Executive Q&A With Ananda Networks: Security Needs a Makeover

Information security has been an issue ever since two computers were first joined together to share data. And now that most of the computers on the planet are networked—computers in this sense being anything from an IBM Z mainframe to an Apple Watch—security has become more important, and more complex, than ever.
That’s a problem for Adi Ruppin of Ananda Networks, who says that while distributed computing has advanced blindingly fast, the security technology hasn’t kept pace. It leads to dangerously insecure networks and things like ransomware and near-biblical breaches that expose personally identifiable information (PII), among other current issues.
What’s needed, Ruppin says, is a new way of looking at securing distributed systems that relies on up-to-date measures to combat the attackers, who laugh at things like VPNs. In this Q&A with ActualTech Media, Ruppin lays out some of the problems facing the industry, as well as what he sees as the solutions. (Note: this Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity)

Is today’s IT security environment healthy or unhealthy, and why?

Highly unhealthy. In my view, we are all essentially using the same Internet that was conceived in the 1960s to solve current-day problems it was never designed to solve. What we’ve been doing is we’ve been forced to put band-aids over band-aids to securely connect our distributed workforce over the Internet, instead of addressing the core problem. This is why we need to put so many products in place, such as firewalls, VPNs, MPLS, SD-WAN, CASB, and many others just to be able to do business on the net. And by doing this we are making everything slower, less secure, and vastly more complex and expensive.

What’s changed about the typical IT environment that makes security more difficult?

The most recent, major change we see is the shift to an almost totally distributed enterprise. The monolithic data center has been replaced with multiple clouds and SaaS services, and our new distributed workforce is spread across the world, not to mention now working from home (and will be long after COVID-19). This means most legacy solutions just fail to address the new connectivity and security challenges introduced by this new distributed workforce.

What are the greatest challenges faced by the security industry?

Adi Ruppin

The greatest challenge I see is how to deal with this new distributed workforce, address the need to maintain it connected at this new level of capacity, keep it productive, keep it secure outside the old perimeter, and basically come up with a new approach to do so beyond the plethora of legacy centralized solutions.

What will forward-thinking companies be doing this year?

I see forward-thinking companies looking beyond the old way of doing things, finding ways that are simpler and less costly, incorporating stronger security concept such as zero-trust and segmentation, and at the same time, also looking to improve productivity through better speed, resilience and simplicity.
To this effect, most organizations have already realized VPNs are a thing of the past, as these don’t address any of these requirements. Most organizations are now looking beyond VPNs into SD-WAN solutions, or at the latest “SASE” (secure access service edge) solutions that converge security and SD-WAN functionality.
We play in the cutting edge, designing a solution that converges networking and security functions, allowing our customers to create their own private networks that connect their distributed workforce with unparalleled speed, security and simplicity. We do this by re-architecting the network rather than trying to repurpose legacy technologies.

What technologies will be the most disruptive in the near- and long-term?

I believe the SASE approach will replace legacy VPNs, SD-WANs and many other solutions. It’s early days yet and there are many ways of implementing it, but the principles are solid and are here to stay: (1) a cloud-managed network, (2) convergence of networking and security functions, and (3) identity as the currency.
Having said that, I don’t see current-generation SASE solutions as a breakthrough, as many are still using existing components and bolting some of them together to claim the SASE label. While I am biased about our technology, I know that it is designed for today’s distributed workforce—a true software solution that creates distributed networks to address the needs of the distributed enterprise, and provide the most optimal speed and security. I see this as being the most disruptive.

What does the perfect solution for your customers look like?

What I love to hear from customers is how we can solve a complicated problem they have (say, connect people all over the world to their engineering resources, collaboration tools, or cloud services) and do so in a matter of minutes, while achieving much better the speed and overall experience.
At the end of the day, it’s all about connecting people and applications, and my passion is showing how we can do it much more elegantly than any other solution.

Star Trek or Star Wars?

For me it’s Star Wars. I think Yoda best captures what I’d like to say about our entirely new network and security model: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Adi Ruppin is co-founder and CEO of Ananda Networks, bringing more than 20 years of experience in cybersecurity and enterprise networking. As a serial entrepreneur, Ruppin previously founded and served as executive in firewall/UTM pioneer SofaWare Technologies (acquired by Check Point Software), file sync pioneer BeInSync (acquired by Phoenix) and secure file sync and share leader WatchDox (acquired by BlackBerry).