Insights

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) – what is it and what value can it bring?

2 March 2020

In August 2019, Gartner analysts Neil MacDonald, Lawrence Orans and Joe Skorupa, released a new research report titled ‘The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud’. The report released a new offering, labelled as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE, pronounced “Sassy”), which single-handedly changed what the future landscape for IT and networking professionals looks like. It’s rightfully believed to have kick started a very exciting time of change for the industry and everyone’s watching to see how this new shift unfolds. Not least the team here at Cloud Gateway, who have been working to the very principles which the report evangelised, and developing a platform which enables these for businesses, since 2017. 

However, as an emerging ‘package of technologies’ offering, rather than a fully defined solution, the market needs to exercise an element of caution. 

What is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)?

In the Future of Network Security report, Gartner outlined the key findings and recommendations from their research, which converged into an offering answering to the ‘increased demand for consolidation of networking and security-as-a-service capabilities into a cloud-delivered secure access service edge (SASE, pronounced “sassy”). This new SASE offering has been positioned as a ‘digital business enabler’ which, if the recommendations and findings are applied correctly, will bring speed and agility to digital transformation projects. 

Gartner defined Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) specifically as: 

The secure access service edge is 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.

SASE capabilities are delivered as a service based upon the identity of the entity, real-time context, enterprise security/compliance policies and continuous assessment of risk/trust throughout the sessions. Identities of entities can be associated with people, groups of people (branch offices), devices, applications, services, IoT systems or edge computing locations.

In the Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Security, 2019, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) was positioned in the far left of the Hype Cycle. This puts it into the post-trigger 20% position. It also stated that it will take years for SASE to become mainstream and that emerging offerings will see adoption rates of about 1% in the near future. 

What did this mean for Cloud Gateway? 

The day that SASE was introduced was a very interesting day for Cloud Gateway. Since 2017, the company has tried to educate the market on the hybrid cloud connectivity PaaS solution and the reasons why Justin Day and Neil Briscoe originally formed the basis of the business. As a start-up, it’s difficult to get a single voice heard within the market. 

Speaking about the day that the report was released, Justin Day, CEO at Cloud Gateway said: “When we read this report, it was almost unbelievable to read something which was such a complete description of what Neil and I intended by starting up Cloud Gateway, and what we’ve been working on for several years. All of a sudden we’d been given a home”. 

The report validates the ethos behind why Justin and Neil founded Cloud Gateway back in 2017. It gives a framework of capabilities, rather than a direct platform or product, which Cloud Gateway promotes. Having spoken with the analysts at Gartner, it’s clear that this isn’t an absolute just yet and will be an evolving concept of what the future should look like. It’s great that the report has opened the eyes and ears of the market to what Cloud Gateway has been pioneering for the last 3 years. 

Neil Briscoe, CTO at Cloud Gateway commented: “It’s really ‘greenlit’ what we’ve been doing for several years as the future of secure comms. That gives us a real boost for what we’ve achieved, for what we’re currently doing and where our product roadmap is heading”. 

While the release of the Future of Network Security report hasn’t changed the direction of Cloud Gateway or the way that the company and platform is described, it does give a framework to answer questions such as: who are you, what do you do, and who are your competitors? The recommendations that Gartner has prescribed around speed, agility and security are wholeheartedly supported by Cloud Gateway.

Paul Bevan, research director at Bloor Research, recently wrote a blog following a meeting with Justin, where Gartner’s SASE report was discussed. Read more about Paul’s take on where Cloud Gateway sits in this framework and what true agile networking really means.

What is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) today? 

There’s been a lot of commentary on the status of SASE and the benefits it can bring across the market. With Gartner themselves sharing thoughts on the hype and marketing around the SASE report so quickly being very prevalent. For a balanced view, monitor Gartner’s release of further iterations of the report, which they predict with undergo significant changes in the next 5-10 years, and look for articles which are a bit more levelled in the coverage of the topic, like this one from sdxcentral: What’s So Sassy About SASE

Coming back to the earlier point, and condensing much of the industry commentary, SASE is currently an almost intellectual discussion and at most a framework of capabilities – not a fully formed solution. Many vendors are proclaiming their SASE solutions and have been very excited about what is essentially a new framework. Some have completely changed their entire company positioning. This dilutes Gartner’s message entirely as vendors who don’t remotely fit to the framework confuse the definition of such a new market term. 

Market hype is climbing very quickly. Early adopters of SASE offerings should apply caution when speaking to vendors looking to deploy early instances of these new recommendations.  

How should you proceed as a buyer or as a supplier? 

There’s been an unprecedented amount of hype in the tech market in the last 20 years. This is due to technology evolving and increasing at such an exponential rate, coupled with the globalisation of the internet and information sharing. We’ve seen the hype markets ebb and flow with the wave of cloud technology, the wave of agile networking, and the wave of SD-WAN

Gartner has taken a strong stance on the release of the term secure access service edge (SASE). They have clearly stated that this new framework is still evolving – and will be for quite some time. Advice from Cloud Gateway is to be cautious in the early days and wait for further clarification of the term before following the marketing hype that is presented to you.

Vendors very quickly jumped on the term secure access service edge (SASE), with some describing themselves as an entirely SASE based company, almost overnight. There’s a race between vendors to be the most ‘complete’ SASE solution, and this is being marketed as if this is a measure of worth. Keep in mind that a good vendor does the things you require, and does them well. A vendor with a massive list of capabilities, that are mostly irrelevant to your business, may have value against Gartner’s report, but not to you. Thoroughly consider why you’re picking a provider. 

Over the last few months the hype has slightly dampened but for companies looking to be early adopters of a SASE solution, make sure that you have a thorough list of questions so you can be sure you’re getting the right solution for your requirements and that expectations match reality. 

From a consumer point of view, the advice from Cloud Gateway is ‘buyer beware’. 

If you believe that you’re a company, like Cloud Gateway, who are operating within the framework of the recommendations which Gartner have proposed under the label, secure access service edge (SASE), then of course, giving yourself a place in an emerging market is a great place to be. But advice from Cloud Gateway would be ‘seller beware’. If you put all of your eggs into one SASE basket at such an early stage, then you may end up with egg on your face. 

 

Read more about Edge Network Interconnection Platforms (ENIP) from the lead infrastructure analyst at Bloor Research here. Learn how to increase your choice and agility, and reduce the maintenance and management overhead of your network infrastructure.

 

 

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