Waseda University Enables Universal Secure Remote Learning and Digital Transformation with Cato
The Challenge: Universal Remote Learning
When Covid-19 hit in 2020, many organizations had to put digital transformation projects on hold while they rushed to accommodate remote work. This often meant a quick network transformation and a dramatic change in security posture.
Waseda University is a prime example. Located in Tokyo, Waseda University is one of Japan’s top private institutions of academic research and higher learning.
“We were planning and implementing next-generation educational infrastructure with a number of digital transformation initiatives in research, education, and university administration. However, when Covid hit IT’s position suddenly changed,” says Hitoshi Kusunoki in Waseda’s Information Planning Department. “
As with most universities, classes at Waseda were conducted mostly in person using white boards. If there was a network interruption, it didn’t cause a significant classroom interruption. “Suddenly when classes were all online, the IT infrastructure became absolutely indispensable,” says Kusunoki. “It became clear that all our plans for next generation infrastructure would have to ensure that communication would never drop at all.”
Waseda had VPN hardware for remote learning, but it was experiencing “VPN traffic jams” from the increased load according to Yokihiro Koizumi, also from Information Planning.
Kusunoki realized he would need a large increase in network capacity to support online classes, which meant a major new network investment. “We had to optimize somewhere to get the performance we needed with the budget we could afford.”
Waseda Chooses Cato, Sees Digital Transformation Potential
Kusunoki was introduced to Cato by a friend and colleague from GlobalDots, a cloud solutions provider.
“Initially I had the impression that Cato was just a VPN alternative for remote work and learning,” says Kusunoki. “As we looked at other Cato options, however, we came to the conclusion that Cato could replace our firewalls and other existing security solutions and go a long way towards optimizing future IT investment.”
Cato connects all global enterprise network resources — including branch locations, mobile users, and physical and cloud datacenters — into a single secure, global, cloud-native network service. With all WAN and Internet traffic consolidated in the cloud, Cato applies a suite of robust security services to protect all traffic, including anti-malware, next-generation firewall, content filtering, and IPS.
Connecting a location to Cato is just a matter of installing a simple Cato Socket appliance, which links automatically to the nearest of Cato’s more than 70 globally dispersed Points of Presence (PoPs). At the local PoP, Cato provides an onramp to its global backbone and security services. The backbone is not only privately managed for zero packet loss and 5 9’s uptime; it also has built-in WAN optimization to dramatically improve throughput. Cato monitors network traffic and selects the optimum path for each packet across the Cato backbone. Mobile users run across the same backbone, benefiting from the same optimization features, improving remote access performance.
Kusunoki started his Cato investment with home online learning. “This gave everyone the chance to use the system and see how user friendly it was,” says Kusunoki. “I think that was a very significant factor in our decision to move forward with more of Cato’s options. We could see that Cato could consolidate and replace our current equipment and be very effective in reducing our network and security costs.”
Home learning deployment was smooth, thanks in part to Waseda’s partnership with GlobalDots. “They helped us do the Proof of Concept (POC) and then we were able to implement the system pretty quickly,” says Koizumi,” Upper management was able to use the system during the POC, which helped lead to their approval.
Simplicity and Scalability at Low Cost
Koizumi was impressed with how quickly the university could ramp up bandwidth using Cato. “If you’re using on-premises hardware, you often have to replace it to upgrade bandwidth, but with Cato there’s no hardware to replace,” says Koizumi. “Cato let me handle bandwidth upgrades almost instantly.” Quick bandwidth upgrades have been very helpful as the university has relied more and more on cloud services during the pandemic. Koizumi sees a future in which regular costly equipment upgrades may be history.
Kusunoki was also impressed with how unintrusive Cato’s security services were.
“The security solutions we had been using up until then sometimes had a negative impact on user convenience, but Cato’s security services let people work freely and securely wherever they were,” says Kusunoki. “Even people on site liked Cato.”
Koizumi feels that Cato’ identity authentication and detailed monitoring capabilities have improved the university’s security posture immensely. “It’s really easy to visualize all the traffic and users on the network,” says Koizumi, “and keep an eye on what users are doing.”
Kusunoki looks at Cato as more than a network and security solution, however. “It’s not something just to put in and get comfortable with,” says Kusunoki. “I see Cato SASE as a tool for digital transformation promotion. We can use it to reorganize our entire security portfolio, reduce costs, and bring out the best in our students, professors, and administrators. The ability to work productively and securely anywhere gives a great boost to all our digital transformation initiatives.”
Kusunoki strongly urges other universities and organizations to look into the Cato solution. “Seeing is believing. It’s easy to give Cato a try. You can start with remote workers, but however you start, take a good look at it”
Based in Tokyo, Waseda University is one of top institutions of academic research and higher learning. Prior to Cato, Waseda relied on VPN hardware to enable its approximately 3,000 students, professors, and administrators to work or learn remotely.