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An introduction to Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

With the ongoing tectonic technology shifts towards decentralized workforces, IT infrastructure that spans edge, hybrid & multicloud environments, as well as the proliferation of distributed next-generation applications, there is a rising demand for the convergence of network and security services.  Many see Secure Access Service Edge addressing that need.  Gartner® forecasts that, “by 2025, at least 60% of enterprises will have explicit strategies and timelines for SASE adoption encompassing user, branch, and edge access, up from 10% in 2020[1]

What is SASE?

Secure Access Service Edge (acronym is pronounced “sassy”) is a relatively new concept.  It represents an amalgamation of network and security technologies to more optimally meet the use cases of the emerging 4th Industrial Revolution.

Fundamentally, SASE is designed to overcome the performance limitations and security posture challenges of traditional network architectures and network perimeter security environments.  A SASE approach typically consists of network elements – SD-WAN, Bandwidth aggregation, etc., combined with security elements – Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Firewall as a Service (FWaaS), etc.; many of which are delivered via cloud-based service models.

For IT, Security, and Network professionals still learning about SASE, 2 excellent starting points would be our What Is SASE And What Problems Does It Address? and SASE: Defining Traits & Common Use Cases blogs, which outline core concepts and expands upon its applicability to most modern IT environments.

What is it not?

However, as a relatively new framework, there remains some confusion around what SASE can accomplish, and of equal importance, what it isn’t designed to do.

For example, while ‘edge’ is the last word of the acronym, SASE is not edge computing.  SASE is certainly well suited to supporting numerous edge use cases – such as automatically enforcing access policies and privileges of dynamically connecting IoT devices, but it shouldn’t be conflated with edge computing.  Rather, SASE leverages edge computing infrastructure to address the network latency and security issues associated with the ingress and egress traffic of proxy connections to SaaS programs via the corporate data center.

Another common misunderstanding is that SASE is ‘next SD-WAN’.  This is also a somewhat inaccurate depiction, as SASE is best considered as a significant evolution upon SD-WAN in several areas.  Firstly, by creating a unified framework for both WAN and security services, SASE provides a consolidated view and a simplified management approach to protect the network, users, devices and resources.  Furthermore, SASE shifts the security emphasis from network and traffic policies to an expanded set of identity-centric entities which also factors in contextual session information into the continual privilege and policy decisions.

The blog post 10 Common SASE Misconceptions addresses some of the top misperceptions of this new and evolving technology concept and will help improve your overall understanding of SASE.

How to begin your SASE journey?

For most enterprises, it is likely that SASE will become a key area of focus for you in the near future.  A mature platform should encompass:

  • A cloud-native architecture that supports cloud, edge, and premises deployments
  • Extensive, globally distributed points of presence (PoPs), and
  • Seamless, digital integration of advanced WAN capabilities and security functionality

Hence, SASE deployments can potentially become complex initiatives with many moving parts.

In our 6 steps to simplify your SASE journey blog, we outline a straightforward high-level methodology to help you begin to think about your adoption roadmap.

However, like SD-WAN deployments, many organizations recognize the challenges associated with an inhouse-managed SASE implementation and are turning to managed service providers to assist them with their architecture, deployment and ongoing management of their SASE technologies.  To guide you in your evaluations, here is our view on the 12 Questions You Should Ask A SASE Provider, to help ensure they are well suited to address your unique requirements.

SASE and the Lumen Platform

[1] Gartner, “2021 Strategic Roadmap for SASE Convergence”, Neil MacDonald, Nat Smith, Lawrence Orans, Joe Skorupa, 25 March 2021 . GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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