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Banyan Security 2021 Predictions: The Future of Remote Work

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

The Future of Remote Work: Predictions for 2021

By Jayanth Gummaraju, Banyan Security Co-Founder & CEO

Overnight organizations have undergone a fundamental shift where their workforce has become remote, due in large part to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Many aspects of business have been irrevocably changed, with overall business success hinging on new models for productivity and security. The following are my predictions for how these changes will affect business in 2021 and beyond.

1.      Companies will embrace the "Work from Anywhere" movement in 2021. Where we work has been changed forever. Even before the 2020 pandemic, five million U.S. employees worked from home at least half the time. Now many companies are reevaluating their office lease and either not renewing their lease and/or reducing square footage. Stay at home orders have opened company eyes to the positive impacts of a remote workforce. Employers have recognized that productivity is roughly the same if not better with people working from home. This talent-first attitude will be the accelerator of a global workforce. It doesn't matter where your employees live. It's what they do that's important.

Of course, this also extends to winning the war for recruiting talent. Successful organizations will need to remotely source talent and move toward operating independent of geography and time zone.

2.      Increased adoption of cloud applications and remote resources will create unprecedented security issues. Marc Andreessen famously wrote an essay in 2011, "Why Software is Eating the World," putting forth that every company must become a software company. The number of apps and services being accessed by users working remotely in a combination of environments (private/hybrid/multi-cloud and on-premise) has been increasing for years, with a huge surge in 2020. Making sure these resources stay safe from cyber criminals is no small task.

And, as it turns out, software development organizations are especially challenging to keep productive and secure while remote. While it may seem that software engineers can easily work remotely, accessing the resources they need is both high priority and a security challenge. Engineers typically need to use SSH and RDP to connect, access, and control data and resources on remote hosts as if they were doing it locally. But, the myriad of VPNs, Bastion hosts, firewalls, and authentication agents used to manage such access makes for a complicated user and admin environment that causes productivity problems. Secure, transparent access to hosts, servers, and apps that are on-premises, privately hosted, private- and public-cloud, and SaaS-based should be considered a baseline requirement. In 2021 we will see boards and leadership teams hold engineering responsible for schedule and security.

3.      VPN will become less significant. in the second quarter of 2020 organizations were put in the position of acting like battlefield medics performing triage on wounded patients. The workforce had to be capable a going fully remote overnight - and there simply wasn't time to perform alternate technology evaluations. Organizations doubled down on whatever technology they already had, typically Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology. While this kept the business running, it soon became obvious that working remotely using traditional VPN technology presented numerous security, performance, manageability, and user experience challenges. Applying VPNs typically results in a fragile, patchwork quilt of technologies, policies, and systems that by their very nature frustrate end users and admins alike.

4.      Device trust will become a requirement. By the end of 2021, organizations will not only be employing Single Sign-On (SSO) to authenticate users and establish a measure of user trust, but they will be also measuring device trust to gain a more complete understanding as to whether requested access should be granted. There's no sense granting resource access when the authenticating user is on a fundamentally insecure machine.

5.      Zero Trust remote access solutions will displace traditional VPNs for secure remote access. Zero Trust is centered on the concept that organizations should not by default trust anything (inside or out) and instead must verify everything trying to connect to its resources. The once traditional approach of implicitly trusting devices within the corporate perimeter (including users and devices connected via VPN) no longer makes sense. The zero trust approach advocates checking the identity and integrity of devices irrespective of location, and providing access to applications and services based on the confidence of user and device identity along with device security posture in combination with robust and continuous authentication to computing resources.

The limitations of VPNs have become more widely understood in this critical time, and in 2021 we foresee organizations looking at upcoming VPN license renewals and seriously evaluating well-architected Zero Trust solutions that can easily support enterprise-scale distributed work, performed from a myriad of managed and unmanaged devices, in uncontrolled environments, and deliver required rock-solid security and high performance.

In 2021, our new reality will create a new class of business winners and losers. The winners will, of course, have business models that align with customer expectation and need, but also will have the foresight to deploy the appropriate underlying infrastructure that securely and productively supports remote access for employees, partners, and customers alike. This will be crucial, as the companies that survive will not only be able to support their existing workforce in a Work from Anywhere fashion, but will also have to sustainably win the war for talent acquisition going forward.


About the Author

Jayanth Gummaraju 

Jayanth has over a dozen years of experience inventing, leading, and bringing disruptive technologies to market. Prior to Banyan, Jayanth was at VMware where he co-led Instant VMs and Secure Big Data initiatives that had a huge impact on multiple BUs including End-User Computing, ESX Platform, Storage, Networking & Security. Prior to that, he founded Streamware, a MapReduce-on-a-chip startup based on his Ph.D thesis, which was assimilated into AMD's OpenCL product lines. He has over 30 patents and scholarly articles in areas of distributed systems, virtualization, and security. Jayanth received his Ph.D. from Computer Systems Lab. at Stanford working with Prof. Mendel Rosenblum.

Published Friday, December 04, 2020 7:40 AM by David Marshall
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