The Promise of SASE Confirmed

July 11, 2022

By Arti Loftus, Special Correspondent

SASE skeptics have been around since Gartner (News - Alert) introduced the concept of Secure Access Service Edge several years ago, which is not unusual, as shifts in enterprise networking often generate early push-back from the IT community.

Two tech companies, Masergy and Fortinet (News - Alert), commissioned CIO to collect information and attitudes from IT leaders, and their recent study challenges those skeptics with evidence that this edge-intensive architecture is relevant, if still open for improvements.

Secure access service edge (SASE) implementations, especially those in the areas of remote work connectivity, stronger security postures, the desire to reduce cost, and visibility into the IT environment are working out well, including delivering better user experiences.

“An overwhelming majority of respondents (98%) believe the convergence of network and security is critical or very important,” said Franz Chavez, VP of solutions engineering at Masergy, in the study overview. “We know that building intelligence across disciplines is essential in a world where work is no longer defined by location. Network and security teams require new ways of working together — across all domains and resources with shared visibility to drive actionable insights. That’s where SASE is gaining steam.”

Forty-eight percent of survey respondents have either already adopted SASE or are in the process of transitioning, whereas the remainder have plans to adopt it or are investigating the architecture. 

The survey found that the top four challenges driving interest in SASE solutions are:

“By analyzing massive volumes of network data, using AI, we can enhance detection and analysis of issues across the LAN, WAN, data center, and cloud network edges to deliver consistent network performance,” Jonathan Nguyen-Duy (News - Alert), VP and global field CISO at Fortinet, said in the study’s overview. “Leveraging AI for data-driven decision-making, you have enhanced accuracy, detection, and mitigation at speed and scale.”

We caught up with Indrajit Ghosh, founder, and CEO of ConnX, an MSP serving global Fortune 500 companies, who did not participate in the survey, but who agreed with its findings.

“The most exciting things we are seeing are AI-related. Whether large implementations we’ve delivered are technically SASE or Security Service Edge (SSE), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), or SD-WAN, the real value today is found in the application of AI to provide end-to-end observability and control,” Chosh said. “Bottom line – what matters is not these technical definitions but the business outcomes, especially when it comes to support large scale work-from-anywhere solutions for the borderless workforce.”

When looking for a SASE solution, 91% of respondents said it is critical or very important that their solution include artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This underscores rapid enterprise AI adoption over the past year, with a recent Juniper study showing that a majority of global IT leaders believe AI will help reduce risk and increase quality within their organizations, and business functions such as networking/cloud.

“Simplicity for the end-user is also critical,” Ghosh added. “As sophisticated as AI is with algorithms built into network automation, quality assurance, and service assurance, what really matters is this:  Is my network working? Are my people working? Aare our teams productive? Are our customers being served efficiently? What is necessary to ensure we remain competitive in this brave new world of work from anywhere?”

Survey respondents said they value SASE delivery simplicity, and a unified, common operating system for their SASE solution and 87% prefer solutions manufactured by three or fewer vendors. 

The study showed that while buying from one vendor may seem easier, buyers today are far more open to buying SASE-like solutions from a single Managed Service Provider who offers a “single pane of glass” experience and the related TCO improvements.

“Without a fully orchestrated and transparent approach, SASE deployments can become quickly complicated, and frustrating to IT teams. That’s why we have developed Maestro, which is fed by many of the best tech partners in the industry but orchestrated and managed on a single platform,” Ghosh said. “IT teams are under a huge amount of pressure, and that pressure is growing given hybrid working models combined with the mandate for every business to digitally transform to remain competitive. By eliminating system fragmentation and silos and taking advantage of the AI embedded into the management of every endpoint on the network, it is truly possible to see everything and avoid downtime and employee frustration when connectivity fails. Cyber security is also driving our customers to make ConnX an extension of their team – nobody can keep up with all the new attacks given the volume and velocity we’ve seen over the past few years.”

The ability for IT teams to implement and manage SASE solutions is a key challenge for enterprises, according to the report. Respondents confirmed the need for help with SASE implementation; six in 10 used a managed services provider for deployment and even more (75%) leaned on providers for ongoing SASE management.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Erik Linask

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