Pandemic Will Hasten Migration to Zero-Infrastructure, Zero-Trust Network Architectures

On-Premises Servers, Devices, and Data Are Useless When No One Is There

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04/30/2020

Jamie Bsales

 

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Among the many lessons the COVID-19 crisis has taught IT departments across the globe, one of the most painful has been that businesses are still far too reliant on the traditional on-premises architecture of servers, firewalls, Ethernet cabling, and computing endpoints. While many companies have migrated some functions to the cloud, this pandemic still saw plenty of IT folks scrambling to set up VPNs to allow remote access to critical applications and files that still reside on servers in that warm closet in the corner.

 

There is a better—or at least an alternative—way: A zero-infrastructure “network.” In this schema, on-site assets are kept to a minimum, while the computing horsepower, applications, and file storage reside in the cloud. Think Everything-as-a-Service. Such architecture is “remote-native,” or conceived from inception to be accessible from anywhere. Having this flexibility already in place would have saved a lot of headaches for IT departments, heartburn for employees, and productivity for their companies. The zero-infrastructure movement was already beginning to gain momentum before the world ground to a halt, with even traditional-network stalwarts like Microsoft encouraging customers to abandon Microsoft Windows Server in favor of cloud-based alternatives (preferably those created and hosted by Microsoft).

 

A zero-infrastructure paradigm isn’t perfect. First and foremost, it lives or dies by a fast, stable Internet connection. As people who have decamped to remote locations to escape the pandemic can attest, that is still not a given everywhere. A zero-infrastructure setup also tends to stymie traditional LAN-reliant devices, such as printers. However, companies like Lexmark and Pharos have worked out those kinks and offer cloud-infrastructure printing solutions. Then there’s the cost. As with every pay-as-you-go model, the hard-dollar outlay of an ongoing subscription model will eventually outstrip the purchase price of traditional on-premises infrastructure (although the math gets murkier when you try to figure in “soft costs” such as IT time saved and increased productivity).

 

On the plus side, another benefit of a zero-architecture setup is that it makes migrating to a zero-trust security architecture almost seamless. In a traditional network, all assets and endpoints behind the firewall are assumed to be “trusted” (safe) but, as illustrated by copious security breaches over the years, the perimeters of corporate networks are easily breached. That has left companies scrambling to implement all manner of security layers in their networks. In a zero-infrastructure environment, however, it is assumed that data is leaping the firewall. Hence, security measures—such as verified digital certificates and end-to-end encryption for all data (be it at rest or in-transit)—are baked in.

 

As lockdowns begin to wind down and CIOs and IT managers switch from putting out fires to examining their infrastructures to be better prepared for the next disaster, expect much ado about “zero.”

 

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