SAP NS2: Addressing security across the digital ecosystem
The massive digital transformation shift that started in March 2020 has transformed the global business market. But as millions of companies made the transition to providing online services, the surge in cyber-attacks increased massively, costing companies billions in breaches and additional cybersecurity fortification.
SAP NS2 (the NS2 stands for National Security Services) has been instrumental in applying new and innovative solutions to combat security issues and to streamline business processes and connectivity. The entity is a wholly owned subsidiary of SAP, and was founded with the purpose of tackling security on a global basis.
Currently, SAP allocates US$3.5bn a year towards Research and Development. This enables them to create new technologies and solutions - and to bring those benefits to customers across government and commercial industries.
NS2 cloud services have the industry hallmark of excellent, providing near zero downtime, system maintenance, automated STIGS and enhanced security for SaaS solutions. Making sure customers have access to their innovative business technology platform and digital supply chains, as well as HXM (human management experience) and secure payroll tools and more, are all part of the deal.
Walt Sirene is the R&D and PreSales technical director at SAP NS2. He describes himself as wearing two hats in terms of his role. “I run the presales organisation focused on our defense and intel clients. I also run our labs organisation, which is a Research and Development and sales-focused organisation that does a lot of collaboration with partners such as AWS and others to create and bring solutions that are unique to our clients and accelerate sales cycles.”
This unique positioning puts Sirene in two critical areas that oversee new developments - and the application of those developments in a commercial setting.
Sirene started off his career in the functional supply chain business for the US Federal Government. He attributes this experience and background as having given him a unique insight into the supply chain lens.
“I like to view things as raw material coming in, that you add some sort of value to it, and then you release a finished product,” he says succinctly. “Having that lens and looking at things very simply allows me to look for ways to improve things. I'm always about improving things, making things better. And that foundation of the supply chain gave me a good start and put me on my career path into technology.”
Data management and analytics
SAP NS2 has been a leader in bringing innovation to leading government bodies in the US. Sirene, who started off his career as a government employee, knows only too well the challenges that occur within the confines of political establishments and has therefore been well placed to facilitate and manage projects that require more sensitivity and flexibility than most.
Recently, SAP NS2 helped implement a new set of processes for a US Department of Defense related client. Sirene explains, “They had a problem with exposing all their data and models that they were making across the enterprise. We partnered with them to create a unified data layer. This enabled analysts to go in and have a search and discovery capability of all the data and model holdings across their agency so that an analyst in a certain area might not have known that a data set in another area was available - or a model in another area was available,” he says.
The project resulted in a streamlining of the department’s data flow and security. “Now they're able to see those data sets, and really it enhances the analyst's environment because they're able to do their job a lot faster. They're also able to get a lot deeper with their analysis and they have deeper findings.”
Securing business in the cloud
SAP NS2 cloud performance plays a major role in bringing digital solutions to companies globally. With its focus on cloud security in a growing, worldwide market, demand has never been so high - and is expanding exponentially, says Sirene. “Security is our middle name. We're really about cloud security. It is our largest market. It’s also our largest growth market,” he confirms.
Sirene explains that SAP NS2 provides SAP technology in a secure cloud-hosted environment. As part of this, the entity has also partnered with global leading business solutions providers such as AWS, to create a layered, integrated approach to secure, cloud services.
“We partner with organisations like Amazon Web Services (AWS), take their baseline security and add additional layers of security that our customers require on top of that. This means they can run our SAP software products in a very secure fashion, and they can meet the needs of whatever requirements that they might have.”
Sirene points out that each and every customer requires varying sets of security requirements. “We can meet the majority of those security requirements. Advanced security offerings are how we focus on enhancing our cloud performance for our clients.”
Such projects are commonplace for SAP NS2, with many of the organisation’s top tier projects revolving around data management and analytics.
Working with government entities brings a set of interesting challenges generally not found in the commercial/business environment. Government requirements are challenging, says Sirene, and SAP NS2’s approach works on the premise that governments can benefit from its experience and expertise.
“We can teach governments how to manage and analyse business and mission data in a very secure fashion, hosted on the cloud. SAP NS2 is all about is providing great data management and analytic tools using cloud hyperscalers like AWS, and then building upon the capabilities that they have and adding that extra security layer,” he says.
“We want to be involved and part of the process early on when the government is thinking, "Hey. I have a problem. I might need to fix that with technology." And if we're able to get involved early on, then we're able to harness the power of SAP, which has a huge ecosystem of software,” Sirene explains.
If all goes to plan, the team is then able to pick different software components to put together as a solution to meet the customer needs. “If we're out far enough in front of a requirement, we can also apply Research and Development dollars against those [needs] to build a solution that's even more tightly aligned with government requirements. That’s good for us - and it's good for the end customers.”
While working with government bureaucracy comes with a unique set of challenges, the environment is opening up to change, Sirene says.
“I think that the government has been making a lot of improvements in allowing industry to get up and involved in the upfront requirements process, maybe not developing those requirements, but understanding those requirements. But I think we can, or the government can do better. And it's always better for industry to get further and further upstream so that they can provide better solutions.”
Leading change in the digital ecosystem
SAP NS2 has an ongoing collaborative partnership with AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Verizon. AWS already has a global reputation in terms of cloud service excellence and is a subsidiary that provides on-demand cloud computing services. These partnerships have become integral to SAP NS2’s services in terms of security, innovation and customer reach. They are, says Sirene, a success driver for marketplace dominance.
“Complex opportunities come around and are typically done by multiple companies. That's why it's important to have partnerships like the ones we have with AWS and Verizon and others to provide great solutions to our government customers.
“I don't think we would be as successful as we have been without the partnership that we've had with folks like AWS.”
“He goes on to describe how the rolling out of 5G and its integration and capabilities has been a major example of how the digital ecosystem can work together to create extraordinary results. “Verizon of course, provides a 5G network, and you're able to do lots of different things that you haven't been able to do wirelessly now. AWS has a great tool called the AWS Outpost, which is cloud computing on the edge. It's a great managed service that provides cloud capabilities on the edge in an on-prem environment.
“We can also host our software on the edge in the Outpost to carry out data analytics that is fed through the 5G network. That’s just one example of what we're investigating - and how we take advantage of the 5G environment in collusion with great partners.”
Strong partnerships provide better services
He points out that no single entity could have achieved the seamless integration, without the help of the others. “We couldn't have done it alone. I don't think Verizon could have done it alone. I don't think AWS could have done it alone. So it really shows the strong partnership that we each bring to the table.”
Working in such a symbiotic partnership with market leading providers isn’t always so frictionless. But Sirene attributes the success of the collaboration to sheer market excellence.
“AWS is the market leader in the cloud business, and it's our largest partnership. We have a great relationship with them. It's very much mutually beneficial, and I think that's why the partnership works.”
AWS Outpost also provides solutions within the defense and intel space. It’s on-premise instances of cloud means companies can carry out complex actions close to their work location. It is this aspect particularly, that has worked well for the DOD.
“If you think of the DOD, a lot of their work is out of the field. They have troops deployed, and sometimes they might not have the quick comms to a data centre that is back in the United States. They also might be way overseas. So, Outpost is a really great tool for adding additional capability to those type of clients.”
SAP NS2 is also collaborating on a pilot program with the IoT, which is looking at how SAP NS2 could utilise IoT data on the edge to analyse and help the decision-making cycle faster and more towards the edge than the typical analysis cycle. “Outpost is going to be critical in that effort,” he says.
The idea is that the reduction in latency and the smaller distance the data has to travel, increases security. “We believe that it would be much more secure. We're also starting to think through how we might be able to put on some of the extra security layers that we've built on our regular commercial and government offerings onto Outpost, to provide even further security or a better layer of security to those users of Outposts in the field.”
Future-proofing secure cloud experiences
Even though SAP NS2 is at the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to cloud solutions and implementation, there is one area Sirene would like to expand upon to improve integration for the digital ecosystem.
He says, “Our clients are spending a tremendous amount of time, effort and money on building data sets and enhancing data sets, buying data sets, and then also analytical models. They're buying analytical models. They're spending a lot of time building or enhancing them, and they've forgotten that all these things need to tie together.
“I think that there will be a big need in the near future to help set a unified data layer and unified model layer so that analysts across or employees across an organisation can have access to the data that they need and access to the models that they need to do their job. A start would be maybe at an agency level, but I think that this could extend across government.
“There's different need-to-know security measures so not everybody can see everybody else's data. But there's some data that could be shared across the government. I think would really be helpful for all those employees across the federal space.”
He adds, “It could definitely give us an edge up on our competition, and it's something that I see as a little bit lacking at the moment. And I think that if we could turn back time and set those standards before we did everything rather than have it come afterwards, it would really improve technology today.”