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Pulse Secure VPN enhanced to better support hybrid IT environments

Jul 03, 20186 mins
Data CenterHybrid CloudNetwork Security

Thanks to more than 100 enhancements and new features, Pulse Connect Secure can better support BYOD and hybrid IT environments where applications are in the data center and in the cloud.

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The workplace is changing rapidly as employees embrace mobility, applications are in the cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are instrumented for continuous connectivity — and this is affecting how organizations must think about secure access. Regardless of the scenario, organizations want solutions that deliver better productivity for whomever (or whatever) is connecting, a consistent user experience, compliance with corporate policies and regulatory requirements, and strong end-to-end security.

This is the playing field for Pulse Secure, a company that has built a broad portfolio of access products and services that are available as a unified platform. Pulse Secure has considered practically every use case and has built a range of solutions to solve the secure connectivity challenges that IT organizations face. The company claims to have more than 20,000 customers and a presence in 80 percent of global enterprises — maybe even yours.

Pulse Connect Secure is the flagship VPN product in Pulse Secure’s broader portfolio. Itdelivers secure and optimized access to a rich set of applications and services with client and clientless support for desktop, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Pulse Connect Secure supports mobile initiatives such as BYOD, as well as cloud computing. Rather than having to use multiple approaches for secure access, such as application gateways, cloud access brokers, application wrapping, and cloud authentication, Pulse Connect Secure addresses all those needs with a single solution. It ensures consistent user, role, device, and stateful policy management across computing environments.

Pulse Connect Secure is fully mobile-aware, with features such as certificate-based authentication with an embedded certificate authority and integrated endpoint container. Support for SAML authentication allows enterprises to blend data center and cloud resources into a robust user experience.  

Pulse Connect Secure simplifies network administration and compliance management with a centralized web-based console, end user self-provisioning, and integration with EMM policy management platforms. Centralized appliance management delivers an IT administration experience that enables proactive and rapid responses to security threats and network events. Administrators are able to replicate configuration and policies from one appliance to others and perform bulk operations for firmware updates and policy changes. An administrative dashboard provides appliance status and unified compliance reporting with context-aware visibility of devices and users. Pulse Connect Secure can be deployed as a hardware, virtual, or cloud appliance.

Pulse Connect Secure supports a changing data center

Pulse Secure recently announced a new release of Pulse Connect Secure aimed at simplifying connectivity and security in cloud and hybrid IT environments. There are a couple of big customer challenges Pulse Secure addresses with this new product release.

One is the notion of the changing data center. For many organizations, it is becoming a blend of traditional applications running in the on-premise data center, complemented by applications that are hosted in the cloud with service providers like Microsoft, Amazon and a plethora of SaaS providers. In addition, people are using a variety of devices to do work 24/7. They want to use desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, and they want to access their apps in a secure way that is also friction-free, i.e. without security getting in the way of what they want to do.

Pulse Connect Secure now extends its connectivity and security framework into this new hybrid IT environment such that for users, it is transparent on where applications actually reside. This gives IT the flexibility to add new applications by leveraging the cloud and SaaS applications like Salesforce and Office 365 to enable greater productivity for users. Also, when mobile users connect to these applications, they do it in a way that complies with the corporate security policies.

The client on the device, the Pulse Client, ensures the person uses a healthy and secured device to connect into the hybrid IT environment and provides an intuitive user experience for the worker. The client verifies the security of the device through host checking — all those things that, from an IT standpoint, are indicators that the device is secured.

For a laptop, host checking might involve looking at things such as the version of the operating system and whether antivirus is installed on the platform. For a smartphone or a tablet, the system would look at the OS but also things specific to mobile devices, such as whether the device is jail broken or not. All those characteristics become something of a “comply to connect” policy. The new release of Pulse Connect Secure extends those comply-to-connect policies to a variety of devices, including macOS computers, which are becoming more commonplace in the enterprise.

The new release of the appliance can now run in Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is important to Pulse Secure customers that want to move an application to the cloud but are confronted with the native cloud security. They will find that the VPN capabilities provided by, say, Amazon or Microsoft aren’t nearly as robust as what they are used to using within their own data center.

More importantly, the Pulse Secure client that their users have long used to connect to the data center doesn’t work with the native VPN capabilities of AWS or Azure. That can be a big stumbling block that disrupts users’ workflow. Now the new Pulse Secure cloud appliance takes the same framework as what has been used in the data center and brings it to the cloud. There is no change in the end user client, and the policies are consistent within both their data center environment and now within the cloud.

Administrators’ and end users’ lives get easier

More enhancements come in the form of ease of use. Pulse Secure has added some features that are intended to make the administrator’s life easier and the end user’s life more productive.

For example, when you think about security for the cloud, there’s the notion of split tunneling. Based on policy, it can be determined whether a user session comes back to the data center or goes to the cloud. It’s a powerful tool to blend the hybrid IT environment together, but it can be cumbersome due to the mappings of IP address spaces. An application or service like Office 365 could have hundreds of IP mappings for an administrator to worry about. The newest release of Pulse Connect Secure eliminates the notion of provisioning by IP address and instead focuses on domain name. That makes it easier to set up connectivity into the cloud, as well as simplifies moves, adds and changes within the cloud service. This relieves admins from having to worry about all these IP mappings.

As far as ease of use for end users, Pulse Connect Secure now has an on-demand per app VPN for Android devices. This eliminates the step of having to activate a VPN before opening an app. Now, the VPN automatically opens up when the user taps to open an app.

These are just a few examples of the enhancements and new features that Pulse Secure has just introduced in its latest VPN product. The goal is to make life easier for both administrators and mobile end users in a hybrid IT environment.


Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corp., which researches the practical value of information technology and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

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