SASE: Beyond the Buzzword
The world is changing fast, and technology is a big part of that change. Computer networking technology is no exception to that rule. Today, everyone is talking about SASE, the next-gen networking and security technology that promises to reduce cost and complexity of offerings in this area, while increasing visibility, performance, and agility. However, before SASE burst onto the scene, organizations were going full-tilt with SD-WAN, an approach to networking that touted its ability to simplify the operation and management of a wide-area network (WAN) by separating the networking hardware and its control mechanism.
Prospective users, then, could be forgiven for wondering if SASE may just be the latest tech buzzword: a rebranding of SD-WAN with a shiny new interface.
Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. SASE is a game-changer in its class, combining SD-WAN and assorted other network infrastructure in one place as a singular, cloud-based platform that organizations can use to simplify their network management and complexity. This focus on the cloud is the real differentiator for SASE. Although SD-WAN may be adapted in such a way that it can connect to cloud environments, it’s not built with the cloud in mind. The focus of SD-WAN is to connect branch offices to a central private network. You can think of the difference between SD-WAN and the cloud-centric SASE a bit like the difference between sending files via an intranet system and sharing them using Google Drive: both approaching the same problem, but from very different directions.
Today, with the shift to a cloud-first world, it is essential that networking architecture embraces cloud environments — and, in doing so, addresses the demands that have brought about the emphasis on cloud computing, such as the rise in remote access demands. As employees of organizations have to provide more and more in the way of data, services, remote access for employees, and more outside of the classic enterprise premises, SASE is here to accommodate the major paradigm shift taking place. Make sure you choose the right SASE vendor to prepare for the change.
Origins of SASE
Pronounced “sassy,” and standing for Secure Access Service Edge, the term SASE was first coined by Gartner analysts in 2019. Since then, it’s rapidly become the last word in networking cyber security, combining SD-WAN capabilities with a hefty stack of security focused features and functions such as data loss prevention (DLP), virtual private networking (VPN), firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), Secure Web Gateways (SWG), Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), and antivirus and malware inspection. Unlike traditional SD-WAN, SASE connects individual endpoints — ranging from individual users and single devices to branch offices — to the service edge, referring to a network of points of presence (PoPs) that run SASE software stacks.
As the SASE market has grown, many vendors have jumped on the bandwagon to promote their own services as SASE. This has included multi-vendor SASE solutions, in which security and networking functions are stitched together, Frankenstein-like, from a multitude of different vendors. Definitionally, this isn’t SASE — which Gartner described as a single vendor, cloud-native platform. Multi-vendor solutions fail to offer the seamless, cohesive solution that single-vendor players can: resulting in problems with deployment and management. While these multi-vendor solutions certainly offer some benefits compared to previous approaches to networking, they pale in comparison with a true single-vendor SASE setup.
Choose the right provider
With so many SASE vendors around, it’s essential that organizations select the right vendor. This isn’t a generic service that remains the same regardless of which company is providing it. There are real qualitative differences that separate SASE vendors which can lead to different outcomes for customers or potential customers.
When selecting a SASE vendor, make sure that they can deliver Gartner’s requirement of offering all the aforementioned features under the same roof. You should also ensure they offer a cloud-native solution, are able to provide the best possible network performance on a worldwide scale, and that their approach enables zero-trust network access. If a SASE provider can’t offer a network fabric including both the best, enterprise-level networking tools such as SD-WAN and WAN acceleration, together with the security services listed, they are not offering a complete SASE solution.
SASE promises to help users and devices get secure access, whenever required, to the resources they need and with the minimum in the way of latency issues. The current focus on cloud computing isn’t going away any time soon. The unique set of requirements that spawned the birth of SASE are not going to reverse course. If anything, they are going to become a more important part of the computing landscape. SASE is ready to help.
So long as you select the right provider, it can help to handle the major change that’s taking place right now. For your own good, don’t think about dismissing it as a buzzword.