SunRice was formed in 1950 when rice growers pooled their funds to establish a co-operative and built a rice mill in Leeton, a small town in New South Wales, Australia. Today, the company has grown to become a $1 billion global food business supplying diverse and nutritious food products to more than 60 countries, including across Asia, the Pacific, Middle East and the United States. SunRice employs more than two thousand people across its global operations and is widely considered to be an Australian icon.
SunRice is the quintessential “local kid makes good” story. Officially known as Ricegrowers Limited, SunRice has blossomed into one of the world’s largest rice food companies while retaining its roots in the Australian farming region where it was founded in 1950.
SunRice’s global reach includes remote offices in locations as different as Papua New Guinea and California. As the company has expanded its operations, the challenges of providing IT services have mushroomed. New cloud-based applications require heightened security and high network performance. Newly acquired companies had to be integrated into the existing IT infrastructure, which did not have the necessary flexibility. Even establishing connectivity to headquarters was problematic in third-world towns without Internet connectivity or even basic telephone service.
In response to these needs, SunRice decided to build a new data center in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. To determine the best security platform, the IT team began a thorough evaluation of suppliers, including Barracuda, Fortinet, Cisco, and Palo Alto Networks. SunRice obtained units from the contenders and tasked infrastructure architect Will Sessions with the evaluation.
Sessions had the Palo Alto Networks PA-200 up and running in less than a day, a pleasant surprise compared to the other units. Comparing performance test data on the contenders, he discovered that only the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform achieved its rated performance. “One competitor’s system could barely handle half of its listed throughput,” Sessions says. “The PA-200 actually tested out at slightly higher than its 100 megabit rating.”
As he continued the evaluation, Sessions began to appreciate the full power of the Palo Alto Networks platform. “A lightbulb went off in my head,” he says. “I realized that this isn’t just a firewall, it’s a complete security platform that can do everything we need – and do it very, very well.” Analyst reports and personal recommendations settled the matter. SunRice ordered a pair of PA-3020s for its Sydney data center, along with subscriptions to Threat Prevention, URL Filtering with PAN-DB, and the WildFire cloud-based malware analysis environment. The company also purchased a PA-200 to establish an IPSec tunnel between the main data center and a subsidiary office in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
As SunRice migrated to the Palo Alto Networks platform, the realized savings began to pile up. URL Filtering replaced an in house security service that had cost SunRice tens of thousands of dollars per year to maintain. SunRice retired a number of other security appliances such as VPN connectivity by consolidating their functions onto the Palo Alto Networks platform, which will reduce the company’s outlays for maintenance and support contracts. “All told, we estimate that the Palo Alto Networks platform will save us more than AU$100K over three years, easily more than paying for itself,” says Sessions. The virtual router functionality in the Palo Alto Networks platform allows SunRice to segment the network, which provides additional security and increases bandwidth by reducing network congestion.
Before deploying the Palo Alto Networks platform, SunRice had a brush with disaster when an email-borne threat containing CryptoLocker malware landed in an executive’s inbox. While the executive was savvy enough to avoid activating the threat, it was too close for comfort. Thanks to Palo Alto Networks, Sessions is confident that scenario won’t be repeated. “The combination of Threat Prevention and WildFire gives us an effective one-two punch against threats,” he says. “Threat Prevention stops known threat vectors and WildFire identifies zero-day malware, which is critical for stopping threats that continue to change their signatures. Now when our executives ask me about the latest new threat in the news, I can look them in the eye and say, ‘Relax, we’re protected.’”
Handling acquisitions is also far easier today, thanks to the flexibility and visibility of the Palo Alto Networks security platform. “We can see exactly what’s going on in our network and have highly granular control over user access to applications and data,” says Sessions. The reporting functionality of the Palo Alto Networks platform streamlines compliance and reduces the time that Sessions’ team spends on audits.
Palo Alto Networks GlobalProtect™ is next on SunRice’s list of security upgrades. “Remote workers have reported problems logging into our VPN,” says Sessions. “GlobalProtect will pre-authenticate users based on the computer’s security certificate and simplifies the login process considerably.”
Based on these positive results, SunRice has standardized on Palo Alto Networks. As the company looks to build a second data center, Sessions has decided to replicate the security infrastructure of the Sydney data center by purchasing another pair of PA-3020s for the new facility. “At the end of the day, Palo Alto Networks enables us to secure our network even as we move more of our functionality to the cloud,” he says. “The Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform is intuitive, fast, and feature rich – it just works. I sleep better at night because of Palo Alto Networks.”