The Future for Network Security: What Does SASE Bring to the Table?

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Gartner first introduced the concept of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) as a new enterprise networking technology back in late 2019. The inherent claim was that by shifting to SASE, enterprise could do away with existing networking and security models by converging the functions of network and security point solutions into a unified, global cloud-native service.

Today, the enterprise works with an upgraded portfolio as a part of an overall digital transformation which has brought about the need to rethink and enhance the ramifications of the network. The combined forces of cloud, mobility and edge have all piled pressure on the enterprise’s ageing network and security architecture.

We are currently witnessing a seismic shift whereby organizations are transitioning all users, applications and data that are currently located on-premise, to a general move into the cloud, towards edge applications and an increasingly mobile workforce. There is no doubt that this digital transformation will improve agility and competitiveness, but it will also require an overhaul in how enterprise connects and secures their connections. In this way you can see how the introduction of SASE merely reflects all of this change - as the landscape evolves, so must technology. 

The benefits of SASE

We have seen that the traditional network-based security model is nearing the end of its useful working life - an increasingly mobile workforce and data spread all over SaaS applications and cloud applications are major factors here. Enterprise has tried the sticky plaster approach, deploying additional services to try and fill the cracks - however, this merely serves to increase costs and overall complexity.

To make matters worse, this approach is no match for today’s digital landscape - an out-of-date security model that can’t scale and is becoming sluggish. SASE reduces IT costs and complexity by focusing on the users that are accessing the applications and pushes security as close to the user as possible - it can all be done through a single service that was previously separate functions.

SASE can also help to reduce risk being inherently designed to address the unique challenges of risk whereby both users and applications are so spread out. SASE ensures that all connections are inspected and secured, no matter what.

Also, by calling for security to be enforced close to the users, SASE effectively delivers a much better user experience overall. You could even argue that SASE’s primary focus IS user experience. The old model brought the User to the security, not such a great user experience.

The challenges to overcome

We've seen that the digital transformation sees enterprises evolving to run more applications in the cloud as SaaS than on-premise; more of their data and workloads live in cloud data centers and more of their workforces are mobile - employees working off-site with mobility as the norm and mobile users routinely accessing the cloud.

The cloud and mobility represent the two main challenges for enterprise as they rethink how they’re going to network and secure offices, users and resources. If the data center is no longer the core of enterprise activity, then the challenge arises of where traffic gets inspected and where do you apply policy.

Also, there is the question of how traffic gets inspected. If the networks are going to be built by connecting resources and users that exist in large part outside of offices, then enterprise needs to work out how to deliver optimal network experiences.

Whilst it is all entirely feasible to sort, it does require knitting together a wide array of security technologies so that enterprise is satisfactorily protected - all potentially costly and time-consuming for most organizations.

The ultimate goal is for enterprise to find one way to network any kind of resource, location or user, in any place, without leaving the business vulnerable to the range of emerging security threats.

Looking ahead

Undoubtedly SASE will be a major disruption to network and network security architecture. As part of an overall digital business transformation, organizations will look to SASE if they wish to continue their adoption of cloud-native computing and increase their adoption of edge computing platforms - certainly for the next decade at least.

As SASE adoption picks up, more and more will be learned about specific security and risk management actions that will need to be taken. The SASE market is only just emerging, with no single vendor yet offering the entire SASE portfolio - however, Gartner expects this to be the case by the end of the year.

With a fully competitive solutions marketplace we will be able to more accurately gauge how capabilities are delivered. What is clear though is that digital transformation is shifting the focal point away from the data center to the identity of the user.

In the short to medium term, businesses will require converged, cloud-delivered secure access to the edge in order to adhere to this shift.

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