Let’s start out by stating the obvious: the world of work has undergone tremendous change over the past few years. Not only have employees transitioned from mostly working in offices to enjoying the freedom and flexibility that come with hybrid and distributed work, but corporate technology infrastructures have evolved to keep pace with the transformation.
To better support newly-remote workforces, enhance efficiencies, and gain access to the compute-intensive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data analytics that are powering today’s most exciting innovations, organizations are migrating their applications and workloads to the public cloud at an accelerating pace. It’s estimated that 94% of midsize (and larger) businesses now leverage at least one public cloud provider’s infrastructure, and approximately 90% of large enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud strategy.
While these changes bring rich benefits to organizations—and their employees—they also create new security challenges. Companies that continue to rely on security strategies developed to protect traditional on-premises networks are struggling to protect their remote users. They’re also having difficulty controlling access to business-critical data and applications and enforcing consistent policies across their increasingly complex distributed IT environments.
Cybersecurity vendors are racing to advance the development of their offerings to meet these challenges. As IT ecosystems become more complex—and expand beyond traditional corporate network perimeters—it’s becoming harder to monitor network traffic flows, enforce consistent security policies, and maintain centralized visibility. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions are rapidly gaining popularity today because they’re able to do all of these things—and more—within a single, comprehensive, converged platform.
SASE converges security and networking capabilities into a single cloud-delivered service. These capabilities include security tools like secure web gateways (SWGs), firewall as a service (FWaaS) solutions, data loss prevention (DLP), and cloud access security brokers (CASBs), as well as networking functions like SD-WAN. Because all of these capabilities are integrated within a single solution—with a single, centralized administrative dashboard—SASE inevitably reduces tool sprawl and relieves some of the burden that security teams face. Implementing SASE can reduce false positive alert volumes, making it easier for analysts to keep up with today’s dynamic threat landscape. At the same time, SASE can improve network visibility, removing the blind spots that hybrid work adoption has created. This has obvious benefits for threat detection, but it can also improve the end user experience.
SASE is a relatively new concept. Initially introduced by Gartner in 2019, and expanded upon in their subsequent Strategic Roadmaps, the market category is still evolving and maturing. It’s also seeing very rapid growth. Gartner predicts that 80% of enterprises will have adopted a strategy to unify web, cloud services, and application access using a SASE architecture by 2025, up from 20% in 2021. The majority of these adopters will leverage a single-vendor approach.
Organizations are embracing SASE because it offers them a unified means of controlling access to applications and resources within their environments, regardless of whether these resources are in the data center or the public cloud. Even as network perimeters continue to dissolve, SASE can serve as a single, centralized egress point—a one-stop-shop for maintaining visibility and control over communications, data, and user access.
Within the SASE security model, organizations can implement a broad array of security services ranging from threat prevention and DNS protection to application sandboxing and web filtering, all in one place. This can dramatically reduce the costs and complexity of managing multiple point products, enabling lean teams to achieve more in less time. It can also improve network performance and end user experience.
Most of today’s SASE solutions were purpose-built to support a Zero Trust approach to security. At the heart of Zero Trust is the idea that trust should never be granted implicitly—to users, devices, or services, regardless of whether they’re on the corporate network or not—and instead identities should be verified before access to resources is granted. In addition, this access should be dynamically adaptive, meaning that it can be terminated midway through a session if a user or device exhibits risky or anomalous behavior. Modern SASE solutions that can deliver Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) use software-based approach to enforce Zero Trust policies in a granular way that’s driven by user and/or device identity rather than physical location.
By implementing SASE, an organization can simplify and consolidate its security and networking infrastructure, making it easier to enforce consistent policies and controls. But this doesn’t mean that choosing the right SASE solution is easy, or that the deployment process is guaranteed to be smooth. After all, any change that promises to add substantial value has the potential to be a major shift, and major shifts are never effortless. Furthermore, as the SASE marketplace grows more and more crowded, it’s getting noisier as well. Every vendor that offers a solution claims that theirs is the best, but how do you know which one is right for you?
First of all, we do recommend that you leverage a single-vendor solution. This is essential if you’re going to reap the full benefits of SASE: a multi-vendor architecture will leave you with visibility gaps, and won’t deliver the centralized control, analytics, and single-dashboard view of the entire architecture that you’ll get from a single-vendor solution. This ability—to centralize visibility across the network and cloud, including on-premises and remote users—is a key advantage of adopting SASE, and you can only obtain it with a single-vendor approach.
We also recommend that you begin the vendor and solution evaluation process by carefully assessing your business and security needs. To understand which vendor’s solution is the right one for you, you’ll need to understand which features and functionalities are essential for meeting your requirements, which are nice-to-haves, and which aren’t necessary. Then, you can develop a proof-of-concept to ensure that your chosen solution will work to support and protect your organization as expected.
With IT, networking and security talent in short supply, many organizations struggle to find the internal resources to deploy and maintain a SASE solution. It is, after all, a radical transformation of your networking and security infrastructure. A managed SASE service provider can offer access to the deployment-ready expertise you need to ensure that this resource-intensive project can be handled efficiently and successfully.
Not only can managed SASE services ensure that deployment and rollout are quick and efficient, but your partner can also help you by:
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