As cloud rolls in, SunRice plants infrastructure seeds with security refresh

Geographically distributed agricultural interest SunRice is in a stronger position to support greater use of cloud services after an infrastructure upgrade that dramatically restructured its telecommunications and modernised its data-security infrastructure.

The upgrade came after SunRice – a $1 billion business headquartered in rural Leeton, NSW whose more than 2100 employees supply food products to over 60 countries through a global network of offices – realised its existing disaster-recovery and security-monitoring solutions were no longer keeping up with the challenges of today's security climate. Plans to construct a new data centre, in Sydney, were accompanied with a thorough review and overhaul of its security and other supporting technology.

“We'd had an old [WebMarshal] gateway system that had been in place since at least 2008 and was costing a lot in maintenance,” infrastructure architect Will Sessions told CSO Australia. “it did work, but it was old and the proxy servers were slow; they do things they're not supposed to, and nobody can tell you why.”

Recognising that a new platform would be necessary to support the company's ambitions to more fully embrace cloud services – which are particularly relevant given its highly distributed operations and the widely varying technology capabilities in its many rural overseas offices – Sessions and his team began testing next-generation gateway tools and quickly settled on the Palo Alto Networks PA-3020 and PA-200.

As well as being quick to install and perfoming well above expectations, the units rapidly began proving their worth by centralising a broad range of security and management functions. Previously separate tools for functions like URL filtering and VPN connectivity were combined with capabilities such as zero-day malware protection and virtual routing, which allows the company to segment its network to accommodate regional variations in available telecommunications services.

Elimination of license fees for the old equipment is expected to save SunRice more than $100,000 in coming years – but that's a side benefit from a technology refresh that Sessions says has provided both increased confidence in security protections, and paved the way for broader cloud usage as a result.

“If anything is going to egress from our network to the Internet, it must go out through the gateway,” he explained. “That makes me feel much more secure. We just weren't ready to do [cloud] a year ago – we didn't have the infrastructure and capacity in place – but we're in a really strong position now.”

That's particularly beneficial given that SunRice is currently laying plans for a significant capital restructuring and public listing – at which point its information-security credentials will be under the spotlight.

Sessions is confident that the new infrastructure will continue to measure up to expectations – and, paired with improved bandwidth to its offices, will set the standard for next-generation computing model drawing both on the company's extensive SAP environment and additional cloud capabilities as needed.

Read more: WordPress patches amid huge spike in redirects to malware sites

“We have a geographically dispersed culture with the workforce spread all over,” he said. “But I'm trying to support a very collaborative culture, and to make sure everyone is on the same page. We're putting this strategy in place to support the business – and now I know that if I get a tap on the shoulder from anyone in the business saying 'we want to do X application in the cloud', I can say 'yes, we can do that'.”

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