What Executives Need to Know About SASE

By Zachary Malone, Systems Engineering Manager at Palo Alto Networks.

The Origin of SASE

Gartner introduced the term SASE in 2019. The analysts were considering whether there was a better way to preserve security and agility in response to the moving landscape of SaaS delivery for business – cloud computing, critical applications and branch expansion. In addition, they recognised a need for a convergence of such services that functioned in the same way as cloud, SaaS, and other application implementations.

The SASE approach, defined as a tactic that converges cybersecurity and WAN edge networking to overcome key issues companies deal with today, was Gartner’s answer to this gap in the market.

SASE aims to provide unified, secure access; creating connectivity and securing users as they transition between branches, homes, headquarters, and everywhere else. This will occur whilst accessing resources in data centres, cloud, SaaS, or on the web with a single, unified outlet.

Why is it Important in Cybersecurity?

The principles of Zero Trust, and the concepts of SASE, aim to shift security closer to the actual assets being guarded.

SASE’s unique selling point is that it has a single platform focus for delivering services. As a result, the tech stack, policies and administration is simplified, while ensuring all access is stable. This cannot occur when aiming to use multiple disparate products, even from the same vendor.

As companies begin to explore a SASE strategy, specifically during the contemporary shift regarding the remote/hybrid workforce, many companies face a challenge in understanding their employee’s day-to-day experiences. Feedback that includes slow systems or bad connectivity has risen massively, resulting in a higher need for in-depth exposure, commonly referred to as ‘digital experience management’ or ‘user experience management’.

What’s Driving the SASE hype?

Vendors have caught onto the quick rise in fame of SASE and also understand that they do not have the product portfolio to cover the wide spectrum of everything SASE can do. As a result, many have attempted to cover up the issue, trying to create the idea that the scope of SASE is not as large as the narrative that Gartner is claiming.

A select number of vendors argue that a specific piece of security, like Identity and Access Management and SWG, is “all you need” for SASE. Other vendors believe SD-WAN is the most vital aspect of SASE and the security is a mere addition, leaving it to third parties. These claims show signs of a misunderstanding because SASE is focused on aligning all the underlying features together into a single platform, implementing it “as a service” as much as possible. An approach that tries to isolate pieces or relies on numerous parties to cover all components is not SASE; it’s just business as usual – a product of the hype manifested around the strategy.

What Executives Should Consider When Adopting SASE

As SASE is focused on security services and the convergence of networks, each vertical is equally vital for any organisation’s SASE plan to succeed. Therefore, the focal point should be on having more services converged into a single service – not just a single vendor, operated from numerous pieces – without compromising effectiveness or visibility.

The secondary focus, which is equally as important, is about administration and delivery. Delivery and administration of all SASE services should be as close to a SaaS model as possible. So, while a few assets will continue to be required to direct traffic to the edge, like a WAN edge connector (SD-WAN preferred), all the computation, advanced policy and administration for these should be cloud-delivered.

As teams become more remote/hybrid, the user’s experience should not diminish, raising a third focus. Experience management is vital and should again converge into the SASE contributions, as much as the network and security technologies.

Here are some questions to ask your team for a successful SASE adoption:

• Has access been analysed broadly enough? Regarding all the places users are working - home, branch, or on the go, and all the resources they are looking to access - across data centre(s), cloud, SaaS, and web?

• Can we deliver security posture consistency that avoids sensitive data loss and malware across all flows of traffic, including private apps? Regardless of the application users’ access and where the user is working.

• What stops us from consolidating the tools we use? Especially if we can maintain consistent security while streamlining the tech stack.

• How will we keep visibility of the whole application delivery path? From endpoint to application – making sure we provide a successful user experience.

• How can we decouple the notion or policy of our network edge from the parameters of any one site, so easy scalability and superb experience is achieved?

Overall, it is clear that SASE is an invaluable technology for those aiming to streamline functions in hybrid on-premise/cloud environments. The demands in fluidity, with the focus of unifying users and resources, has rapidly evolved since 2019.

SASE can now be the tool that companies in 2022 use to simplify and stabilise cybersecurity. This single platform service is an evolving and exciting strategy, with the potential to revolutionise cybersecurity uncertainties, and is therefore one organisations would be wise not to ignore.

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