SASE architecture: Bringing cloud security to SD-WAN

SASE architecture

In this article, we discuss the emergence of SASE architecture, its benefits for enterprises, and adoption challenges that enterprises should address for a secure cloud-first future. 

Users have been connecting to applications in the data center via networks for the past 30 years. With this software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD-WAN), every data center had a perimeter to protect both data and apps from outside intrusion. But as applications move to the cloud and IoT becomes more prevalent, users can connect from everywhere. This poses fundamental security challenges.

In fact, it adds significant complexity and cost to businesses. Moreover, 37% of enterprise architects consider complex network security as their top challenge. A new network and security category known as Secure Access Service Edge or SASE architecture has emerged as a remarkable solution to this challenge. 

The shift from SD-WAN to SASE architecture

SD-WAN gained popularity in the 2010s as a more flexible and cloud-friendly method of WAN connectivity. During this time, workloads began to shift to the cloud. Subsequently, SD-WAN gave enterprises a more reliable alternative to Internet-based VPN. This became a foundation for network-as-a-service (NaaS).

The natural evolution of NaaS to a service-enabled strategy involves addressing the security-as-a-service puzzle, which is often referred to as SECaaS. Furthermore, combining the power of NaaS and SECaaS leads to the concept of a secure access service edge or SASE architecture. While SD-WAN can deliver important networking functionality, SASE architecture goes a step further by converging SD-WAN with security services to create holistic connectivity and security fabric. 

According to the secure internet gateway research conducted by CISCO, 68% of branch offices and roaming users were compromised in cybersecurity attacks in 2019. However, SASE architecture exists to address the following three shortcomings of SD-WAN networks:

  • Lack of a global network backbone
  • Mediocre security features that hinder IoT transformation
  • Lack of support for today’s remote, mobile workforce. 

shift from SD-WAN to SASE architecture
Source: Search Networking

Key benefits of implementing SASE architecture for enterprises

In the next five years, major IaaS providers will expand their edge-networking presence as well as security capabilities to come up with SASE offerings. Why? Here are the many benefits that enterprises can enjoy with the adoption of a SASE architecture:

1. Reduction of complexity and cost 

SASE offers easy-to-buy, easy-to-manage, and easy-to-operate models that include per-user pricing. Its software-as-a-service approach supports rapid growth and improved technology at reduced costs. Moreover, by providing client security on all devices and operating systems, SASE architecture can optimize client-to-cloud delays and streamline communication. So, with its consistent enforcement, SASE can reduce networking complexity and take away IT staff’s burden.

2. Enables digital transformation and scalability for businesses

SASE architecture provides secure access regardless of the location of users, workloads, devices, applications, or data. This enables secure work-from-anywhere, rapid SaaS adoption, and flexible multi-cloud environments. Due to its automated, cloud-delivered nature, the concept offers scalability and digital transformation by leveraging the internet, eliminating traffic flow bottlenecks, and enabling easy cloud migration.

3. Simplified edge to edge security

With SASE, enterprises can enable comprehensive security at various locations along the access path by incorporating user, device, and location-based risk profiling. Consequently, this provides inline encryption/decryption for seamless user access. 

4. Increased network performance

SASE can help reduce latency and improve application and network performance by eliminating backhauled traffic flows. During peak demand times, it also adapts to traffic fluctuations and minimizes interruptions to the user experience.

5. Greater control of data usage

SASE enables enterprises to achieve granular visibility and fine control of systems and users accessing corporate services and applications. This helps identify and monitor security weaknesses by aligning with the zero-trust network access (ZTNA) strategy.

6. Fully integrated SD-WAN

Through SASE, cloud services can be accessed securely from anywhere via SD-WAN, allowing remote access for branch offices and remote users. Furthermore, SASE consolidates security and network function into one cloud-based system. This minimizes or even eliminates the need for specialized hardware or security appliances.

Key challenges with the adoption of SASE architecture

While the aforementioned benefits can improve enterprise performance, organizations that aren’t fully prepared for change may face roadblocks while evolving from SD-WAN to SASE. Here are the primary SASE challenges: 

1. Misalignment of networking and security teams in an enterprise

SASE is a concept that integrates a diverse set of technologies. Besides, it cannot function effectively under the traditional IT picture where security and networking teams focus on separate responsibilities. Additionally, integrating the technologies into a single solution requires that IT teams be tightly integrated into operations, deployment, management, and solution testing.

2. Nascent markets for NaaS and SECaaS

The SASE vision is a future state. Even though many businesses are already on that track, the road is not fully paved yet. The markets for NaaS and SECaaS are both still nascent at this point. However, the entry of CISCO into this space signals that we may be moving from the early adopter to the mainstream stage of deployment. 

3. Selection of SASE vendors and need for multiple capabilities 

When it comes to vendor selection, organizations find it challenging to ensure that a SASE solution can fit their needs before implementation. This is because SASE encompasses all networking and security technologies, making it difficult to apply a policy of no single-sourcing. Moreover, organizations may not fully understand the technology and security practices underlying the SASE solution, as well as the vendor’s ability to provide specific features the enterprise may be looking for.

4. Integration and interoperability challenges

SASE solutions that may bring together a disjointed set of single-purpose appliances or services will result in a failed solution. Additionally, it will add to complex infrastructure, high latency, insufficient performance at scale, and a general lack of network visibility and control. This integration challenge will lead to a lack of flexibility, simplicity, and security that a well-designed SASE solution should deliver.

How can enterprises overcome these challenges and fully realize data security with SASE architecture?

  • Leveraging a global build-out of cloud gateways (POPs) to provide predictable application performance for all users
  • Integrating IT teams everywhere: from operations, management to vendor selection
  • Scalability across both on-premise and cloud-native solutions
  • Sufficient piloting and testing while selecting SASE vendors and providers

In conclusion

Gartner predicts that by 2024, at least 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to shift from SD-WAN to a comprehensive SASE architecture. As companies begin transitioning toward a more flexible, agile mode of operation, SASE will become increasingly important.

Furthermore, as enterprises increasingly move to on-demand business models, are you prepared to navigate technological disruption and find your competitive edge? Netscribes supports leading organizations by providing reliable technology intelligence tailored to align with their business goals.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for opportunities and inform strategic decision-making.

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