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SD-WAN and Security Service Edge (SSE): Building Blocks for SASE

Feb 25 2022

If you work in networking or security, you have probably gotten used to the acronym stew that makes up the technology industry at times. By now you have surely heard the latest buzzword and what industry analysts have coined as security service edge (SSE). SSE is essentially the consolidation of Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker, and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) delivered as a cloud service. 

In the near-distant past, customers primarily relied on these solutions as distinct functions implemented in appliance form factors, usually deployed on their premises, including the headquarters and (more often than not) the branch sites as well. For customers, this approach was costly to maintain, required multiple vendor relationships, required specialized skills and dedicated headcount, and was a burden for most organizations due to its high cost, lack of efficiency, and rigid design that prevented business agility. 

With the global pandemic and the rise of remote work, paired with businesses shifting their data and applications to the cloud, the adoption of cloud-delivered services has exploded. Recent supply chain issues have only added fuel to this fire, and further accelerated the adoption of cloud-based approaches across the technology industry. This is particularly notable in cybersecurity. However, SSE is a harbinger of great change for cloud security with the convergence of FWaaS, SWG, CASB, and ZTNA in a single, unified solution. SSE will power the converged security architectures of the future and aid customers in their security transformation by radically simplifying and unifying policies, reporting, and analytics, as well as unlocking entirely new use-cases to address, such as the emerging Internet of Things (IoT). 

It’s important to highlight that there is in fact much more to SSE than consolidation of service functions wrapped together with a cloud-delivered, consumption-based business model. The winners and losers in SSE will be defined by those vendors that can truly secure the users, applications, and business’ valuable data and digital assets at all times. Similarly, the underlying infrastructure (or cloud) that the SSE vendors are built on will be critically important to networking professionals that care about service-level agreements (SLAs), latency, network integration, operational fit, and peering. While the acronym might be new, the breadth and depth of Netskope capabilities focused on SSE is not. In fact, Netskope was a first-mover in the SSE industry and was recently recognized as a “Leader” in the 2022 Gartner ® Magic Quadrant ™ for Security Service Edge (SSE).

Revisiting the acronym stew of the technology industry, how does SSE fit with secure access service edge (SASE) which the whole industry has been raving about for the last few years? As detailed in the recently released book from Netskope “Security Service Edge (SSE) for Dummies,” “SASE is the framework for implementing a cloud-based, converged infrastructure for networking and security functions. SASE combines concepts such as Zero Trust, SD-WAN, and Security Service Edge (SSE) to guide us to a security and networking posture that protects and governs the cloud and the new work-from-anywhere environment. Analysts recognize that this new architecture provides comprehensive security for a cloud-centric world.” In simplest terms, SSE is a subset and critical component (or building block) of a SASE architecture. 

So the next question then is what does SSE bring to SD-WAN and how do these two key security and networking technologies fit together, as two building blocks unlocking the potential of SASE? In previous blogs we’ve discussed “How Netskope NewEdge Takes SD-WAN to the Next Level“, as well as “Security Cloud Considerations for Delivering Security Service Edge (SSE)“. 

With the spotlight now on SSE, I thought it would be appropriate to pose this question (and others) directly to an expert on SD-WAN and my Product Marketing counterpart Karan Dagar at Aruba/SilverPeak, one the recognized leaders in SD-WAN or what Gartner calls “WAN Edge Infrastructure.” 

How does SSE complement SD-WAN solutions, like Aruba/SilverPeak?

  • To realize the full promise of digital transformation, enterprises need to transform both their WAN and security architectures — not just one or the other. A decade or so ago, most applications lived in the corporate data center. It made a lot of sense to backhaul the application traffic to the data center, where customers would have next-generation firewalls for security inspection. Today, many of those applications have moved to the cloud, which calls for a WAN and security transformation as traditional router-centric wide area networks impair application performance, increase employee frustration, and are expensive.
  • An advanced SD-WAN combines critical wide area network functions such as routing, firewall, and WAN optimization into a single platform. An advanced SD-WAN steers application traffic intelligently according to a customer’s business intent, improving quality of experience for end users while reducing expensive MPLS backhauling costs. Unified security capabilities block any incoming threats at the branch office sites, and with application awareness, internet-bound traffic can be directed first to a cloud-delivered security provider for advanced inspection before forwarding to a SaaS provider. Adopting SSE and SD-WAN eliminates the cost and complexity of managing multiple on-premises next-generation firewalls and forms the basis of a cloud-first, SASE architecture. 

With SSE adoption, what are the implications on application performance?

  • The cloud and SaaS have forever changed the way users connect and interact with applications. By transforming their WAN and security architectures, enterprises can ensure direct, secure access to applications and services across multi-cloud environments regardless of location or the devices used to access them.
  • Implementing SSE without the SD-WAN component negatively impacts application performance as the cloud-destined traffic is still backhauled to the data center. But with an advanced SD-WAN solution, enterprises can connect directly to the cloud via adaptive internet breakout using broadband internet connections. The intelligence to recognize whitelisted applications enables local breakout from the branch office to the nearest point of presence (PoP), eliminating latency and delivering the highest quality of experience for trusted SaaS and cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365, 8×8, and RingCentral. Application awareness also provides the ability to send other internet-bound traffic first to a cloud-delivered security provider for advanced inspection before forwarding to a SaaS provider.
  • Advanced SD-WAN capabilities integrated with an SSE ensure consistent policy enforcement and access control for users, devices, applications, and IoT.

As employees return to the office, what does Aruba/SilverPeak expect to see happen at the branch?

  • Even when the pandemic subsides, there will continue to be an increased demand for remote work. In this shift to a hybrid workplace model, IT teams will need to manage thousands or tens of thousands of microbranches rather than a few dozens or hundreds of remote locations.
  • It will be challenging to ensure a secure and reliable experience for a highly distributed workforce that need to connect to data centers and cloud-based applications over consumer broadband services. IT will look towards solutions that meet these challenges head-on, and new solutions will start to emerge that combine enterprise-grade wireless solutions with SD-WAN.  

What are your recommendations for networking leaders that own or influence security and SSE decisions?

  • WAN and security transformation is a journey, and enterprises must transition their existing architectures to a modern, cloud-first architecture at their own pace, without compromise. Enterprises are well-served to evaluate platforms that offer the freedom to integrate best-of-breed network and security solutions. By doing so, enterprises can avoid being locked into proprietary single-vendor solutions or settling for basic features and capabilities.
  • Customers should strive for an advanced SD-WAN platform that supports integrated orchestration to bring new levels of automation to enterprises, providing the ability to connect to best-in-class cloud-delivered security service.

Karan’s insights on SSE and SD-WAN represent one of the key vendor’s perspectives and we’re excited about our close working relationship with Aruba to help our joint customers embrace SASE. In addition to the deep relationship with Aruba/SilverPeak, Netskope is committed to providing customers with the most flexible deployment options. With SD-WAN, just like our other Technology Alliance partners, Netskope takes an open ecosystem approach supporting a variety of tunnel-based techniques to steer traffic to the Netskope Security Cloud and take advantage of Netskope SSE. For example, additional information is available on other SD-WAN ecosystem partners including VMware (Velocloud), Versa Networks, and Fortinet. You can also read more about these relationships on the Netskope.com website at: https://www.netskope.com/solutions/sd-wan.

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Jeff Brainard
Jeff Brainard, Senior Director, Platform Strategy at Netskope, works in Platform Engineering and focuses on its NewEdge private cloud infrastructure. With more than 25 years of experience in product marketing, product management and sales leadership roles, Jeff has extensive experience in security and networking, spanning technologies including secure web gateways/proxies, web caching/content delivery, zero trust and software-defined networking, as well as network performance optimization.

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