The definition of a place of employment has undergone a rapid development in most recent years and it affects us all. For good and bad, it all blends together. There is nothing new about getting innovative when it comes to how we organize ourselves and work the best way possible as well as most efficiently. However, what was a new element was when a global labor market was forced to become innovative upon the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were ready, but many were not. For nine out of ten, the main issue was having a good connection. The best and most secure network. A requirement which has become the new standard. Fortunately.

The development of the modern place of employment dates back to the dawn of man, however, once the internet arrived generations ago, the possibilities were changed radically. Suddenly, brand new opportunities to work more efficiently and adjust the place of employment to situations, context, and location were created. Ever since then, the development has moved in one singular direction: a place of employment today is now everywhere. The office is merely the location to which one ties the tax id-number. Having been a network specialist for several years, this is a development which Frank Stott, a System Engineer with Aruba Denmark, knows well: “Working from home is far from a new concept. However, the Covid situation taught us how we can work at home. We all went from viewing it as an option when necessary to making it a part of all companies’ business strategy”, Frank Stott says and goes on to add: “Suddenly, management and all critical employees were also at home. This has shifted the responsibility for the hybrid place of employment to the management level.”

Without Security We are no Further

According to Frank Stott, when discussing the hybrid place of employment, there are two areas of focus which must be made a priority and which are dependent upon each other. “If we cannot establish security, we are no further”, he emphasizes. We also operate with the phrase Quality of Service which is related to the experience itself and thereby what the users are met with first. This refers to the quality of the home office. Luckily, in Denmark, we have been spoiled with a good IT-infrastructure unlike for instance Germany. We can actually create good home offices from a quality standpoint. Nobody wants a meeting to be ruined due to loss of network or poor quality” Frank says og then outlines the next point of focus, namely the security. “Security is the focus that outshines everything, both within Aruba and in the industry in general. A place of employment must be secure – even when it becomes hybrid. However, the paradox is that the Quality of Service, meaning the high level of quality and the reliable connection are conducive to security. There has to be a connection”.

Automated Role Playing

The user experience has been joined by security in the battle for making it to the top of the list on the agenda. “Historically, we have relied upon VPN, however, we would obviously rather log in from home as if we were on the office network” Frank says, and goes on to add: “This is where Aruba’s ClearPass solution most definitely shines. This is a platform which allows for secure, encrypted tunnels from a remote location to the company’s network. The solution allows for dynamic segmenting which is combined with Zero Trust technology which then results in a solution where you ONLY have the ability to access what you are intended to access. Simply put, you are recognized on the given device and therefore, you are assigned specifically agreed-upon, and approved roles. Generally speaking, role-based access is the new black in development”.

Michael Knudsen, Senior Aruba Sales Specialist at edgemo, shares this perception. “For many years, there have been talks about software-defined solutions on the network, but with these new technologies bringing Cloud Management, Machine Learning, Peer Comparison, and the role-based access management brought to the market by Aruba, you now have actual tools that can deliver the promise of software-defined access and automation” Michael explains and goes on to say: “Today, our conversations with the client are moving towards a dynamic segmenting and no matter what, all clients are interested in bringing safety into all possible situations while making it as simple as possible and thereby as automated as possible. So, this is where we say that Aruba ClearPass is the product that comes to mind when customers speak of automation.”

Complex, yet Simple

No matter how complex it seems, the actual deployment portion of the ClearPass solution is quite simple, Frank Stott explains: “The Easy Deployment aspect clearly shines here. The router or the access point simply connects on a central level and provides the access one is meant to have. This efficient process also alleviates the fact that historically speaking, many security breaches have brought about stress and panic. If the equipment did not work or was not accessible, one would move on with unsecure patch solutions. Many speak of the hybrid workplace right now, but CAN this actually become a strategy in real life? You must review the entire chain of technology and obtain the correct solutions” is the response.

This is a point of view Michael Knudsen can get behind: “Technology that enables role-based access is the next big thing right now”, he explains. “The mere fact that the individual employee is connected to the company’s AD with a specific detailed role in relation to specific situations makes the security efforts more effective. Aruba does not have an A-Z catalogue in IT-infrastructure, however, among other things, they have Aruba ClearPass and the fact that there is no requirement for everything to be Aruba to use it which is a fact several customers like. The open API’s are ideal solutions for more and more customers that desire a freedom in choosing the right solutions rather than a requirement of Vendor Lock-in”.

The Customers have Seen the Value

The new technologies are making their way into the world of business in a greater way than before Frank confirms: “The Customers have seen the value of these solutions. This also applies to the levels in the company that are truly required to place their focus on this as well as assume the responsibility, namely, the upper management and the board of directors. Security is a strategic decision and thereby the sole responsibility of the board of directors and management. For this reason, the responsibility for the hybrid workplace has also been placed there”.

Michaels adds that many companies, be it the IT Manager or the CFO, like the transparency that comes with an Aruba product. “The transparency is relevant from both a functional and a financial standpoint, meaning the products are owned and come with a Lifetime Warranty which means that there is no consideration needed for large/unknown ongoing cost. Furthermore, this is not a product where one purchases the so-called feature sets in package deals of which one may only need 30% because you so happened to have one singular need which required you to get the biggest package available” he says, and further elaborates: “the solutions are simply packaged to create transparency in relation to the function of the product and TCO. It is easy and simple and you do not have to invest to gain large flexibility, it comes along from the onset.”

Michael further points out the currently relevant option to create secure and differentiated access to resources for employees who given the current situation in society have a need to work from home or other places. The IT Department can utilize Aruba’s Remote Access Point solutions combined with Aruba Clearpass and transfer the security and automation created in the office to the home of the employee. This will occur through encrypted connections and with differentiated access depending on which unit the employee connects to and from which location the employee connects. The automated and role-based access becomes an asset to the business in several ways: “Many have for instance noticed that ClearPass is a powerful tool for the HR Department and in the work with GDPR as a result of the requirements in place for the control related to access to data and documentation/logging of this data. This is especially true for the clients in the public sector where the security package and the GDPR-aspect are the driving forces. The public sector is truly the big winner in this”.

Getting Technical

The trends in the network developments are pointing more and more in the direction of a requirement for flexibility and freedom. This means that when only a few come into a network strategy without having had any solution in place before and with the speed everything is moving at during the pandemic, there is a great need to be able to build upon existing systems. Michael explains: ”In today's world, an IT infrastructure can be very complex and consists of several building blocks which each have a given task to perform, this could be LAN, wireless, FW, MDM, Cloud Services, Servicedesk, etc. Therefore, being able to offer solutions that provide the opportunity for integration across manufacturers and infrastructure elements is essential right now” he confirms. “Only very few customers come from a “clean slate”. More or less everyone have an existing setup in which it is necessary to consider existing platforms and respect the investments already made. Aruba ClearPass can be integrated in an MDM-solution or in an Azure solution and therefore, it is a great fit given the current trend” he says. He goes on to say: ”If you lose your phone, you would register this in your MDM-platform which has an integration and exchange of data with your ClearPass platform, which thereby would prevent undesired access to the network or your resources.”

Catching up to the Development

The battle to be in the lead when it comes to IT development is constantly present for the world’s manufacturers. This also applies in the network arena. Sometimes, we see that early products may have difficulty breaking through during a trend and it requires hard work to latch on to the market. It does also happen, as it did with Aruba, that the developments in society or in business suddenly change the requirements whereby one’s product quickly matches the specific development and catches up to it: “Historically speaking, other products have had a strong hold on the network market and the customers have often maintained end-to-end solutions along with the vendor lock-ins that come with those” Michael states. In more recent years, we have however experienced a marked shift in this wherein the customers are moving towards ‘Best-of-Breed’ solutions or tailored solutions to meet uniquely specific needs in their business. There is not a great need for transparency and flexibility in the selection of infrastructure as the customers today view infrastructure as a whole which must be able to work with and utilize information from individual elements. This aspect is exactly what Aruba provides: Aruba has open accesses and platforms which tie the building blocks of the infrastructure together. For instance, ClearPass does this to the network, FW, AD/Azure, MDM, Servicedesk, and much more. This has resulted in several customers being open to looking at alternatives to their historical setup.

Being an employee of Aruba, Frank adds some insider context to the conversation about development: “The hybrid workplace IS the big thing. However, what has driven the security developments in the USA have been the GDPR conversations in Europe. The security is developed for it to be compliant with the requirements in Europe. We want to see security and dynamic micro segmenting drive the development forward. The segmenting will especially drive the development of application-managed security.”

”The new developments can also be connected to the trend we are seeing that business and IT are combined more and more” Michael adds. “We are starting to see that the customers are re-thinking the IT strategy and thereby reconsidering the choices of platforms rather than just continuing to create a ‘technology refresh’ from the same supplier who has been used for the past 20 years, and this is where Aruba is gaining ground right now. Their approach to transparency and the hundreds of partners they integrate with, are critical for the IT department’s choice of future solutions. It is no longer enough to deliver a network with a given speed. Going forward, IT must become an important business player as well as a supporting player in for instance the facility and the way we run our buildings to include heat control, lighting, electronic door openers, conference rooms, and much more.”

Frank also views the development of the network as being related to another technological development: “Since we are discussing the development for the past 20 years, there is another interesting fact; the network world is undergoing the same development as server storage went through the past 20 years in relation to virtualization. All our services must be software-defined now and it is going to move fast. It will not be 20 years as it has with server storage, but maybe 3-5 years. The release we are looking at draws parallels to the development of server storage because there is a correlation in the technical ID, Frank Stott concludes.

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