unnecessary cost and increased complexity.

Shifting to a cloud platform

A better approach to security in this new environment is to take advantage of a platform that has been designed and built specifically for the cloud. Based on Gartner’s Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) framework, such platforms essentially flip the security model on its head.

Rather than trying to maintain a secure perimeter, SASE instead focuses on elements such as users and devices and pushes security as close to them as possible. Based on an organisation’s defined business rules, SASE can then dynamically allow or deny connections to applications and data as required.

Taking this approach reduces the overall attack surface and provides identical protection with consistent policy enforcement regardless of where a user is located and the device they are using to connect.

Making use of a SASE-based cloud platform also streamlines security management by removing multiple point products and replacing them with a single management console. There is no longer any appliances or software to install or manage which takes a load off the IT department and allows staff to focus on other activities.

From a user perspective, strong security is maintained while efficient access to required resources is assured at all times and from all places. The true benefits of cloud computing can be realised.

The days of needing to rely on hardware security appliances are well and truly over. By deploying a SASE-based security platform, organisations can be confident they will have an infrastructure in place that can take advantage of new opportunities as they appear.

 Welcome to the new era of networking.

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