By Alex Philips, Chief Information Officer, National Oilwell Varco
NOV's job is to power the industry that powers the world. My team's job is to enable our amazing colleagues to access their mission-critical applications and data securely anytime, anywhere, on almost any device. Being a critical supply chain partner to the energy industry means continuity is not a buzzword or checkbox, but a necessity at all times—particularly right now.
We have taken unprecedented measures to keep our employees safe while fulfilling the essential technology, equipment, and services our customers require. Fortunately, we are in a position where we can securely enable remote work to as many employees as possible. This is mainly due to a decision we made a few years ago. In 2016, we embarked on our journey from what I would call “security appliance hell” to the cloud. It has made us much more resilient even in a time of a global crisis, such as the one we currently face.
We are ready to have all of our 27,500 users start working remotely, if needed, thanks to our partnership with Zscaler. We would have failed using our legacy VPN solution. It was designed to handle a peak load of 2,000 concurrent users and was never designed for the amount of traffic that comes with a global pandemic. Given the current global supply chain constraints, sourcing the needed hardware for our old legacy solution would be impossible for our current remote worker demand. I don’t even want to imagine where we’d be under those circumstances.
Contrast that with what actually happened over the past few weeks. As we prepared for the very real possibility of a coming surge of remote workers in late February, desktops comprised 30% of our fleet. With limited time and low inventory for notebooks, we had to face a new reality; our engineers who relied upon powerful desktops would have to take their systems home—BYOD in reverse so to speak. We never could have imagined the last thing standing between our desktop users becoming part of our mobile workforce were long ethernet cables or USB Wi-Fi adapters. We only had to roll out the Zscaler App (Z App) to all those desktops and they were instantly ready to access all the applications they use on a daily basis, from anywhere.
This was only possible because of our cloud transformation, enabled by adopting Zscaler services in 2016. We first adopted Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA) to protect our entire global workforce no matter where they are in the world. In 2018, we rolled out Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) to provide remote access to internal applications. Thanks to Zscaler, we are able to securely work from home to protect ourselves and our families through physical distancing while ensuring business continuity.
As more employees work from home each day, we have seen the number of ZPA concurrent user connections increase 4.5x over a 16-day period. We grew from fewer than 2,000 to more than 9,000 users connected to their applications and data simultaneously. Such a rapid surge in demand resulted in a few connection issues; however, Zscaler was able to adapt quickly and increase capacity to more than satisfy our needs. As employee feedback from around the world has come in, I’m hearing exactly what I had hoped–it feels normal. Very high praise considering the disaster we would have felt using our old solution!
Given the fluidity of the situation, we expect our connection numbers could double over the next few weeks. No one knows for certain what the future holds or when things might get “back to normal” as they say, but with the changes we’ve made on our journey to the cloud, I’m confident we’ll be in a strong position to handle whatever comes along. In the end, this experience will have a long-lasting impact and will ultimately change legacy mindsets. We are opening eyes to new ways of working while showing the impact of technology and the resilience and creativity of our workforce.
While we are all learning to run companies from home in such unprecedented times, I wish you and your families, both at home and at work, strength, health, and safety.