What boardroom decision-makers need to know about SASE

Secure access service edge, or SASE, has become a hot topic among IT decision-makers recently. Today’s evolving network security architecture has highlighted SASE as crucial for enabling a digital business environment. It promises anytime, anywhere secure access to distributed data and applications. Differing from traditional models, SASE introduces a significant change in how organisations address network security and connectivity. It offers a cloud-native, integrated solution that enhances flexibility, strengthens security, and lowers costs.

Although SASE presents significant benefits, especially with the shift towards hybrid working and multi-cloud strategies, IT decision-makers hesitate to adopt it. Convincing boardroom leaders often requires a deep understanding of SASE’s complexities and its potential impact on current network structures, alongside a commitment of time. Gradually introducing SASE into strategic discussions can help lay the groundwork for its acceptance. CFOs acknowledge that robust security through SASE can quickly result in tangible ROI and business advantages.

SASE is a catalyst for business transformation

The shift towards remote working and the evolution of network technologies are propelling organisations toward adopting SASE. Its benefits, including enhanced security, cost reduction, zero-trust network access, and improved resilience, underscore SASE’s role not just in providing remote workers with secure, straightforward access to applications but also in elevating the end-user experience through cloud-based delivery. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 60% of enterprises will have laid out strategies for SASE adoption, a significant jump from just 10% in 2020.

Having said this, transitioning to SASE does not happen overnight, particularly because many enterprises are tied to existing investments in legacy hardware and software that must fulfil their life cycles. For a successful shift towards SASE, it’s crucial for enterprises to define their goals clearly from the start and choose the right partner for their journey. Additionally, finding a SASE framework that integrates well with their current network and security infrastructure is key to achieving both secure and strong connectivity and an improved user experience.

Contrary to common beliefs, deploying SASE isn’t overly complex. What’s important is for enterprises to conduct thorough research and establish a robust, overarching SASE strategy. At its core, this strategy needs to focus on dismantling the barriers between networking and security teams, encouraging the formation of a cross-disciplinary group. This collaborative team is key to overseeing and guiding the transformation process effectively.

SASE is about cross-function design and synergy

Many enterprises labour under the misconception that for SASE to be effective, all data must be cloud-based to maintain uniform security across the organisation. This view is only partially accurate. A hybrid model, integrating both private and public cloud services with on-site infrastructure, has gained traction for its versatility.

Amidst an increase in cloud migration, a Gartner study forecasts that by 2025, cloud-native platforms will underpin over 95% of new digital initiatives, a sharp increase from less than 40% in 2021. This move towards cloud technology has helped companies achieve cost savings and efficiency gains, particularly in fostering innovation and optimising resource allocation, with a focus on unifying omnichannel platforms within a singular architecture.

Regardless of whether a hybrid or cloud-only approach is used, vendor consolidation is a primary reason enterprises are exploring SASE. By 2025, it’s anticipated that 65% of enterprises will have consolidated their SASE components into one or two explicitly partnered SASE vendors, a significant increase from 15% in 2021. As SASE integrates networking and security, a common design is necessary to promote synergy among in-house teams, ensuring that enterprises can achieve their objectives.

SASE requires a customised strategy

A successful SASE strategy isn’t a ready-made solution but is instead custom-built around an enterprise’s specific requirements, incorporating elements of cloud services, connectivity, security, and digital integration. IT and boardroom leaders need to evaluate their technology needs carefully to select solutions that deliver optimal business results. The journey towards SASE varies for each enterprise, influenced by its unique business objectives and the current state of its IT infrastructure among other factors.

This necessitates enterprises interested in adopting SASE to conduct a thorough gap analysis to pinpoint potential obstacles early on. For instance, in-house SASE capabilities, such as automated configuration and network monitoring, may need to be adapted to fit within an existing enterprise network.

While some enterprises may handle basic SASE functionalities in the short term, evolving needs and the incorporation of advanced technologies such as zero trust, micro-segmentation, and SSL decryption may outpace their capabilities. Identifying these gaps allows enterprises to strategically plan their technology investments for the forthcoming 18 months.

Ultimately, SASE isn’t a product that can be bought and installed — it’s a reference architecture to be followed, and the solution for each enterprise may vary from minimal to significant differences.

SASE as a mindset

The workplace has undergone significant changes in recent years, and adapting to this shift, the right SASE approach can greatly benefit enterprises by addressing the security and performance needs of a widely distributed workforce.

What sets SASE apart is its nature as a mindset rather than merely a product. It represents a new paradigm in securing and managing network infrastructure, enabling administrators to oversee security and network functions as a unified entity within the cloud. This approach is not constrained by location, ensuring the protection of assets regardless of where they are located, including those beyond the traditional office environment. Moreover, it transcends device types, covering everything from mobile devices and in-house server room equipment to emerging technologies like IoT sensors and edge-computing devices.

Such systems aren’t solely for the major players or large corporations. With a commitment to future-proofing and enhancing their network architecture — and transforming in response to current needs — SASE can significantly benefit any enterprise, facilitating a smarter, more secure user experience.