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Netskope Private Access – Behind the Scenes

Feb 20 2020

With the general availability release of Netskope Private Access on the horizon, I sat down with David Goldschlag, VP of product management at Netskope, to talk through some of the frequently asked questions of NPA and dig into how it rounds out Netskope’s existing security portfolio. Here’s our conversation below:

NS: Why is Netskope releasing Netskope Private Access?

DG: Netskope’s business is to secure end user access to enterprise applications and to deliver access that’s secure, simple, and fast. Currently, the set of applications we can handle are SaaS applications and web applications, but what wasn’t in the portfolio were private, behind-the-firewall applications that enterprises build and deploy to run their business. The previous ways of solving access to private applications was either VPN or proxy and enterprises only had a small number of data centers. But in this new world of public cloud, enterprises have those data centers, but possibly hundreds of virtual data centers too. 

You need a replacement for VPN that isn’t point-to-point. One that won’t take you back to your datacenter, but instead take you quickly and directly to the network where your applications run. With Netskope Private Access, you have this big cloud, NewEdge, where all the traffic starts and finds the fastest path to get where you want to go. 

We launched NPA to offer, within a single platform, secure access in a simple and fast way to all applications. Private, SaaS, and Web. 

NS: What problems in the industry does NPA stand to solve?

DG:  First, the traditional VPN was targeted for point-to-point solutions and in this world you need a solution that is point to multipoint, or what we call a “fan out,” you can go from your device through the NewEdge network to wherever you’re trying to go. Second, with VPNs it’s hard to limit lateral movement across the network. Whereas, Zero Trust solutions give you the ability to provide application-level policies. You can access one app, but you can’t get to any other app just because of that access. 

Third, there’s this whole transition from VPNs and proxies installed as appliances to SaaS and enterprise applications. We’re offering remote access/secure access as a service, which is really more scalable than deploying and managing old appliances. Fourth, customers are starting to see that access to private applications isn’t only a network problem, but an end user access problem too. They’re beginning to see that you should have a unified solution for SaaS, Web, and Private.

NS: Why choose NPA over a VPN?

DG: If you have a VPN, you’re probably somewhere in that five year window of the lifecycle, and you’re going to want to refresh it at some point. When you’re refreshing it, you should consider that your network has changed from being data center-centric to hybrid with a lot of public cloud. You need something that supports “fan out.” 

You also need something that supports Zero Trust and least privilege application access, with no lateral movement across the network because that is becoming normative of access solutions. You should also have a solution that is delivered as a service. Finally, you want to unify SaaS, Web, and Private. Netskope does that for you as a service, with Zero Trust as a secure access solution

NS: How does Zero Trust play a role in modern day network access?

DG: For the last few years there has been a trend toward something called network segmentation. This is where you want to limit what hosts on a network can talk to other hosts, or what servers on a network can talk to other servers. You want to keep people in the lanes they’re authorized to be in. This way, if something goes bad, for whatever reason, malicious or an error, the impact can only spread a certain amount. 

In general, users are entitled access to certain applications and not others. We’re not saying users shouldn’t have access to all the applications they need, but they shouldn’t be able to browse across the network and knock on the front doors of applications they’re not entitled to. Our definition for Zero Trust is based on application-level policies, which are based on user, group, and device posture.

NS: Could you walk me through some of the key features of NPA?

DG: NPA is built to provide transparent access for end users to the behind-the-firewall  applications that they use, both in the data center and the cloud. We provide an easy solution for the admin to deploy and configure, where they can set up policies on the system that enable access to specific applications. Those policies can be enabled for users, or groups of users and consider device posture as well. You set those policies and the policies’ language has the look and feel for our policies for our SaaS and Web offerings. 

From the end user perspective, the process is really transparent. The user has our client, and if they don’t have it yet they can enroll using the same single sign on credentials you might use for Office 365. The experience is really clean. Then once the client is on, it is always on. Because this is a steering client, the user never needs to turn it on again.

NS: How does NPA fit into the existing Netskope security platform?

DG: NPA is fully integrated into the Netskope platform. From the end user’s perspective, it uses the same client that Netskope uses for SaaS and Web security. From a policy perspective, the policies are just another tab within the Netskope console. 

From a network perspective, we’ve added a component to the system called a Publisher. This is a component that you put in your own network, which connects you to the NewEdge network. Just like when users connect from their client to the nearest PoP in the NewEdge network, Publishers also connect your network, or each of your enterprise networks, to the NewEdge infrastructure.

NS: Can you take us through some prominent use cases for NPA?

DG:  There’s this shift to hybrid IT, where it used to be just your data center plus AWS or Azure, and you had your applications in lots of places. So for your employees, for whom a point-to-point VPN was good enough, NPA allows you to solve the secure remote access problem in a unified way with “fan out” for hybrid IT. 

We’re also finding a lot of businesses have users who need access for tools, like raw SQL infrastructure. This is especially sensitive to data leakage and what devices the user is coming from. We also have one customer who is using it for access to HIPAA information and they wanted to make sure it was only the right users coming from the right places and the right devices. 

Even for M&A, imagine you’re a health system and you’re onboarding a new hospital or new doctor’s practice. Those employees need access to their old systems and applications in the new parent company. NPA is a really nice solution there because you can give the new employees the Netskope client and deploy Publishers in their old networks. Then they can get access to their old services and to the specified applications they’re entitled to in the parent company.

NS: Who are some of our biggest customers for NPA?

DG: We launched our beta back in 2019 with 35 companies participating, and saw great success. To the point that 12 of those companies signed on as paid customers by the time the beta ended. We have a transportation company who will be using NPA to access their private applications and they very much value the Zero Trust application access use case. 

We also have a retailer who is using NPA and they value secure access as a service, but they’re also looking at this as a way of unifying SaaS, Web, and Private. We also have a technology company who are cloud-first and buying access as a service with “fan out” instead of deploying their own access.

Interested in learning more about Netskope Private Access? Click here to visit our dedicated NPA page!

author image
Scott Hogrefe
Scott brings nearly two decades of experience to Netskope as vice president of marketing. Before entering the field of marketing, Scott spent several years in IT and worked alongside R&D and analytical scientists to design and roll out systems that captured and secured clinical trial and intellectual property data.

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