What is a Software-Defined Perimeter?

The software defined perimeter (SDP) is a modern approach to network security designed for today’s cloud-based, remotely-working businesses. Old approaches such as VPN increasingly undermine network security while burdening organizations with expensive and difficult-to-maintain hardware. By adopting SDP-based security, businesses can protect mission-critical resources whether on-premises, cloud-hosted, or fully managed as X-as-a-Service . At the same time, the SDP paradigm both reduces the burden of network security and improves the user experience.

What is a Software Defined Perimeter?

SDP is a security framework that applies access control and security policies to each company resource regardless of whether the resource is on a proprietary network or part of an internet-based cloud service. Built upon Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) principles, SDP does not assume that any user, device, or network can ever be trusted. Both user and device must be authenticated and authorized whenever connecting to a resource. And once a session ends, both the user and the device must be re-authenticated and re-authorized to access the resource again.

The changing nature of business networking is one reason companies are adopting SDP solutions. Business networks are more heterogeneous than ever. Users consist of a shifting population of employees, consultants, contractors, suppliers, and other stakeholders. The devices they use are no longer managed desktop computers. These laptops, tablets, and smartphones may be company-owned and managed, they may be owned by a partner company, or they may be personal devices. The networks these devices connect to may be an enterprise network or the public internet, with the rise of remote work. And finally, fewer companies rely on proprietary, on-premises resources. Cloud security is an increasingly critical focus area for cybersecurity experts, as hybrid-cloud, cloud-hosted, and X-as-a-Service critical business resources are increasingly the rule rather than the exception.

SDP’s growing popularity is also fed by the poor state of traditional network security - especially legacy VPN technology. Designed to protect yesterday’s homogenous business networks, VPN technology has become a significant vector for security breaches and a major maintenance headache for administrators. The old-school VPN framework is based on a castle-and-moat paradigm that trusts everything inside the network perimeter. Once a compromised user or device gets past the VPN, they have full access to every resource on the network. Even worse, VPN gateways are publicly accessible to anyone with the right scanning tools and can be breached unless constantly patched with security updates.

What are the benefits of a SDP architecture?

Creating a security infrastructure in which access is controlled on a per-user, per-device, per-resource, and per-session basis sounds much more complicated than the old way of doing things. But the opposite is true. A software defined perimeter, such as one provided by Twingate, makes managing network security easier while improving the user experience.

Security consistency

Another weakness of VPN-based security systems is their outward-looking nature. VPN gateways only control access for users outside the network. Separate security policies and access control systems are needed for users inside the network. SDP-based security lets companies apply consistent, identity-based security policies regardless of where a user is located.

Minimized Attack Surface

SDP-based security minimizes the impact of compromised users and devices. Resources protected by a software defined perimeter and the SDP infrastructure itself are always dark. Even if unauthorized users penetrate an on-premises network, IP addresses of protected resources remain undetectable and application access is made impossible. In addition, each user and device is subject to need-to-know-access policies. This limits the number of resources they know to exist. Every attempt to access each resource requires authentication and authorization which further limits risk exposure.

Micro-segmentation

Since VPN gateways grant complete access to the networks they protect, businesses turn to segmentation to minimize the impact of security breaches. But multiple subnets are expensive to create and difficult to maintain. An SDP framework let administrators, in effect, create a secure subnet for each resource. Even if one resource is compromised, the breach won’t spread to other resources. SDP-based micro-segmentation is also much easier to create and maintain.

Network Performance

Backhaul has always been one of the greatest frustrations for remote workers relying on VPN. SDP solutions eliminate backhaul concerns. Where VPN gateways are bottlenecks through which all users connect to resources, SDP users connect to resources directly without competing for bandwidth. Improving the experience further, SDP solutions treat network traffic differently, depending on the network resource it is trying to access. Business traffic is handled differently from personal traffic, sending users’ Spotify streams through the public internet rather than company systems.

Challenges with SDP

Google pioneered the use of software defined perimeters and zero-trust network access in 2009. The company’s BeyondCorp initiative re-architected the tech giant’s IT infrastructure and changed its security culture over the course of a decade. But few companies have the in-house resources and talent that Google commands. Early attempts to duplicate Google’s success ran into challenges that made the benefits of SDP difficult to realize for most organizations.

Over time, SDP solutions have arrived that address some of the challenges that early adopters faced. SDP migrations can happen in stages to avoid the cost, effort, and risk of enterprise-wide re-engineering. Improved compatibility with legacy technologies, especially VPN and other security systems, makes the migration less disruptive.

How Twingate SDP benefits your business

Twingate’s SDP security solution removes the friction from migrating to software-defined perimeters and quickly delivers benefits for administrators, users, and the overall business.

Benefits for administrators

Twingate frees administrators by eliminating the costs, maintenance burdens, and security risks of VPN gateways.

  • Easy, rapid deployment
    • Compatible with multi- and hybrid-cloud environments
    • Works with existing network and VPN
  • More security, less overhead
    • No public endpoints
    • Extensive logging
    • Integrates with existing security stack
  • Better performance and reliability
    • Lower latency with direct user-to-resource connections
    • Reduced network burden with split tunneling and intelligent routing
    • 100% software-based with no hardware to patch

Benefits for users

Secure remote access is no longer something users must suffer - or try to bypass. Twingate SDP makes security transparent while maintaining performant connections to essential resources.

  • Better performance
    • No backhaul to slow access to resources
    • No competition for network bandwidth
  • Better experience
    • Frictionless client provides transparent security
    • Enables seamless remote access

Benefits for business

The security of your business data improves with Twingate’s flexible and scalable SDP security infrastructure.

  • Minimized security risks
    • Users’ security compliance increases
    • Per-resource perimeters reduce the attack surface
  • Future-proof scalability
    • Designed for the work-from-anywhere workforce
    • Capex-free infrastructure grows with the business

Redefining security with SDP

Changing the way your business protects critical resources is essential in today’s network environment. Twingate’s security solution based on software-defined perimeters offers a flexible and scalable path to modern network security. Whatever blend of on-premises systems, cloud-hosted applications, and X-as-a-Service solutions drive your business, a Twingate VPN alternative makes your critical resources less vulnerable to attack and more accessible to users.

Contact Twingate to learn more about securing your remote workforce.

"Our old VPN was giving us serious issues and causing flaky Zoom calls with everyone working remotely. It drove me and my team crazy. Twingate couldn't come soon enough."
Emery Wells
CEO at Frame.io

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