By Zachary Malone, SE Academy Manager at Palo Alto Networks \n\nWhat Does SASE (Really) Mean? \n\nCoined in late 2019 by Neil MacDonald and Joe Skorupa of Gartner\u00ae, SASE (secure access service edge) describes a strategy that converges cybersecurity and WAN edge networking to address challenges that organizations are facing now. Specifically, organizations need to manage an ever-growing technology stack across an increasingly dynamic \u201cservice edge\u201d that now includes branches, mobile users, SaaS applications, and shifts in data centers between on-premises and the cloud. Individual cybersecurity technologies, like SD-WAN, WAN optimization, NGFW, ZTNA, SWG, CASB, and more, frequently lead to scalability problems if left as separate services. This scaling issue is compounded if these technologies must also be self-managed, upgraded, and maintained. What SASE attempts to achieve is unified, secure access\u2014connecting and securing users as they fluidly shift between home, branches, headquarters, and being on the go, while accessing resources in data centers, cloud, SaaS, or on the web with a single, unified platform.\n\nHow did it originate?\n\nGartner originated the term SASE. Its analysts kept being called upon to suggest \u201ca better way\u201d to maintain security and agility in light of the shifting nature of SaaS delivery for business-critical applications, cloud computing, and branch expansion. The need became apparent for a convergence of these services that operated in the same fashion as these cloud, SaaS, and other application implementations. The SASE strategy was the Gartner answer to this need.\n\nWhy is it important in cybersecurity?\n\nThe concepts of SASE, much like the principles of Zero Trust, look to move security closer to the actual assets being protected. Today, too many executives are forced to accept inordinate amounts of risk to keep up with the changing times of SaaS and cloud-delivered applications and services. The old standard of backhauling (\u00adforcing traffic to a security device at a hub such as a data center) was causing unacceptable performance issues and user experiences. SASE calls for delivering services from a single platform. It simplifies the tech stack, administration, and policies while ensuring consistency for all access. This simply can\u2019t be achieved with an approach using several disparate products, even from the same vendor. As companies start to adopt a SASE strategy, particularly during the current vast shift we\u2019ve seen to a remote\/hybrid workforce, many organizations are encountering a gap in understanding their workers\u2019 day-to-day experiences. Complaints of slowness or bad connectivity have grown exponentially, leading to more need for in-depth visibility at every step along the path. This is typically referred to as digital experience management or user experience management.\n\nWhat is the spin around this SASE buzzword?\n\nVendors have quickly caught onto the popularity of SASE and also realized that they do not have the product portfolio to cover the broad scope of everything SASE is looking to converge together. In attempts to cover up this issue, many have been trying to build a narrative that the scope of SASE is much smaller than the vision that Gartner is driving. Some vendors tout that a specific piece of security, like IAM and SWG, is \u201call you need\u201d for SASE. Other vendors claim SD-WAN is the most crucial part of SASE and the security is just a nice addition, so they leave it to third parties. These attempts miss the point because SASE is about putting all the underlying features together into a single platform and delivering it \u201cas a service\u201d as much as possible. Any approach that attempts to \u00adexclude pieces or relies on multiple parties to cover all components is not SASE; it\u2019s just business as usual, sheathed in the hype that has built up around SASE.\n\nOur advice: What executives should consider when adopting SASE\n\nSASE is about the convergence of network and security services. Both verticals are equally crucial for any company\u2019s SASE strategy to succeed. Therefore, the main focus should be more services converged into a single service\u2014not just a single vendor, managed from multiple pieces\u2014without losing \u00adeffectiveness or visibility. The secondary focus, just as important, is about delivery and administration. Delivery and \u00adadministration of all SASE services should be as close to a SaaS model as possible. So, while some physical assets will still be required to direct traffic to the edge, like a WAN edge connector (SD-WAN preferred), all the advanced policy, administration, and computation for these should be cloud-delivered. As the workforce becomes more remote\/hybrid, the user\u2019s experience should not deteriorate, which brings the third focus. Experience management is crucial and should again converge into the SASE \u00adservice offerings, just as much as the network and security technologies.\n\nHere are some questions to ask your team for a successful SASE adoption:\n\nTo learn more, visit us here.\n\nAbout Zachary Malone:\n\nZachary is the SE Academy Manager at Palo Alto Networks. With more than a decade of experience, Zachary specializes in cyber security, compliance, networking, firewalls, IoT, NGFW, system deployment and orchestration.