There were many challenges, including having different user identities for each system, legacy authentication methods, and non-seamless remote user experience via a VPN. If you don’t solve these challenges, digital transformation cannot come to fruition. To try to solve them, we made the Zero Trust security model the central pillar of our approach.Taku Yasui, Corporate Director and Director of Information Security, LIXIL Corporation
A Global Company with Challenging IT Infrastructure
Operating in over 150 countries worldwide, LIXIL is a manufacturer of building materials and housing equipment with well-known brands including GROHE and American Standard. LIXIL’s supply chain is complex because many of its products, like construction materials and residential equipment, typically require professional installation. LIXIL’s order format is also quite complex, as it is common for products to be customized to suit individual buildings and customer preferences.
To streamline and modernize processes, LIXIL has adopted several new systems. This effort has greatly contributed to the growth of the company, but while these technologies support the company’s core business, they have also created complexity. Many of the systems were built separately, resulting in inconsistent internal and external UI/UX, as well as delayed support of mobile phones and tablets.
Furthermore, LIXIL is embracing work style reform. The company is empowering employees to work from anywhere — at home or in a café. Osamu Iwasaki, Director, Head of System Infrastructure Department and Executive Manager of Core Systems, explains: “We need to provide our employees a new, unified UI/UX and support a more open work style. This means rethinking our approach to architecture and infrastructure. We want to streamline and simplify our IT systems based on our digital strategy, which will require us to focus on reducing cost and the number of systems, as well as increasing security.”
A Zero Trust Model Is the Key
In moving toward a modern and unified digital experience, LIXIL ran into a few issues. Notably, their legacy IT infrastructure had become even more complex due to acquisitions. Maintaining this equipment resulted in increased costs and workloads. Furthermore, LIXIL’s global presence created a diversity of security policies and therefore governance concerns.
“There were many challenges, including having different user identities for each system, legacy authentication methods, and non-seamless remote user experience via a VPN. If you don’t solve these challenges, digital transformation cannot come to fruition. To try to solve them, we made the Zero Trust security model the central pillar of our approach,” explains Taku Yasui, Corporate Director and Director of Information Security.
A Zero Trust model solves for the security problems, complexity, and cost created by disparate systems. It enables digital transformation by shifting to identity-aware defenses instead of relying on legacy systems to secure the network perimeter.
“Many of the SaaS applications we use are accessible from outside the company, which significantly increases the number of connecting locations we need to manage and secure. Some locations will have weaker security due to less oversight. It’s quite difficult to increase security levels when all locations are connected to a single trusted network. And with our work style reform, the number of different devices being used to access these resources is increasing. Unifying everything in one location is impossible. That’s why we believe the Zero Trust model, which doesn’t assume the network itself is trustworthy, would better protect endpoints on both the server side and the client side,” reveals Iwasaki.
Akamai Enterprise Application Access Drives LIXIL’s Zero Trust Strategy
Implementing a Zero Trust architecture by modifying existing systems can be extremely costly and time consuming. As a potential solution, Akamai introduced LIXIL to Enterprise Application Access (EAA).
“Enterprise Application Access is a cloud-based Zero Trust Network Access solution that provides seamless, secure access to corporate systems via a connector deployed on-premises or on IaaS. Users and devices are easily authenticated and authorized before access is granted. People often say that increasing security will result in less convenience, but Enterprise Application Access is really the best of both worlds,” states Yasui.
Iwasaki adds, “The fact that Enterprise Application Access runs on Akamai’s global edge platform is invaluable. As the world’s largest network provider, Akamai’s distributed infrastructure affords us enterprise-grade access security with internet–service level performance and protection.”
It’s notable, too, that LIXIL has numerous partners — including suppliers, vendors, and other third-party entities — that need access to their internal resources. With Akamai Enterprise Application Access, the manufacturer can provide this varied access in a secure manner, without opening up their full network to these outside parties.
“Our journey toward Zero Trust security has only just begun. Between our employees and our partners, Enterprise Application Access will need to be deployed to a total of 180,000 users across more than 600 applications. Of course, without Akamai’s support, we wouldn’t be able to transition. We still have a long way to go, but we will continue to work with Akamai to solve any issues that arise,” explains Yasui.
Using Enterprise Application Access Client Software
In addition, LIXIL is using the Enterprise Application Access client to provide secure and authenticated access to non-web-based applications such as Microsoft Outlook. “This provides seamless access to internal systems without changing applications or using a VPN,” says Yasui.
The company is eventually aiming to implement security measures that will allow everything to be available on the internet and delivered as flexible microservices. Enterprise Application Access is a significant step forward from the company’s current legacy environment toward its ideal form, and they have high hopes for the solutions and support that Akamai will be able to provide.
LIXIL is an industry-leading construction materials and residential equipment company. It was formed in 2011 by the merger of Tostem, INAX, Shin Nikkei, Sunwave, and Toyo Exterior. LIXIL improves the lives of people all over the world by developing and offering advanced plumbing products that solve everyday challenges, as well as building materials such as doors, interiors, and exteriors. LIXIL aims to view things from the end user’s perspective and focuses on meaningful product design, pursuing greater possibilities and driving responsible business growth in order to create a richer, more comfortable home and life for people around the globe.