With many thanks to Jay Akin, CEO of Mushroom Networks, Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives had the opportunity to find out about SD-WAN, his company’s flagship product.
Safety Detectives: What has your journey to cybersecurity been like?
Jay Akin: After holding a quantitative analyst role in Princeton Brand Econometrics, a marketing consultancy, and my tenure in venture capital for several years, I came full circle to reunite with my educational background of networking through the company I co-founded and invested in – Mushroom Networks. In light of my mathematical background and having worked with large data sets, before it was called “big data,” I was mesmerized by the power of predictive analysis and automation. At Mushroom Networks we get the chance to work on the solutions that are at the intersection of networking, cybersecurity, and automation.
SD: What is your company’s flagship product?
JA: At Mushroom Networks, we build multi-WAN networking appliances for the enterprise network edge. These SD-WAN routers automate the Internet traffic management as well as provide the means for the offices to connect to their private, public, or hybrid clouds in a secure and high-performance manner.
Conveniently we name our products after mushroom names. As an example, our portable product, the “Portabella”, is designed as an Internet gateway for use cases that require 4G LTE and 5 G-based mobile connections to provide high bandwidth where wired connectivity is not an option. Portabella has the ability to bond together two or more wireless connections to create faster, more reliable, and more secure Internet connectivity.
Our current generation of SD-WAN appliances is already capable of observing, learning, and adapting their algorithms. Our goal is to set the networks of our customers on autopilot whereby the network can react to changes and problems without requiring any human intervention.
SD: What verticals use your company’s services?
JA: Any company that relies on a more reliable, secure, and high-performance Internet connectivity can leverage our broadband bonding solutions. By definition, these companies are from various verticals and they are of varying sizes. Healthcare, financial, engineering, energy, government, broadcasting, and transportation are some of the vertical markets that require high performance in connectivity in their operations. We have served those vertical markets successfully for over a decade.
SD: How do you stay ahead of the competition?
JA: Any given day, our team is working on tomorrow’s solution. In technology, you cannot rely on your current technological edge over the competition as our industry moves so quickly. We try to skate where the puck is going, not where it is now. This of course requires companywide alertness to clues and feedback we get from our customers, partners, and vendors on an ongoing basis. We try to understand our customers’ needs and combine those requirements with our understanding of the technology trends to create tomorrow’s solutions.
SD: What are the worst cyberthreats today?
JA: The biggest cyberthreats are the ones we don’t know about yet. The paradigm in cybersecurity is shifting very quickly from knowing and understanding the thread to bring protection against them, to the notion of understanding that the bigger threats will be in the form of zero-day attacks and the protections need to be anticipatory as opposed to reactive. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the advancements in artificial intelligence and pattern recognition providing some mechanism to cope with these types of novel threats. But at the end of the day, the bigger threats usually are caused by internal end-user errors and omissions. That is why a zero-trust network architecture is the future. This architecture works well with a cloud-delivered services model where our SD-WAN appliances play a critical role. For example, it is not uncommon to have misconfigured network edge devices that may cause vulnerabilities. But if you migrate to a cloud-managed network edge, individual branch office network configurations are consolidated into a single, centrally managed template that is less prone to human errors.
SD: How is COVID-19 changing the way we handle cybersecurity?
JA: The 2020 pandemic resulted in the mingling of home networks with corporate networks as more and more people started working from home. This changes the whole definition of the corporate network as employees working from home become the remote extensions of the corporate network and inadvertently end up increasing the attack surface. IT managers have no choice but to gravitate towards more centralized and more automated approaches for their cybersecurity posture. In these types of distributed networks, even though mandatory, having a VPN back to the corporate network alone is not enough. The zero-trust cybersecurity approach where various types of cloud-based security services can be service chained in the cloud becomes an attractive approach. We have seen our clients adding our home-office SD-WAN products as a mechanism to connect their remote workforce to their corporate networks. Given the performance and security requirements of such remote workforces, a more centralized and cloud-based SD-WAN architecture makes a lot of sense. The pandemic certainly accelerated this trend; however, we believe the remote work concept is here to stay with us for the long run, even after the pandemic is long gone.