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The only way to keep your network secure and agile is to seek out innovative security solutions – like secure access service edge (SASE), a model for networking and security that’s gaining in popularity.

This article will define SASE, explain how it works and answer some common questions about this emerging technology.

What is SASE?

SASE (pronounced “sassy”) is a modern approach to network security and connectivity that combines network and security functions into a cloud-based service that both simplifies your network management and enhances your organization’s security.

It derives its name from its primary functions: providing secure access to network resources and services from the edge, which can be anywhere – a remote worker's home, a coffee shop or the corporate office.

How does SASE work?

SASE is based on four fundamental principles:

  1. Cloud-native architecture: SASE is cloud-native, meaning it uses the power of the cloud to provide network and security services. This architecture enables security, scalability, flexibility and simplified management.
  2. Convergence of services: Instead of maintaining a disjointed array of networking and security solutions, SASE integrates these into a single service.
  3. Identity-centric access: SASE focuses on user identity and device context for access control. Your users and devices are authenticated and authorized based on their identities, enabling secure access from anywhere and at any time.
  4. Zero trust security: The SASE model operates on the “zero trust” security principle. Trust is never assumed: every user and device must continuously prove their identity and adhere to security policies to access your network resources.

How does SASE differ from SSE, SD-WAN and VPNs?

There are subtle differences between SASE and secure service edge (SSE). SASE combines network and security services and is typically cloud-native. SSE, on the other hand, primarily focuses on security services and can be cloud-based or on-premises.

And, while SASE incorporates software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) capabilities, it goes beyond SD-WAN. Where SD-WAN focuses mainly on optimizing network performance and routing, SASE combines networking and security to take a more holistic approach to protecting your digital infrastructure. It evolves and expands the capabilities provided by SD-WAN.

SASE can include virtual private network (VPN) functionality, but it is not solely a VPN. It provides secure access through various methods, including VPNs, but it also encompasses other security features that ensure comprehensive protection.

How does SASE affect the core components of network security?

SASE decentralizes your network and security architectures and functions by converging them into a cloud-native service, reducing your reliance on hardware.

It modernizes traditional network security components such as firewalls, intrusion prevention, VPNs, antivirus software and data-loss protection to make them more dynamic, context-aware and zero trust enabled, as well as easier to scale.

6 components of an ideal SASE solution

  1. Cloud-native architecture: Your SASE solution should be based on cloud-native infrastructure to deliver scalability and flexibility.
  2. Zero trust security: A strong emphasis on zero trust principles helps to keep your network environment secure.
  3. Converged services: Networking and security services are integrated to reduce complexity and cost.
  4. User and device identity management: Robust user and device identity management capabilities support secure access.
  5. Global reach: A unified and reliable network infrastructure should provide services to all locations.
  6. Comprehensive security features: A range of security features, including firewalls, secure web gateways, data-loss prevention and more, should be included.

What is managed SASE?

Managed SASE is a service provided by a third-party vendor to an organization.

The pros of managed SASE:

  • Expertise and knowledge: Managed SASE providers have resources with extensive experience, training and certifications in network, security and related disciplines.
  • Cost predictability and reliability: Managed services come with predictable costs that are based on the service level agreement you have with your provider, so you always know the level of service quality to expect – and what you’re paying for it. 
  • Scalability and flexibility: Managed services can scale with your business needs, ensuring you always have the right level of service.
  • Reduced administrative burden: Outsourcing SASE management allows your IT team to focus on your core business activities.

The cons of managed SASE

  • Dependency: Relying on a managed service means placing trust in an external provider, which can be a concern for some organizations.
  • Integration: SASE augments or displaces network and security capabilities and functionality, which can create issues if it is not handled with adequate knowledge and expertise.

Should you outsource SASE or manage it yourself?

The decision to outsource SASE or manage it in-house depends on several factors:

  • In-house expertise: Do you have the knowledge, certifications and experience in your organization to transform, secure and manage your network globally?
  • Resource availability: Consider whether your organization has the resources and time to manage SASE internally.
  • Budget: Assess your budget and determine if managed services align with your financial plans.
  • Business goals: Evaluate how SASE management aligns with your business objectives and whether outsourcing or in-house management better supports these goals.

Whichever path you choose, implementing SASE is a strategic move toward a more secure and adaptable network.

However, as with any new framework, careful consideration and planning remain critical. Be wary of rip-and-replace recommendations that promise network and security utopia through SASE.

Choose a strategic vendor that can take your organization into the future with an approach that considers your current investments, infrastructure and operations.