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Is 2021 the Year of SASE?

There was a run of five years where all I heard was ‘this is the year of the cloud’. I don’t know that there has been a better and more irritating marketing buzz word than ‘the cloud’. 

It was cool to say, ‘I store my backups in the cloud’, or ‘my datacenter is being moved to the cloud’. In reality, cloud computing has been around for a while. How long have you used web-based email? How long have you been using apps like Dropbox and Office365 (kudos to Microsoft for not calling it ‘Office for the Cloud’)? 

No, this isn’t a post about cloud computing or the latest marketing buzzwords. However, this might be the year of SASE. SASE, pronounced ‘sassy’, is the latest buzzy technology acronym out there. SASE stands for Secure Access Service Edge. SASE is a concept that has emerged in cybersecurity and networking, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time in the world. 

With the global pandemic still hanging on, the need to increase our distributed workforce productivity and its security could not be more critical. The reason SASE has become so popular is that it covers both of those needs.

Networking has evolved more than any datacenter technology over the past five years. What we’re seeing is a shift of hub and spoke network topology where security is consumed at the hub, creating a choke point. The new role of networking is ascending towards SaaS, apps, a mobile workforce which is improving productivity and enhancing the end-user experience exponentially.

Security and access control are vulnerable if users continue to do it the same way they have for years. According to Gartner, “by 2024, at least 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE, up from less than 1% at year-end 2018.” It’s clear to see how the COVID situation has propelled SASE into the spotlight. Here are a few features you should know about and why.

SD-WAN and Security in one!

Whether you like it or not, the new IT model will provide access to applications and services to anyone, anywhere at any time. The pandemic has killed the nine-to-five punch-in, punch-out office type of job. Thankfully, Cisco has adapted to this new model and is leading the pack with the most market share of any SASE vendor out there.   

Cisco’s SASE Offering

Users are geographically dispersed but need network access as if they were local. This is where the SD-WAN portion of SASE comes into play. Whether your workers are at a campus, branch, or home, SD-WAN provides the bandwidth performance you would expect from sitting in the office. This is where Cisco is excelling, it presents its SD-WAN and Umbrella solutions as the market leader, instead of a start up or lesser-known vendor. Cisco isn’t just defined by networking, it knows security as well, where it has the #1 cybersecurity market share and #1 in zero trust network access. 

This is thanks to what we are calling points of presence datacenters or PoPs. These PoPs can provide enhanced throughput and productivity due to the PoPs being located near internet exchange points. The closer the PoPs are to the IXPs, the faster data traverses the internet. 

Bandwidth and speed are significant, but they are only a highway for crooks if you miss the security piece of the puzzle. There are multiple tools used in SASE solutions to provide security, no matter the connection point or location. Services such as DNS-layer security, secure web gateways, firewall-as-a-service, cloud access security brokers, and interactive threat intelligence provide a layer of protection for your workers, no matter where they sit. 

For an organization to feel secure in today’s landscape, a solid security posture must be put in place. Security postures of the past and maybe some in the present just aren’t cutting it by today’s demands. SASE solutions provide security where it is needed most while not encumbering on performance for the end-user. 

The Best of Both Worlds

Just to recap, in order to execute SASE you need a few specific things:

  • Someone that knows SD-WAN/Networking.
  • Someone that knows security.
  • Someone that doesn’t make you disrupt your network, but helps to evolve it with you.
  • Someone that has the pedigree of both networking and security who can simplify the complexity and help you navigate your journey to cloud-delivered SASE.

Cisco’s SASE offering provides all those things, especially where it counts with networking and security. While it used to be a puzzle for IT teams to balance security and performance, SASE has stepped up to make it a piece of cake. Most SASE solutions can be deployed in minutes, not days while reducing traditional security and performance management overhead. It is a buzzy marketing word; there’s no getting around that. However, it’s one not to miss the boat on!

About the author

Greg Stuart

A technologist at heart, Greg has spent the last 20 years supporting various information technology projects in both the private and public sector.

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