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The next big thing in network security?

It’s no surprise, but the security threat landscape is rapidly becoming more sophisticated, as evidenced by the Colonial Pipeline, Kaseya, and SolarWinds attacks earlier this year. Considering the pace of digital transformation in today’s business, a single cyberattack can bring a company’s operations to a standstill. In June, FBI Christopher Wray commented that the cyber threat is increasing “almost exponentially” and the FBI was looking into more than 100 different ransomware variants, a three-fold increase from the previous year.

Adding to the growing threats is the sprawl of the corporate network, which is providing the presence of more attack vectors than ever. Thanks to the popularity of IoT, cloud, and edge computing, the proliferation of connected devices – all of which can function as potential entry points into an organization’s network –is increasingly difficult to secure. Add in the forced move to hybrid work environments and use of personal devices for corporate tasks, and it’s no wonder IT teams are finding it increasingly difficult to keep company data protected.

While this all paints a dismal picture, the good news is that network security protections are also evolving to meet these challenges. In particular, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), an emerging, strategic approach defined by Gartner, is becoming an effective way to target the shifting enterprise network perimeter by merging network and security services in one.

Under older network solutions, data from IoT and edge applications must travel long distances to corporate data centers so security functions can be performed. SASE removes this latency by delivering SD-WAN and security as a cloud service at the place of connection (e.g., IoT device, edge computing center) so the secure data can travel to where it needs to be faster.  This approach provides a ubiquitous security posture whether users are remote, in a branch, or at headquarters.

By building on existing security defenses, SASE can reduce WAN deployment complexity, improve security and efficiency, and offer IT greater visibility and control over security configurations – as well as assist customers with their zero trust information security efforts. To meet today’s flexible environment, SASE enforces security policies regardless of user location, and when new threats emerge, they can easily be addressed by the service provider, without requiring new hardware.

Gartner projects that by 2024 at least 40% of all enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE.

Are you thinking of taking the plunge into SASE? Consider the following:

  • Consider what you have in place already before committing to SASE on network, security, or both. SASE converges managed network and security services into a single simplified offering, so it integrates the best of both worlds. But you may already have some of the key pieces in place, such as SD-WAN or firewall-as-a-service. You should be able to leverage your existing investments, so challenge anyone who tells you to rip and replace or start from the ground up.
  • Consider your cloud strategy and footprint. Since SASE is delivered as close as possible to the edge, this represents a major commitment to “cloudifying” your business. Of course, if you have a remote or hybrid workforce like most companies, cloud is really the only/best option for connecting and protecting your workforce, applications, and data. SASE and the changes spurred by the pandemic may represent the business case you need to drive digital transformation across your enterprise.
  • Don’t get suckered into the SASE hype. SASE certainly provides a wide range of benefits, but like other growing technologies, many offerings are not complete and cannot yet be delivered to meet all expectations overnight.  Study the insights by leading research firms such as Gartner and IDC to understand what’s real, what’s hype, and how to determine which technologies’ strengths align with your current security posture.

Thankfully, you won’t need to rip and replace your existing SD-WAN network to start seeing the benefits of SASE, as these security features are being closely integrated into the network. As the next evolution of network security, SASE can help simplify your security needs, no matter where you are along your digital transformation journey.

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