Jul 30 2020

What Is SASE? Looking into the Future of SD-WAN

Understanding how secure access service edge can converge SD-WAN and cloud-based security could be a game changer in the new normal.

Cloud use has continued to grow among businesses. From flexibility to managed services, organizations are constantly finding new ways to leverage the cloud to increase productivity and help the bottom line. According to an IDG survey conducted this year in partnership with CDW, those in IT roles across industries expect an average of 76 percent of their environment to be in the cloud two years from now.

And that was before the pandemic hit.

Businesses needed to expand their remote work capabilities nearly overnight as employees were told to stay home. The widespread workforce has presented a daunting challenge for organizations, both with networking and security.

“The pandemic was really not expected,” says Kiran Ghodgaonkar, spokesperson for networking at Cisco. “IT teams have been trying to figure out how they can scale up their cloud-based architectures and accommodate a more distributed workforce.”

One tool that is gaining prominence to help businesses achieve this is a solution that began gaining traction late last year: secure access service edge, or SASE. In “The Future of Network Security Is in the Cloud,” a report released by Gartner in August 2019, the researcher notes that the structure of networking is changing.

“The enterprise data center is no longer the center of access requirements for users and devices,” the report states. “Digital business transformation efforts, the adoption of SaaS and other cloud-based services, and emerging edge computing platforms have turned the enterprise network ‘inside out,’ inverting historical patterns.”

The trend has only accelerated amid widespread remote work, positioning SASE as a strong up-and-coming solution for businesses.

What Is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)?

For a long time, networking and security have been thought of as separate pillars. While there were networking options that incorporated some security measures, the two were mostly siloed from each other.

That has been changing as businesses and providers alike become more alert to security vulnerabilities. It’s become increasingly necessary for organizations to protect themselves as threats have evolved, and with more employees using multiple devices (including their own) for business, the number of potential entry points to the network is constantly growing.

Networking, particularly the growing field of wide-area networking, needed the right security measures. Thus, SASE was born.

“The secure access service edge is an emerging offering combining comprehensive WAN capabilities with comprehensive network security functions (such as SWG, CASB, FWaaS and ZTNA) to support the dynamic secure access needs of digital enterprises,” the Gartner report notes.

In essence, SASE shifts the security focus of connectivity from the data center and to individual users or devices. The networking and security features are woven together in one cloud-delivered service model.

“In a modern cloud-centric digital business, users, devices and the networked capabilities they require secure access to are everywhere,” the report states. “As a result, secure access service needs to be everywhere as well.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Learn more about about SD-WAN technology.

What Are the Benefits of SASE? Enhancing Cybersecurity and Networking

IT environments continue to grow more complex as businesses employ different vendors for different services, trying to find the most effective combination. SASE brings networking and security together while supporting a distributed workforce, something that has presented challenges for many organizations.

“Digital business transformation requires anywhere, anytime access to applications and services — many of which are now located in the cloud,” the Gartner report notes. “While the enterprise data center will continue to exist for years to come, the percentage of traffic destined to and from its remnants will continue to shrink.”

Businesses do need reliable, secure networking for a widespread workforce, but they also need it to be fast. Converging networking and security in this way can help achieve that performance.

“We’re going to try to build an architecture that really makes it easier for IT to manage secure user access from wherever those users are located, but also find the fastest path available to all those cloud-based applications,” Ghodgaonkar says of Cisco’s SASE offering, Cisco Umbrella.

In addition to simplicity and cost, SASE can also enable a business’s partners and contractors to access their applications, create a cloud-based, centralized policy and get organizations closer to zero-trust policies.

SASE vs. SD-WAN: Is There a Difference?

Software-defined networking in a wide-area network, known as SD-WAN, decouples network management from its hardware. This cloud-delivered architecture can allow for better performance and ease of use.

SASE takes SD-WAN and incorporates cloud-based security principles, taking the speed and simplicity of SD-WAN and coupling it with a security strategy that focuses on endpoint and identity. It’s a match that can be particularly useful to businesses with large remote workforces, a situation that many organizations have suddenly found themselves in.

“In many cases, cloud-based applications are placed in multiple clouds,” says Ghodgaonkar. “So I think the message to IT is, start to think ahead toward a secure access services edge architecture. One of the first steps they can take toward that is to bring together SD-WAN and cloud-based security to start them off as they build out that architecture for the future.”

SD-WAN enables networking to serve a wide area with central management, but it also changes the first line of defense when it comes to security. Worker distribution makes it even more critical to focus on individual identity and access.

“Instead of the security perimeter being entombed in a box at the data center edge, the perimeter is now everywhere an enterprise needs it to be — a dynamically created, policy-based secure access service edge,” Gartner’s report states.

It wasn’t born out of the new era of remote work, but SASE can be a valuable tool for businesses as they move forward. With widely distributed workers and networks, businesses whose speed and security are intertwined in one solution will find business stability in the future of work.

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