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Roll over VPN: Is it time for software-defined perimeters?

There are signs that VPN alternatives are being considered, such as a software-defined perimeter (SDP).

A data center: Network cables plugged into a server. — © Michael Bocchieri/AFP/Getty Images
A data center: Network cables plugged into a server. — © Michael Bocchieri/AFP/Getty Images

New research has reeved emerging patterns and findings around VPN adoption rates, as well as related to VPN security, configuration complexity, cost concerns, and disaster recovery limitations. The research was sponsored by DH2i and conducted by Virtual Intelligence Briefing (ViB), titled “Virtual Private Networks (VPN) Report, 2022.”

Cisco remains the leading VPN brand with 53 percent of respondents currently using it, but its market share has decreased by 15 percent while its competitors, particularly F5, have shown growth in their market share.

In terms of VPN use, the majority of the survey respondents (85 percent) indicated that the primary purpose of VPNs was to facilitate the ability for individual users (often employees) to link with an organization’s internal private network.

The analysts, however, expected this figure to be higher, especially based on trends form past surveys. According to DH2i’s Don Boxley: “During 2020, the world experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of people working from home, a trend that has continued for many to present day. It would have therefore been reasonable to expect the VPN usage number to have climbed to closer to 100 percent in the most recent research.”

Boxley adds: “The fact that it didn’t was unexpected and suggests that VPN remote user deployments may have reached a maximum saturation point.”

The reason for the slowdown in adoption may relate to the fact that prior to 2020, VPN usage was relatively low and therefore manageable. After the increase in remote VPN users due to the pandemic, came a commensurate increase in ‘VPN-related pain’ including security issues.

Other issues affecting adoption include disaster recovery limitations, slow connection speeds, bandwidth constraints, configuration and overall management complexity, and cost.

The 2022 report shows a 10 percent decrease in VPN usage for site-to-site connectivity, while there was almost a 10 percent increase in VPN usage to connect to cloud-based services from an on-site location, suggesting a pandemic-related trend of accelerated use of cloud-based infrastructure.

A further trend is with the use of microservices/containers, which increased by 42 percent, indicating that the future of application development and deployment will revolve around container technology, while the multi-cloud use case remained unchanged at 15 percent.

There are signs that VPN alternatives are being considered, such as a software-defined perimeter (SDP). This offers a solution for remote user, multi-site/multi-cloud, and IoT connectivity requirements.

Boxley explains that “SDP’s Zero Trust network access tunnels offer application-level segmentation and invisibility to untrusted access, eliminating the risk of lateral network attacks that are common with VPNs and reducing the need for complicated firewall policies.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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