Co-authored by: Monisha Rajasekaran
America’s farmers are a national treasure and the backbone of our society. They contribute massively to national economy and security by ensuring a safe and reliable food supply. Rural areas of the country are home to significant business enterprise, such as manufacturing and forestry, as well as wide open spaces to play or raise a family. Rural communities’ clean air and water are essential to a high quality of life, so their continued viability is crucial to our success as a country.
This fact is not lost on Farm Credit Mid-America, which is working hard to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture. From equipment and operating loans, home and construction loans, to crop insurance, Farm Credit Mid-America stands with rural America and helps farmers succeed.
|Farm Credit Mid-America|
|Industry: Financial||Region: Americas|
|· Handle growth in new employees and deliver consistent client experience
· Protect client financial data and comply with regulations
· Deploy new networking infrastructure quickly in old buildings
|· Cisco DNA, SD-Access, and Assurance solutions
· Cisco DNA Center, Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE)
· Cisco Stealthwatch
· Cisco WebEx · Telepresence· Multidomain architecture
· Cisco Enterprise Agreements
|· Policy integration between user access and applications allows the network to act as the security enforcer
· Segmentation of employees by role and geography ensures regulatory compliance
· Reduced license complexity and better financial planning with Cisco EA
Mike Everett, Farm Credit Mid-America’s Vice President and Chief Security Officer, is at the forefront of the association’s commitment to serve rural communities in four U.S. states – Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio – through its operations office in Louisville, KY, and a network of 80 retail offices across the four states. As a technologist, Mike leverages technology’s power to extend the reach, increase collaboration and enhance network security to ensure complex transactions are performed with confidence.
To adequately serve constituents, Mike and his technology team realized that Farm Credit Mid-America needed to transform business processes and evolve IT and networking architectures. The team developed a comprehensive approach for these advances. At the frontend, Farm Credit Mid-America upgraded its retail offices with high-speed connectivity and introduced Cisco WebEx and Telepresence equipment, for an enhanced, highly available customer experience. At the backend, it retooled on-campus networks and data centers to provide the level of needed performance and security.
“Cisco DNA with Cisco SD-Access, Cisco ACI, and the policy integration between them
give us the end-to-end security and a platform we can grow on as we look to the future.”
~ Mike Everett, Vice President and Chief Security Officer, Farm Credit Mid-America
Mike explained how the team made the decision to implement a Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA) based network. “We had both business and technical reasons. We are growing our consumer lending program and bringing on new employees. There are increasing regulatory policies we need to comply with. On the technical side, we needed a scalable platform that could handle the needs of our employees as well as help deliver the best possible experience to our customers. Therefore, I decided to move away from the standard route switch topology that everyone has with all its limitations and invest in Cisco DNA that could help us achieve a dynamic network that is constantly adapting to meet business and technical requirements.”
Confidential data safeguarded end-to-end
Mike described how they used Cisco DNA Center’s built-in utility called the Access Control Application (ACA). Using a simple drag and drop process, ACA let them create groups, place employees in those groups by their roles – legal, HR, accounting, finance, lending, etc., and define policies that controlled how these groups could interact with each other and among themselves. Next, the team segmented the network assigning each employee group to a different unit so that traffic to and from each group followed the defined policies.
Farm Credit Mid-America is just as innovative on its data center that hosts the various applications they use. Just like employee groups, these applications are also logically grouped. Among these applications, is a customized lending application called Rural 1st that contains highly personal and confidential details on customers that need to be safeguarded. To protect the data from unauthorized access, Farm Credit Mid-America uses Cisco’s multi-domain architecture. This architecture maps employee groups to application groups thus extending segmentation from the campus to the data center. Employee groups can now only run the applications they are authorized to depending on their role. The network acts as the enforcer without any manual, time-consuming and error-prone configurations such as access control lists (ACLs) and firewalls to prevent unauthorized access.
From order to production in weeks
Mike explained how quickly the team was able to set up SD-Access using Cisco DNA Center and Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE). After defining groups and policies, with a simple click, ISE configured all the Catalyst 9000 series of programmable switches, routers, access points and wireless LAN controllers. As each user joins the network, ISE places them into their assigned group so no matter where they join from – the central office, a branch, or even when on the road – the network recognizes and authorizes them for the level of access they need to do their jobs.
Extending segmentation from office and branches to data center is also as simple as associating Cisco DNA Center with its equivalent in the data center, Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). That’s it. Now if any user’s status changes, simply updating the group they are in gives them new permissions they need with no extensive configurations required.
“We went from receiving the equipment in our facility to configuring it, training our staff, and bringing it into production in less than eight weeks!” said Mike. “This not only is a testament to our IT team, who was able to learn quickly and deploy the system, but also to the solution itself, which is intuitive and makes it easy for users to get things done!”
Farm Credit chose to sign an Enterprise Agreement (EA) with Cisco that gives them an easy way to acquire the licenses they need to run Cisco DNA software. Mike described how he handled a curveball thrown at him. An older headquarter building was due to be vacated, but at the last minute, management decided to keep it and wanted its networking infrastructure to be updated. They were able to deploy the network, log into their EA portal to obtain the required licenses and had the building up and running quickly.
Mike shared, “With Cisco’s True Forward feature, we did not have to worry about unpredictable budgets with true-up costs. We also didn’t have to worry about keeping track of multiple end-dates with the ability to co-term their subscriptions.” Their EA also allows them to use new features as soon as they are realized helping them keep up with the latest in Cisco DNA technology.
Leading the way
Farm-Credit Mid America takes justifiable pride in what it has accomplished. Customers use the 140-telepresence units in retail centers to speak with specialists who may not be available onsite. The digital processes enhance trust and helps transactions close securely. Their adoption of and the results it is experiencing with Cisco DNA is being recognized as a model for the Farm Credit System and other financial institutions across the country.
With a little help from Cisco DNA, Farm Credit Mid-America is striving for the success of rural America – with more personal customer service, robust end-to-end data privacy and secure transactions. Cisco DNA delivers an open, extensible, software-driven architecture that accelerates and simplifies the association’s entire enterprise network operations, while lowering costs and reducing risk. Cisco DNA gives IT time back from time-consuming, repetitive network configuration tasks so they can focus on the innovation their business needs.
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