IT may be killing your M&A strategy: Using SASE and SD-WAN to accelerate integration

Posted on May 4, 2021

The secret to M&A success is being able to rapidly integrate organizations, but doing so with different technology systems at different levels of maturity can take months or years. Unfortunately, during this transition period you may be at increased risk for security breaches because of a wider threat landscape. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is new innovations are bringing companies together quickly, AND simultaneously increasing the level of security for each organization while also reducing disruptions for their employees.

As M&A increases, so do IT risks

Mergers and acquisitions are expected to rise in 2021, given pandemic-driven economic forces and the ample number of disruptive technologies ripe for the taking. But while M&A inherently creates opportunities for enterprises, companies that struggle to integrate their IT infrastructures will see those opportunities undermined with the potential benefits delayed, if not destroyed.

During corporate integration progresses, the teams working on the combined organization are too often saddled with an infrastructure that is so complex and difficult to manage that it slows IT responsiveness, stifles innovation and leaves the new company more vulnerable to security issues. It’s not uncommon for security breaches to occur during these sensitive times, and with today’s remote workforce, attackers have more points of entry and more tools to do so.

The good news is that two major network and security technologies are reducing risks associated with M&A.

SD-WAN and SASE accelerate M&A while increasing security

Today, companies are using Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) technology to cost-effectively create a flexible and adaptable infrastructure that can safely accelerate integration from several months or years down to a few weeks. Similar technologies are also being recognized as equally valuable—particularly Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions that expand on SD-WAN with integrated cloud security features.

What makes these tools so helpful? The combination of SASE and SD-WAN, make segmentation and security easier. Segmentation is the critical first step to secure network integration. During the earliest stages of integration, the newly acquired company is brought into a separate network zone, or partition. This partition creates an environment that essentially functions as a single network, yet still isolates the traffic of one network from the other, allowing IT to conduct more effective security investigations on the new network and maintain stricter security policies for as long as necessary.

With IoT, AI, work from home, and offshore business processes, use cases for segmentation are exploding today, but that does not mean it is easy. Most organizations dread segmentation because their existing IT infrastructure makes it difficult to work with a multitude of network partitions. In addition to charges and fees per segment, logistical barriers can also include interoperability issues that complicate IT operations.

This is where SD-WAN comes in.

SD-WAN allows enterprises to more easily segment assets and establish virtual private networks (VPNs) to increase security. Key benefits include more reliable cloud application performance, end-to-end visibility in one central management console, and software-based orchestration and automation. This makes it easy for the acquiring company to ensure every added network and its applications receive the required management, security, and bandwidth support.

SASE solutions take this simplicity one step further—specifically addressing security posture. While segmented IT environments can be inherently more secure, security must go further. M&A strategies need to address not just network security but also cloud and endpoint security. SASE was originally described by Gartner as a framework to help companies manage the security of remote access, and SASE solutions are a natural fit for M&A. [citation needed to gartner report]

SASE helps add more layers of protection for each segment by putting security in place for the Internet, cloud applications, and all the new remote users and their devices. Solutions achieve that by rolling a handful of cloud security tools into SD-WANs to create one service from one provider. With a larger set of integrated capabilities, enterprises can more rapidly deploy and more easily administer security features, including cloud firewalls, secure web gateway, cloud access security broker (CASB), and Zero Trust network access. Moreover, IT leaders can see and manage both the network and security in one view.

Looking beyond technology

While SD-WAN and SASE are key technologies that can make IT integrations faster, easier, and less risky, M&A requires more than just technology. Today’s companies have access to a broad ecosystem of managed security services and other resources that can help them to accelerate M&A and even enable high-volume M&A without increasing risk, gobbling budgets or taxing resources. These technologies are arriving just in time to be of assistance, and we should all be using them.

Ray Watson

Ray Watson is VP of Innovation at Masergy. He brings over 17 years of expertise in IT strategy, application solution design and next-generation network architectures. Ray has enabled numerous global enterprises in transforming their IT infrastructures to guarantee business outcomes. Ray is an industry thought leader in IT transformation and is a frequent speaker on topics such as hybrid networking, SDN, NFV, cloud connectivity and advanced security. Prior to joining Masergy, Ray worked at Airband Communications and Broadwing Communications. He holds a B.S. from Purdue University.

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