Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a network architecture that combines network and security measures into a single cloud-based service that improves accessibility, security, and efficiency. SASE helps address inefficiencies, ensuring organizations can scale security and networking capabilities across all endpoints and locations through its cloud delivery model.
Traditionally, distributed networks manage traffic flow between network locations like branch offices and a central data center. The security architecture and applications were deployed at the data center, with branch offices or remote locations accessing it via a virtual private network (VPN).
As digital transformation sweeps over the world, these networks quickly become obsolete. In addition, security solutions are struggling to keep up with the increasing complexity of modern networks.
Modern networks utilize various assets, including cloud services, Software as a Service (SaaS) products, mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and remote workstations. Endpoints require network connectivity and appropriate security.
When these endpoints connect to corporate networks, they generate large amounts of traffic that require inspection. As a result, networks experience latency issues that lead to poor user experience. SASE helps address these issues by providing the capabilities needed to ensure visibility, security, and efficiency.
The Major Components of SASE
Cloud-access Security Broker (CASB)
CASB serves as a bridge between users or devices and cloud applications. It enables organizations to enforce security policies, implement two-factor authentication, and apply single-sign (SSO) on all cloud applications. The goal is to block unauthorized devices and users from critical assets while ensuring undisrupted access to authorized users.
Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
ZTNA requires users and devices to provide explicit permission to access resources. It enables organizations to hide internal private applications from unauthorized users while keeping these resources visible and functional for authorized personnel. It also layers authentication to allow for greater remote access.
Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN)
SD-WAN is a connectivity architecture that decouples networking hardware from the traditional physical control layer. It provides a resilient solution that improves and simplifies WAN management and performance. SD-WAN helps organizations improve network performance, reduce costs, and support new applications added during digital transformation.
Secure Web Gateways (SWG)
SWGs enforce policies to filter unwanted malicious software (malware) from user-initiated Internet traffic. A SASE solution employing an SWG can extend visibility, offering precise control over web access. As part of a SASE platform, these policies protect users from harmful websites. This involves several techniques, including URL filtering, data loss protection (DLP), antivirus, SSL inspection, and sandboxing.
Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)
FWaaS is a cloud-based firewall solution that you can build into your SASE platform to enable various key network security features. It typically includes hyperscale and next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities like web filtering, intrusion prevention system (IPS), advanced threat protection (ATP), and domain name system (DNS) security.
Centralized and Unified Management
The main advantage of a SASE solution is that it enables organizations to centrally manage their network and security solutions through a unified management platform. It allows organizations to manage networking and security products like SD-WAN, CASB, SWG, ZTNA, and FWaaS from one location. As a result, team members are free to focus their energy on more pressing areas, and the organization’s hybrid workforce can enjoy a better user experience.
SASE Security Benefits
SASE can secure and connect the enterprise WAN simply and holistically to improve performance. The solution combines network and security functions into a single multi-tenant cloud platform that improves performance and strengthens security.
SD-WAN is an integral component of a SASE solution, offering features such as WAN optimization and active-active failover to increase network resiliency and improve performance. When implemented as part of a full network security stack, SASE also includes SWG, IPS, and NGFW, ensuring your cloud-native model can protect all edges and achieve proper network visibility.
Simplified Security Model
Legacy network solutions usually require constant additions of security systems and devices to keep up with the constantly evolving security standards and requirements. Even with additional tooling, these legacy solutions typically cannot deliver modern security functions like NGFW, SWG, and IPS. As a result, enterprises have no choice but to deploy more security solutions to fill this gap. Unfortunately, adding tools further aggravates the problem.
SASE helps solve this problem by utilizing FWaaS to introduce security features such as URL filtering, anti-malware, firewalling, and IPS into the infrastructure. Implementing FWaaS as part of a SASE solution ensures enterprises can easily manage their network security, define uniform policies, identify irregularities, and quickly make changes. The solution provides uniform protection to all edges, including physical sites, mobile sites, and clouds.
Consistent Data Protection
Most enterprises collect, process, and distribute large amounts of data, including confidential business information, customer data, and sensitive intellectual property. Data loss prevention (DLP) enables enterprises to protect data in various stores against loss, misuse, and theft. SASE delivers DLP via the cloud, focusing primarily on the data.
Typically, DLP is one solution embedded within an enterprise’s existing control points. A cloud-based SASE solution can automate multiple DLP processes, including sensitive data discovery and classification. It works across all data stores, identifying and protecting data in transit and in use.
SASE DLP can also authenticate users and devices to control access to applications and information. It enables enterprises to apply protection policies across the entire network, covering multi-clouds, multiple mobile devices and applications, and on-premise data centers.
Greater Visibility and Control of Data Usage
The modern enterprise environment is constantly evolving as applications and users connect and disconnect from the network, making it difficult to assess risks. Enterprises can mitigate risks only by seeing how the network’s users, applications, services, and devices interact. However, enterprises require visibility to monitor the network properly and identify security weaknesses.
ZTNA provides enterprises granular visibility and control of users and systems that access network applications and services. A ZTNA-enabled SASE platform offers zero trust capabilities to achieve the visibility needed to assess risks accurately. SASE condenses several functions into one, providing a high level of network and security transparency. It requires fewer software agents to deliver and maintain consistent network visibility.
How Will SASE Impact Incident Response?
Incident response standardizes how an organization handles potential cyberattacks. It covers all steps involved, including an initial incident investigation, eliminating the threat, and restoring normal operations. SASE architectures enable organizations to respond more quickly to new and unexpected scenarios.
A recent study by Cisco compared organizations with mature SASE implementations to organizations with limited SASE and discovered that those with mature SASE are:
- Nearly twice as likely to have a strong tech refresh strategy compared to organizations with limited SASE architectures. This is because upgraded infrastructure and SASE go hand in hand.
- Almost 40% more likely to have strong threat detection and incident response.
- Achieve higher success levels for prompt disaster recovery and well-integrated technology.
- Nearly 40% more likely to achieve strong disaster recovery capabilities than those with limited SASE adoptions.
- Roughly 40% are more likely to implement well-integrated security technology.
In this article, I reviewed the key components of a SASE framework and showed several ways it will transform network security operations:
- Edge-to-edge security - ensuring connections are secured from any edge device through to the on-premises data center or cloud.
- Simplified security model - eliminating the need to integrate multiple security and networking solutions.
- Consistent data protection - SASE builds DLP into the network fabric, ensuring that any sensitive data flows are monitored and protected.
- Greater visibility and control - one consistent framework for monitoring and controlling network traffic.
- More efficient incident response - organizations with SASE are more likely to have stronger threat detection, disaster recovery, and incident response processes.
I hope this will be useful as you take your network security strategy to the next level.