SASE: The Future of Cloud-Delivered Network Security

Secure access service edge, or SASE, is the latest cloud-based network security architecture that businesses are beginning to use. What makes SASE unique? SASE emphasizes a shift in the focus of data protection and data location. Traditionally, data is stored onsite and accessed through an enterprise-level centralized database. SASE flips this on its head and prioritizes individual users and how they transport data across networks. In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into SASE and how it is changing cloud-delivered network security.

What Does SASE Mean?

SASE, pronounced “sassy,” is not the same as SaaS. SASE is a type of network cybersecurity architecture that shifts focus away from data moving through a centralized database to a cloud-based architecture focused on protecting individual users and data in transport. One way to understand SASE is to think of it as a collection of different services used to enhance network security while embracing a cloud-based network architecture.

SASE encompasses services like SD-WAN and DNS protection but also network architectures like zero-trust. SASE can even encompass data loss and prevention and firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) tools. Like DevSecOps, which puts security at the forefront of software development, SASE puts security at the forefront of network architecture.

SASE continues to evolve as network architectures have become more cloud-driven and employees have moved toward remote and hybrid work schedules. The result is that cybersecurity efforts have needed an overhaul to address the shortcomings of point-based security systems.

Why are Businesses Adopting SASE?

There are many emerging technology trends, and SASE, along with cloud computing, is one of the key technologies of the future. With so many companies beginning to adopt SASE, the natural question is: Why?

One of the primary drivers of SASE is the adoption of cloud environments. Years ago, most businesses stored their applications and files in huge data centers run by the company. Today, however, enterprises are global, offices span continents, and employees and their devices can be found pretty much anywhere. The result is a workforce that requires access to enterprise-level apps regardless of their location. Cloud adoption is only going to increase as well, with cloud spending expected to be near $500 billion in total for 2022.

Traditional security solutions rely on perimeter-based security controls. For example, this can mean device controls or physical access controls. Unfortunately, with cloud solutions, many organizations are not capable of handling the vast amounts of remote traffic passing through their data centers. This type of network architecture can cause unnecessary traffic congestion and lag.

Although traditional perimeter security control solutions will never disappear, they create excessive network complexity, which can lead to greater security flaws. This new style of network architecture departs from the traditional view of the data center as the focal point of the corporate network and puts the focus on users, devices, and their locations instead.

SASE focuses on network architecture policies rather than just the physical perimeter, meaning that SASE can adapt to securing networks regardless of their access point. For SASE, the network edge can be anywhere data crosses the organization.

Global Business Requires Distributed Workforces and Branches

SASE represents a logical step in the evolution of enterprise data networks. Data centers are no longer the locus of most companies’ networks. Today, teams are remote and utilize mobile devices. Requiring a diffuse workforce to funnel all of their work through a centralized data center represents a huge logistical problem. 

Many applications come as software-as-a-service (SaaS). This can include Google Docs, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. More and more tools are moving toward a SaaS model and many of these tools use the cloud to function.

To secure services like these, many companies require employees to use a corporate VPN. Inevitably, these VPNs come up short, have high latency, or can be cumbersome to use. VPNs are a cornerstone of perimeter-based security, but if employees circumvent VPNs or just forget to use them, your data instantly becomes unprotected.

SASE models reduce complexity and enhance speed by building security into cloud access. This type of positive experience for users is essential to encouraging adoption. SASE also allows enterprises to create a secure network experience without sacrificing the benefits of the cloud. For example, most businesses want a bank account that comes with 24/7 digital account access and is protected by security features such as data encryption and malware/vulnerability scanning. SASE can help protect these bank accounts by offering a tiered approach to security.

Finally, SASE can allow your team to collaborate with outside third parties without sacrificing perimeter security.

SASE Increases Cost Efficiencies

New technologies are powerful because of their ability to disrupt industries. These disruptions lead to better services, lower costs, and improved workflows. Many businesses continue to rely on legacy technologies. For example, did you know that around 25 million PCs continue to run on Windows XP?

Similarly, older network protocols, like multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), remain in use. These systems, however, were never designed with remote working or mobile-device computing in mind. MPLS works great to share information on private networks without encryption, but it has shortcomings when it comes to working with other types of interfaces.

SD-WAN, a newer protocol, is a cheaper and more efficient system to connect networks, plus it has customizable security features. SASE can incorporate these components of SD-WAN and fill in for the shortcomings of MPLS.

How To Encourage Adoption

One reason legacy systems remain in use is that technology adoption can take a long time. Rapid adaptation to a new system is even more difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adapt immediately; however, challenges remain. For example, even if many businesses have embraced remote work, convincing IT stakeholders to embrace new network architectures can be an uphill battle.

Like changes to network architecture, whole concepts surrounding businesses are also being reimagined. COVID-19 and remote work have diminished the use of commercial office space, and fewer people work in person. So, as business developments change, IT solutions should also embrace fluidity to adapt to the change.

SASE allows organizations to address security concerns with a greater degree of flexibility and efficiency that other businesses cannot compete with. And although re-engineering network architecture is a large task, information technology teams should educate themselves about the benefits of SASE so that more organizations can prepare to transition to a diffuse network architecture.

What To Expect From SASE

When evaluating how to transition to a SASE architecture, there are several key factors to consider. A SASE vendor can help build the core components of a secure cloud gateway. SD-WAN is essential and so are some core network security capabilities. Cloud access security broker capabilities (CASB) should be used as well as zero-trust network access. 

Although zero-trust is beyond the scope of this article, in short, it is a type of network sub-architecture that utilizes encryption, multi-factor authentication, keys and siloing to minimize lateral movement through a breached network. This type of security is essential in a cloud-based SASE environment.

Network monitoring that utilizes AI and machine learning can help identify when sensitive data is moving through your network. It can also identify malware and track regulatory compliance. Staying on top of regulatory compliance is key for cloud enterprises, which is why many businesses use Visualping for its ability to monitor regulatory changes as they happen.

The Bottom Line

SASE is a powerful new network architecture that enables businesses to shift away from the traditional network setting. SASE helps improve security by adopting industry best practices for handling sensitive data. As we continue to shift towards hybrid and remote working environments, understanding SASE is key to building the enterprises of the future.


Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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