So – We Have The “New Normal” But Then IT Infrastructure’s Changing Anyway…

I was at an event in London at the beginning of the year – in the days when we were allowed to do that kind of thing – a platform migration event as it happens. One of the key takeaways from that event – based around financial institutions, and very serious ones at that – was that the whole IT infrastructure and associated architecture is changing.

Changing, that is, not simply in terms of the physical location – which brings in the “new normal” etc – of users, devices and the plumbing, but in terms of who owns which part of the “new network” too. SecOps, DevOps, OpsOps? The point is – at the heart of this change is this thing that might be new to a few folks, called the cloud…( I don’t do “lols” of smileys). At least 50% of webinars out there at the moment are focused on “cloud-native” – architectures, apps, weather patterns… And for a good reason; the IT world is effectively giving companies little or no choice in the matter. With that as an absolute, many things change. I spoke previously about the SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) architecture defined by Gartner back in 2019, while evaluating its role in the new network, courtesy of time spent in discussion with, or looking at a number of vendors – from small to large – in the space, some of whom clear belong there more than others – but more of that in my next blog!

Bear in mind, SASE was created as a genuinely disruptive technology redirection; in that it fundamentally changes the basic landscape of IT – the architecture and infrastructure thereof. Until this point, the focus has been largely on core and edge, especially with regards to security solutions. Physical appliances have always ruled the world of networking, so a rigid infrastructure came about as a direct result of the focus on big boxes in the core feeding smaller boxes at the edge, often with a multi-vendor approach to deployment, as more and more features were introduced and duly acquired, regardless of whether they were actually utilised or not.  The impacts of the pandemic in terms of speed of change is rapidly “end of lifing” the rigid legacy infrastructure that has connected the core and edge for decades now.

Hence the interest in SASE – designed for connecting and securing the digital business, with a view to being fast, adaptable, and resilient. Easy to define, but how does it actually work? The answer is to focus on the cloud – the new middle ground of the enterprise network.  However, being “in the middle” is not a natural standpoint for most vendors; they have been sat in the core and at the edge for decades. Understanding the benefits – and pitfalls – of a cloud-native approach is therefore an absolute pre-requisite for a SASE vendor. Operating from “inside out” means that effectively unlimited resource is always at hand – scalable and available with a myriad redundancy options. For vendors with a traditional legacy architecture – appliance-based deployment, multi-tiered sales and support channels, and only part-ownership of their customers’ infrastructure – transitioning to SASE is anything but trivial and arguably, in some cases, impossible. IT was never designed with longevity in mind – there are always casualties along the way when evolution becomes more revolution and SASE is no different in this respect.

No one said IT was easy. If it were, none of us would be in jobs. So, picking your way through the SASE minefield is the next big challenge – more on that in the next blog so, as ever, watch this space…


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