Born just a few decades ago, IT service providers (ITSPs) have powered the digital transformation agendas of leading organizations in key industries across the world ranging from financial services to pharmaceuticals, healthcare, retail, or even defense. To serve these organizations, ITSPs have had to expand their talent pool rapidly and across state and national borders in search of qualified professionals, elevating their policies to reflect their growth.

Their quest to ‘work from anywhere’, therefore, wasn’t initiated by the pandemic; However, the seismic shift in the market over the past 24 months has helped ITSPs accelerate their journey to a new operating model, unlocking their ability to hire more diverse teams across geographies.

On this journey, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) has been the secret weapon in their arsenal. With the various technologies it encompasses, from SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) and cloud-native network security components such as CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), FWaaS (Firewall-as-a-Service), ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access), SASE makes it possible to protect an ITSP’s various stakeholders, safeguard the interests of their clients,  deliver seamless experiences to employees, all while making life simple for administrators managing the technology infrastructure and environment.

Working with ITSP giants with future-forward visions and missions, Cisco believes that this is the dawn of a new era.

Purpose-built by ITSPs, ODCs will continue to exist

ITSPs conceptualized Offshore Development Centers (ODCs) because of the nature of their work. Serving multiple clients in any given industry, segregating employees was important for several reasons including regulatory requirements around data privacy and contractual stipulations to protect against information leaks to competitors.

ODCs – which are essentially an extension of the client organization’s premises within an ITSPs own four walls where access to physical infrastructure is heavily controlled using biometrics and other security protocols – provide that solution and comfort.

Traditionally, these ODCs have been heavily guarded. In most cases, aside from square-footage and technology hardware, ITSPs are rarely able to provide any other infrastructure support in order to maintain the integrity of the ODCs established. Users, through their fixed desktops or laptops authorized for use within the designated ODC perimeter, access the client organization’s resources, applications, and environment to perform their tasks and manage their workflows.

The ODC isn’t a new concept and ITSPs have had several iterations thus far to improve their effectiveness, but with a need to hire skilled professionals quickly and enable them to work more flexibly while guaranteeing security and privacy to client organizations, things needed to change. To learn more about ODCs, read my previous blogpost here.

That being said, the comfort that ODCs have established with a multitude of stakeholders an ITSP deals ensures their continuity in the new era.

With help from SASE, ODCs are being elevated to extend beyond the four walls they currently exist in. SASE enables ITSPs to offload the functionalities of an ODC onto the network, allowing them to build ‘offices of one’ and ‘satellite offices’ to serve employees and give them much needed flexibility in the new normal without compromising on the needs or comfort of client organizations. As a result, conceptually, the ODC does live on to survive in the next generation of infrastructure and has a purpose and place in the new operation model ITSPs are building.

SASE drives a secure, borderless future for ITSP workspaces 

In the new era, as we embrace hybrid work, ITSPs are enabling users to work from anywhere – but they’re also creating small satellite offices in cities that aren’t the typical urban IT hotspots with sprawling campuses. These satellite offices are closer to where people want to work and live in the new normal; they’re more affordable to establish for an ITSP and provide a distraction-free environment for staff when they want to focus on certain tasks.

Hybrid work for ITSPs, therefore involve working from an established campus office, a satellite office, from home, or anywhere else a stable internet connection can be accessed.

To prepare for this, one of Cisco’s clients who is a thought-leader and influencer among ITSPs is leveraging several tools from the SASE pool to secure employees. They’re using firewalls on the cloud, for example, or virtual desktop interfaces (VDI) which are essentially ‘desktops on the cloud’ to allow users to connect to the ODC and gain seamless and secure access to the resources, applications, and experience offered by client organization they’re assigned to.

Of course, Cisco’s software defined access (SDA) solution underpins all of these from a network management perspective, allowing administrators to enhance security and compliance, deliver reliable services, boost operational effectiveness, and gain network insights.

Given the nature of the ITSP’s business and the regulations that its clients are subjected to, the organization leverages advanced security solutions to go a level deeper to establish trust whenever a user wants to access resources they’re provisioned to. Our client has invested in Cisco Umbrella to protect their internet domains, rely on Cisco Duo to establish trust with deliver multi factor authentication (MFA), and leverage Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) to control network access.

While these solutions are great by themselves, the fact that they integrate with one another seamlessly has allowed the organization to weave together a secure fabric encompassing all their users and enable everyone to be truly mobile, in the new normal.

Their efforts, of course, will go a long way in helping them find and hire talent from anywhere in the world, delivering the same experience they would have if they relocated to one of the ITSP’s sprawling campuses in the pre-pandemic era. With top talent contributing to their human capital, our ITSP client is bound to keep its edge among competitors in the future and possibly break new ground to offer more interesting solutions and services.