SASE: The Right Technology at the Right Time

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How remote and hybrid work propelled new networking and security solutions

Some employees are resisting returning to the office, with that drama highlighted by the news each day. But for others, office work has been part of the normal routine again for the past year or more. Many workers have adopted a hybrid work schedule of two or three days in the office with two or three remote.

A 2022 Gallup poll found that of people in jobs that can be done remotely, 53% expect to work in a hybrid model and 24% expect to be fully remote going forward.1 With 77% of remote-capable jobs expected to still be remote at least part of the time, many organizations are refining how they support and secure remote workers.

Secure access service edge (SASE, pronounced “sassy”) was coined by analyst firm Gartner at the end of 2019.2 SASE came along at just the right time to support remote work—its combination of network security and wide-area networking (WAN), usually delivered as a service, provides dynamic secure access based on identity and context. SASE frequently includes software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), secure web gateways (SWG), cloud-access service brokers (CASB), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and firewalls as a service.

The Evolution of SASE

SASE essentially adds a protection layer atop WAN services. SD-WAN was already proving useful for distributed work, whether that included multiple clouds, branches, or remote sites. But VPN was still the technology of choice for remote workers. Employees who needed better access could simply go to the office. In 2018, only about 10% of organizations were using SD-WAN.3

However, the increase in remote work also led to an increase in SD-WAN, which could provide persistent access to large, sensitive, or critical files.4 VPN often couldn’t relay data fast enough, leading businesses to start transitioning to SD-WAN, and now as many as 79% of businesses are using SD-WAN for at least part of their network.5 SASE offers a natural extension of SD-WAN with security features as a service.

Just as the SD-WAN market has seen massive growth, the SASE market is also expected to increase considerably, from $1.2B in 2021 to $4.1B in 2026.6 As more companies move away from traditional security tools like VPN, they’re adopting SASE for the combined networking and security components that support work from anywhere.

But in 2021, the SASE market evolved again. Not everyone wanted security tied to networking, leading to a new market for security service edge (SSE). Gartner defines SSE as “access control, threat protection, data security, security monitoring, and acceptable use control enforced by network-based and API-based integration. SSE is primarily delivered as a cloud-based service and may include on-premises or agent-based components.”7 If that sounds a lot like SASE without the WAN, that’s because it is.

Adopting SASE ended up being more complicated for some organizations, since it required more group collaboration, such as networking and security teams agreeing on vendors and integrations. SSE, in contrast, is firmly in security’s domain alone.

The Hype Surrounding SASE and SSE

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 70% of organizations that implement agent-based ZTNA will choose an SSE provider rather than a stand-alone offering, up from 20% in 2021.8

In Gartner’s 2021 Hype Cycle for Cloud Security, SASE and SSE are both near the top of the “peak of inflated expectations.” The slightly more mature SASE is just starting on the downward slope while SSE is still rising. Both are expected to reach the “plateau of productivity,” a mature stage, in two to five years and become transformative technologies.9

Whether an organization wants networking included in their solution or not, one of the primary benefits of SASE or SSE is the consolidation of network security products into a single cloud-based offering. Moving from disparate security products from multiple vendors to a smaller number of integrated solutions reduces the burden on security teams, often through fewer false positives and total alerts as well as easier solution management.

The flexibility, scalability, and security of SASE mean it can support the workplace as it evolves. And with at least some part of the workforce planning to be remote at all times, having great network performance with consistent protection no matter where users are located will remain important.

  1. Gallup, The Future of Hybrid Work: 5 Key Questions Answered With Data, February 2022
  2. Gartner, Say Hello to SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), December 2019
  3. TeleGeography, SD-WAN Adoption is on the Rise, March 2021
  4. TechTarget, Long-term remote work empowers SD-WAN for home offices, February 2021
  5. Momentum Telecom, SD-WAN for Businesses: A Complete Guide, August 2022
  6. MarketsandMarkets, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Market, August 2022
  7. Gartner Peer Insights, Security Service Edge, accessed August 2022
  8. Gartner, 2021 Strategic Roadmap for SASE Convergence, March 2021
  9. Gartner, 4 Must-Have Technologies That Made the Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Security, September 2021