Can ZTNA Evolve Campus Network Security?

By Patrick Moorhead - June 9, 2022

These are uncertain times. Inflation, supply chain pressures and the current geopolitical environment are forcing organizations of all sizes to re-examine their approach to planning, funding and deploying cybersecurity solutions. One result of the pandemic has been the rise of the "micro-branch," created by enterprises to support their newly remote employees. The unprecedented levels of remote access, in turn, dramatically heightened the focus on security. Now, as many knowledge workers are returning to campus environments, what is next for campus network security? In the run-up to the RSA Conference in early June, I would like to delve further into this subject and share some of my predictions and insights. 

Is yesterday’s network access control enough? 

Before the pandemic, telecommuting was sparsely utilized and often reserved for executives or salespeople. Today, remote work is here to stay. One can look to the hybrid work infrastructure roadmap realignments and external messaging of enterprise networking solution providers such as Cisco, HPE Aruba and Juniper Networks to validate this point. Hybrid work is creating a new challenge for organizations as security platforms fork between campus and branch environments. It is no secret that Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has enjoyed wide adoption for securing remote access, but should we apply it to campus environments as well? 

Why consider ZTNA on campus

ZTNA enjoys a high degree of visibility and deployment momentum, and in my view it is justified. Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions have been around for a long time and have been fraught with cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Connection speeds and application performance are also often dramatically impacted. These challenges often result in users preferring not to use traditional VPN tools (I recall having the same experience when I worked in corporate America). Based on my numerous conversations with infrastructure providers and customers, I can confidently state that the demise of VPNs is near!

With that said, ZTNA is the future of remote access. ZTNA's superpower lies in its ability to provide application security independent of a given network. Authenticating users to applications significantly mitigates lateral threat movement across a network, if not eliminating it altogether. So, this begs the question, why not also apply ZTNA to campus environments? The benefits are numerous – from lateral threat movement prevention and unified policy implementation to consolidating cybersecurity budgets in an uncertain macro-economic environment. 

Wrapping up 

I believe that a handful of cybersecurity solution providers are poised to take advantage of delivering a universal ZTNA platform that can span campus, traditional branch and the new micro-branch. These companies include (in alphabetical order and not force-ranked) Airgap NetworksPalo Alto Networks and Zscaler. I plan to spend time with all three companies at RSA Conference and at the upcoming Zscaler ZenithLive event in Las Vegas on June 21-24. Stay tuned for my additional insights over the coming weeks.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.