Conglomerates have many advantages when it comes to operational efficiencies given their scale. In the years gone by, it is the conglomerates that raced past competitors to build colossal businesses driven in large part by their ability to leverage their scale.

However, in the digital era, with businesses aspiring to adopt a startup mindset and accelerating their journey to the cloud, their scale and size can often work against conglomerates, especially if they don’t work with the right partner. Not only do they have layers of legacy applications to deal with but also find themselves entangled in a complicated mesh of connectivity, regulatory oversight, and security.

As such, digital transformation hasn’t been easy for conglomerates; the roadmap to digital maturity is getting more obscure as they get weighted down by the demands placed on them by customers who want better digital experiences and employees who want more flexible, hybrid work environments. The question they want answered is: Is there a way to overcome the technical debt and simplify the journey to a hybrid multicloud world?

An Asian conglomerate with a longstanding relationship with Cisco not only believed it was possible, but also, through several discussions as a series of solutions was rolled out, found that it can be a smooth process if the organization follows the simple premise that businesses need to ‘trust nothing, and secure everything’.

The work we did with this client can be used by other conglomerates as somewhat of a blueprint and it can inspire leaders in any complex organization who are looking to find a solution to the modernization problem in the digital era.

Cutting through complexity

Organizations thinking of security are beginning to look for ways to protect themselves as their applications and workloads move to the cloud. Gartner believes that the most sophisticated way to do that is to leverage a concept it calls Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

SASE combines software-defined WAN capabilities and cloud-native network security services including zero-trust network access, secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers, and FWaaS (firewalls as a service) – which is delivered as a cloud-based service.

While it is a sophisticated solution itself, SASE is helping organizations cut through complexity.

Our client, for example, had more than 30,000 policies in place to ensure its various group entities – in the utilities business, home appliances business, IT services business, and other fields – were able to stay compliant with the various laws. The organization has more than 80,000 employees and its group entities cater to millions of customers across Asia and around the world.

Since the conglomerate is a market leader in several industries, it also serves as a prominent vendor to several departments of the government – significantly increasing its need for visibility over its network, oversight of applications, and security of data across the board.

A key concern for the client as they embarked on the journey to the cloud was reliability and scalability. A single failure in the system could bring their factories to a grinding halt and cost the organization millions every hour. Further, as a responsible player in critical industries such as utilities and medical equipment, downtime is not an option.

Finally, like every other organization dealing with the pandemic, there was a need to enable its staff to work remotely where possible; and follow safe social-distancing and other recommendations as set by the government for staff who had to be on premise either at factories or in workstations.

Given SASE’s construct, it enabled the conglomerate to take a step back and see that although its legacy applications were holding it back, modernizing its network and transforming its security could not only help fast-track its journey to better digital experiences and flexible everyday workflows but also ensure it gained visibility, observability, and automation capabilities – at scale.

Delivering on expectations in a digital world

Our client leaned on us to evaluate the solutions they would need in order to deploy SASE in its true sense. After careful study, they decided to use a combination of AnyConnect, Duo, Umbrella, and ThousandEyes.

From the get-go, it’s easy to see that the swath of security products would afford the organization the best of security. However, behind the scenes, here’s what really happened: As every application moved to the hybrid multicloud, it was possible to connect to it from anywhere using any network and device which meant that employees could immediately work remotely, in a secure yet efficient manner. The use of our solution even protected staff when they accessed applications that hadn’t been moved to the cloud and were hosted in a private datacenter behind a corporate firewall.

Since all connectivity now runs through Cisco’s SASE solution, the conglomerate has also gained visibility into its applications. This has allowed it to optimize its networks to deliver better experiences to not just its 80,000+ employees but also the millions of customers who want to leverage digital mobile and web applications to interact and engage with its various business units.

The 30,000+ policies that I mentioned earlier were a tad challenging to deploy initially. While each policy has a purpose, the reality is that they had been implemented over the past several years – they now needed to be consolidated. With the visibility and observability the organization now has, any changes to policies can be deployed automatically with just a few clicks, even from a remote computer.

Truth be told, the importance of the visibility, observability, and automation cannot be emphasized enough as the organization aims to do more business with government departments – all of whom are concerned about the digital infrastructure of their vendors. Deploying SASE has significantly reinforced the conglomerate’s security posture, and in the bargain, modernized its network. With all the progress, the organization is now a secure group of business entities with a mature digital cloud motion despite the digital complexities; and are keen to continue making improvements as they evolve.

If you’re thinking about your accelerating your journey to a reliable multicloud ecosystem, SASE might be able to help you. Read more about it here, or reach out to us for a chat.