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Intro to SASE – Tracking the Rise of SASE

Mar 05 2020

This is a series of articles focused on SASE. This is the first in a series of two posts.

Many organizations today are going through digital transformation. They understand that new strategies are required to accomplish their company’s goals and objectives in order to reach new levels of innovation, scalability, agility, etc. While some are more focused  on business optimization, more bold organizations are moving directly to digital transformation. 

Here is how Gartner defines these two strategic approaches:

“Digital business optimization refers to the practice of increasing digital sales and marketing or new technology internal efficiency mechanisms — without really changing the product offering or the business model. Digital business transformation is, by its nature, a more disruptive approach, which requires a very different mindset from optimization. Transformation creates new business models and/or platforms within its aim is to generate revenue from new products and services. Optimization makes current practices better but doesn’t lead to transformation. New mindsets and business models are required for transformation.”

In this cloud and mobile-driven world, this is exactly what we need: a new mindset. Thinking with legacy approaches and applying those techniques to the cloud just doesn’t work.

The rise of the secure access service edge (SASE)

In a recent 2019 report, titled “The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud,” Gartner outlined a great vision for building a new path for our organizations. 

In this report they coined the new term SASE, short for Secure Access Service Edge. But, why is this so important? In my conversations with clients, I’ve found that while many are starting to hear about SASE and jumping on board with it as a model, others are asking questions, such as “How is that relevant to my business transformation?” and “What does SASE actually enable?”

For context, Gartner defines SASE as “An emerging offering combining comprehensive WAN capabilities with comprehensive network security functions (such as SWG, CASB, FWaaS and ZTNA) to support the dynamic secure access needs of digital enterprises.” In my mind, I see SASE as a new architectural pattern focused on the convergence of enterprise network and security services. It’s about overcoming technology complexity, cost, performance, availability, and protection while providing the best business and user experience. 

Gartner sees SASE as an inverted network/security model where in legacy model is focused on a data center surrounded by many users consuming data center hosted services. This new model (SASE) is focused on a user, surrounded by many services, which requires a set of capabilities to be executed in a specific way to “support the dynamic secure access needs of digital enterprises.” 

How did we get here?

It is well known that in our information age, the 2010s were a decade focused on customer/user experience, which set the stage for digital transformation. A few years after the invention of Apple’s iPhone and the fragmentation of Android devices, it was apparent that times were changing and focus shifted to a “new engagement model.” Users started driving innovation, while business had to adjust.

Users wanted convenience and flexibility which was all about ease of use, personalization (usually paid off with loyalty) was about privacy, transparency and control, while constantly mandating availability for information (apps, services, etc.).

This ultimately drove a burst of technological innovations such as cloud adoption, mobile apps measuring in millions and billions, media streaming ,and content delivery. This shift also led to commotion about BYOD, the slow death of Blackberry, and some of the largest mergers and acquisitions in the world. Plus it also brought things like the launch of 4G, the iPad’s arrival, virtual reality, electric and self-driving cars, and of course digital transformation. 

All of this innovation has a common theme: It was all driven by users and their experience. As a result it has changed the way we consume information today versus 10 years ago. Even our shopping patterns completely changed. Before, we used to go to the stores to shop, drive to the doctor’s office and today we have services provided by Amazon, Uber, Google, etc.

“Today we’re seeing a tech-clash caused by the tension between consumer expectations, the potential of technology, and business ambitions — and are now at an important leadership inflection point. We must shift our mindset, reexamining our fundamental business and technology models and creating a new basis for competition and growth,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer. 

Accenture research states that “For companies to grow and compete, enterprises will need to revisit their fundamental models of business and technology, rebuilding them to align better with people today.” All of this contributed to the need for SASE as a model, but you may still be wondering, “How does this affect my enterprise?”,

What does that mean for you?

It is crucial to understand that SASE is a programmatic approach and not a product you buy. It’s not only about business and user experience, but digital transformation of a whole security and IT in general. It is also about how we deliver the information from one end to another and what happens in between.

“CISOs would be wise to prioritize the strategic driver of the Gartner recommendations (’Architect to move inspection engines to the sessions, not to reroute the sessions to the engines’ and ’Shift security staff from managing security boxes to delivering policy-based security services’),”  stated Neil Thacker, my colleague at Netskope. “With those principles guiding the direction of travel, they can then look to move swiftly to consolidate to a single vendor across the five components, prioritizing those that mitigate the greatest risk exposure. They should do this within their own timelines, determined by risk modelling, and their own organization’s business goals.”, 

Many vendors will claim that they can deliver SASE, but the problem is, there’s no vendor that does it all. Execution at the cloud speed and scale, providing full visibility and granular control, and a focused on user experience while properly governing data is key. Buying a product that tries to address just one feature or capabilities will only drive the creation of more complexity rather than simplification.

In Part II, I will focus on SASE capabilities and how to build a proper roadmap.

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Vlad Klasnja
Vladimir Klasnja is a seasoned technical leader with significant experience in enterprise, security and cloud architecture. Klasnja leverages his experience to help security executives achieve success within their respective organizations with respect to cloud architecture and digital transformation.