Corey O'Connor|March 26, 2024

Securing Access to Diverse Environments With Universal ZTNA

Universal Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) guarantees the consistent implementation of Zero Trust security principles for all users, regardless of their device or location. This applies to on-campus and remote users and is achieved through a unified policy model. The adoption of universal ZTNA simplifies operations by replacing legacy solutions such as VPNs, MPLS and NAC. As a result, organizations can harden network security postures without adding complexity for end users, realize administrative efficiencies and reduce capital expenditures.

Let's face it, securing access to a diverse network environment can feel like walking a tightrope. Cloud deployments, legacy systems, data center and on-premises infrastructure must co-exist. Attack surfaces and blind spots multiply. Disparate secure access solutions make policy management a logistical nightmare. And workforces located anywhere that need access to enterprise resources housed everywhere introduce more network security complexity.

Organizations wrestling with securing diverse environments are increasingly turning to Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) for its proven ability to strengthen security posture and adapt to evolving IT landscapes. But not all ZTNA solutions are created equally and organizations looking to tackle the hybrid IT complexities must be discerning when it comes to choosing a best-of-breed universal ZTNA solution that can handle current and future secure access needs.

When comparing ZTNA solutions to effectively address the security of a distributed workforce, consider the following:

  • Can it effectively handle more than remote access connections? Beware of cloud-routed ZTNA solutions primarily designed for remote access as they may struggle to integrate seamlessly with legacy systems or on-premises infrastructure.
  • Does it offer seamless integration and interoperability capabilities? It is important to ensure the ZTNA solution that you choose can effectively connect with other security and business tools to avoid creating silos.
  • Does it provide comprehensive visibility? The value of a universal ZTNA solution is amplified by its ability to provide complete insights into diverse user and device activity, including logging and access information.
  • Can it scale and adapt to meet your future needs? It should include a strong adaptability and scalability that supports your enterprise’s overall growth plans and integration with emerging technologies.

Universal ZTNA for all secure access anywhere, anytime

A universal Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution introduces a paradigm shift in secure access management. By establishing a comprehensive policy framework, organizations can ensure the rigorous and consistent application of Zero Trust principles for all users, irrespective of device or location (on-premises or remote). A streamlined, global approach would replace traditional technologies like VPNs, MPLS, and NAC, simplifying secure access management across diverse network landscapes. A universal ZTNA solution empowers you to strike a healthy balance between robust network security and user experience. As a result, your end users enjoy seamless access, while your administrators benefit from enhanced efficiency and reduced operational and capital costs.

Universal Zero Trust Network Access - ZTNA - VPN Alternatives

The benefits of universal ZTNA built on direct-routed architecture

Appgate SDP universal ZTNA offers a robust security solution for organizations navigating the complexities of modern IT ecosystems across a variety of use cases, including:

This industry-leading universal ZTNA solution enables unique, secure connections between your users and resources based on verified user identities and context. Built on a direct-routed ZTNA architecture model, which avoids vendor cloud pitfalls and puts organizations in control of how data traverses your network, Appgate SDP delivers optimal performance with minimal latency and centralized access controls for all user-to-resource and resource-to-resource communication. This approach gives you the flexibility and control needed to secure diverse environments, encompassing remote and on-premises locations, multi-cloud deployments and legacy infrastructures.

To enforce granular, context-aware control over user access attempts, Appgate SDP leverages a multi-layered authorization process that includes:

  • Single packet authorization (SPA): This layer cloaks the infrastructure and ensures complete invisibility with no exposed ports, enabling communication channel access only to users that are cryptographically validated with a single packet.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) at sign-in: Registering a user’s device serves as a second authentication factor, enhancing security by blocking unauthorized access attempts with stolen credentials.
  • Authentication: This layer validates user and device credentials against defined trusted sources such as SAML and OIDC.
  • Authorization: Policy assignment criteria evaluates user/device attributes, enabling a specific set of entitlements to be assigned to each user/device.
  • Access controls: This layer compares user traffic to entitlements, enforces access policy, verifies conditions for access and prompts user for action (e.g., MFA) when required. Appgate SDP dynamically manages the access for each user/device based on the host, port and protocol of the protected resource defined in entitlements.
  • Alert actions: This layer acts as a triggering system that blocks and logs with an alert for high-risk behaviors, such as unauthorized port scans, to proactively address potential threats.

Universal Zero Trust Network Access | Best ZTNA Solutions
Appgate SDP delivers a unified policy engine to support universal ZTNA for all users and resources, including legacy and custom apps, and locations across hybrid IT, multi-cloud, HQs, branch offices and data centers.

How Appgate SDP universal ZTNA works

Appgate SDP is comprised of three essential components that facilitate secure, dynamic access to authorized resources:


  • Acts as a trust broker and policy decision point
  • Authenticates users, checks context, and generates live entitlement tokens
  • Sends digitally signed tokens to the Client


  • Functions as the policy enforcement point
  • Validates entitlement tokens from the Client and establishes a dynamic session-specific micro firewall network for accessing protected resources


  • Connects users/devices to authorized resources
  • Sends SPA entitlement token to Controller and Gateway to initiate communication
  • Requests access from the Controller and sends the entitlement token to the Gateway for validation
Secure access | Universal Zero Trust Access | ZTNA Vendors

Securing the future: Why you need universal ZTNA

Organizations are increasingly managing heterogeneous IT environments, encompassing cloud-based applications, on-premises infrastructure and legacy systems. By their inherent design, these diverse systems will continue to present vulnerabilities that cyber adversaries can exploit. The evolving threat landscape necessitates a sea change in secure access control strategies and universal ZTNA has emerged as the most compelling solution to mitigate these risks by enforcing granular access controls and eliminating the concept of implicit trust.

It is important to note that Gartner predicts through 2026 that more than half of all cyberattacks will be aimed at areas that Zero Trust controls don’t cover and can’t mitigate. A universal ZTNA security approach that extends the benefits of ZTNA to all users and devices, regardless of location, is required to thwart many of these attacks.

Appgate SDP universal ZTNA offers a powerful solution for organizations seeking to secure their expanding digital footprint. Benefits include:

  • Identity-centric security: Guaranteeing that only authorized and authenticated entities can access specified network resources
  • Application layer access control: Ensuring users have the minimum necessary access required to perform their task
  • Dynamic access policies: Granting access based on the specific context of the user and device
  • Adaptive authentication: Responding to changes in user behavior or contextual factors to ensure access privileges are appropriate for the current security posture
  • Scalability and high performance: Dynamic scalability to accommodate a growing number of users and devices, while maintaining optimal performance

By consolidating access control and eliminating the need for disparate legacy solutions, universal ZTNA empowers organizations to achieve a secure and simplified access environment, optimizing security posture, user experience, and operational costs.

Want to learn more? Download the full universal ZTNA solution brief or visit our Zero Trust access Demo Hub.

Additional universal ZTNA resources

White paper: An ROI Analysis on Universal ZTNA
Blog: Making the Case for Universal Zero Trust Network Access
eBook: What’s the Difference Between Cloud-routed vs. Direct-routed ZTNA
Analyst report: 2023 Nemertes Real Economic Value of Appgate SDP

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