Zespri International Limited (Zespri) is the world’s largest exporter of kiwifruit. Headquartered in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Zespri is located in the heart of New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit producing region, the Bay of Plenty. Zespri works with growers and postharvest operators to source for top-quality kiwifruit. Through distribution partners, it supplies kiwifruit to wholesale markets and retail customers.
The organization operates in 26 countries around the world and exports between 150 to 200 million trays of kiwifruit to over 50 nations annually—accounting for approximately one-third of the global volume of kiwifruit sold annually. Tim Lloyd, head of digital operations was tasked to build up Zespri’s internal capabilities to bolster the organization’s security expertise while uplifting the security posture alongside the business growth.
As a global organization operating in many jurisdictions—each carrying its own amount of risk—Zespri needs to be acutely aware of what its risks are, and how to address these risks in an appropriate and timely manner.
However, this was not always possible. Just a few years ago, Zespri did not have anyone within the organization with security as their primary responsibility. Instead, the business had several generalists who worked with outsourced partners to keep security operations running.
Security was managed using the basic security controls of its cloud security provider (CSP), Azure, that Zespri had a large deployment in. While this provided Zespri with the security they needed previously, the organization’s cybersecurity needs expanded during the global pandemic as remote access requirements skyrocketed. The company was also looking to improve their timeliness with resolving network access issues. These often resulted in delays with both starting work and getting things done.
For Zespri, the next step would be finding a security partner who could elevate their security posture to the level they needed to be at. This would mean going beyond the basic, out-of-the-box security that their CSP provided—and working with a partner that offers best-in-class solutions.
The good news is that they already had one, having successfully implemented Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) previously. Now, the company wanted to continue their firewall strategy into the cloud, and in Tim’s words, “leverage some of the secret sauce that Palo Alto Networks could bring to protect our critical systems and gain better insights.” Specifically, this would mean gaining wider visibility and management across the organization and providing next-generation protection to their wider ecosystem.
Tim explained why an integrated approach was essential for Zespri. “We have a long and complicated supply chain that begins with kiwifruit harvested largely in Te Puke, New Zealand. It is then shipped to ports across the globe, transported to cool stores, placed onto trucks for distribution, before finally ending up at retailers all over the world.
“There are many parts of this supply chain that bear risk and old technologies, so managing and minimising risk at every stage of this process is key. It’s important that we identify where we as a business have issues, but also where our third parties have issues. It is also essential that everyone who works with us, from our employees and IT team to contractors around the world, have seamless experiences and can focus on their work.”
The challenge for Zespri was that their out-of-the-box security tools had limited capabilities and did not provide these key insights to their security team. The requirements were to implement a solution that would give them all these capabilities, while also making network access both safe and simple for end users.
After assessing several solutions from leading vendors, Zespri ultimately chose Palo Alto Networks Prisma SASE (Prisma Access and Prisma SD-WAN) and ADEM. Known as the industry’s most complete AI-powered secure access service edge (SASE) solution, Prisma SASE converges network security, SD-WAN, and Autonomous Digital Experience Management (ADEM) into a single cloud-delivered service.
While security was certainly fundamental in Zespri’s decision to select Prisma SASE, Tim highlights that usability and ease of use were also key factors that set the Palo Alto Networks solution apart from competing products.
“Zespri operates in 26 locations globally and has contractors from all over the world. Also, our sales team moves across borders as they generate new business. We need to enable them with a solution that gives them one less thing to think about—allowing them to focus on their objectives, instead of how they’re going to get online.”
The end-to-end deployment of Prisma SASE was, in Tim’s words, “very simple.” Elaborating, Tim explains, “We completed proof of concepts, baked them off against other leading vendors, and simply found Prisma SASE to be the easiest to deploy and use.”
A lean two-person security team at Zespri, who were supported by Palo Alto Networks, completed the implementation, which was a pleasant surprise for the organization. The implementation was completed in under six months—a time frame that could have been even faster if not for global supply chain issues that occurred during the pandemic.
As Zespri rolls out new sites, the time savings have been significant. At a new location, a complete site can be set up and running within 30 minutes, thanks to Prisma SD-WAN. Tim even humorously shares that it “takes longer to take devices out of the box than it does to do anything else.”
Zespri has also been impressed by the capabilities delivered by Autonomous Digital Experience Management, which is helping their IT team to speed up troubleshooting and fault finding. With the insights offered by ADEM, the team can quickly and easily identify where core issues lie, even when presented with complex, and tricky issues—no guesswork or finger pointing, only actionable insights that get users online, secure, and productive.
Since implementing Prisma SASE, Zespri’s security team has seen considerable improvements in the areas of visibility, security, and usability.
Notably, Zespri now has greater insights into user behaviors. This enables them to better identify where unusual activity is taking place and allows their IT team to query users directly—uncovering issues and resolving problems in real time, as opposed to hunting through logs and making discoveries later. From a broader perspective, Zespri is now far better at identifying near misses and incidents, and is laser-focused on these specific events.
“Most importantly,” Tim tells us, “Our users don’t have to think. It’s just simple.”
Elaborating, he shares, “When our teams travel to new offices in new countries, the time they need to set up and get productive has been reduced from one or two days, to just minutes. There’s nothing (special) for them to do, they just get straight in and start working—focusing on why they’re there, instead of logging tickets and having the IT team scramble around them.”
This level of simplicity and visibility has also reduced the number of security incident counts, dropping these numbers from “several a month” to “mostly zero.” Tim explains the reason for this improvement. “Most of the time, it’s just about the education of our end users and their behaviors. This is possible because of the end-to-end solution we have, which helps us to clearly see what we need to focus our time on.”
Tim also shares that their IT team has tracked a significant drop in the number of tickets logged and have found Prisma SASE to be more stable than their previous security and VPN solution.
Importantly, Tim credits the consolidation of Palo Alto Networks product sets as a key to Zespri’s improved security posture. He details the organization’s decision to approach Palo Alto Networks and Prisma SASE, as opposed to best-in-class solutions from several different providers.
“Even the best solutions in the world, when cobbled together, don’t often result in the best outcomes. When Palo Alto Networks offered us world-class, end-to-end solutions that worked together, we knew it would be the ideal choice—especially for our small team.”
Presently, Prisma SASE offers simple and secure access for Zespri’s operations across the globe. That’s over 1,000 employees in 26 countries, as well as contractors in many other locations worldwide. Work is now seamless, even when users travel to new destinations, and network security is enhanced. Best of all, it is all managed by a small security team that punches well above their weight, thanks to Prisma SASE.
To any organizations that are on the fence about implementing a SASE solution, Tim shares his perspective. “It is a no-brainer that SASE is a solution that every company should deploy. From an end-user point of view, the advantages are huge. SASE not only simplifies your environment, it also improves your security at the same time. This has enabled Zespri to act on the actionable insights quicker and operate more efficiently.”
Find out more about how Palo Alto Networks Prisma SASE can improve security and network efficiency for your organization. Additional information can be found here.