Trends accelerated by the pandemic have created significant networking and security challenges: the expansion of the remote workforce, an increasing reliance on cloud infrastructure, and the requirement to connect end-users securely everywhere with applications anywhere. Traditional solutions that have rigid wired network underlays and a requirement for on-premises infrastructure cannot adequately deal with these trends. This has led to a rapid expansion of demand for Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions such that enterprises can shift networking and security infrastructure toward a cloud-native platform that can be delivered ‘as-a-service’. Although converging networking and security offers enterprises a promising solution, global technology intelligence firm ABI Research highlights that there is still a considerable misalignment between enterprises’ perceptions of “what SASE could do” and the reality of “what SASE is currently capable of achieving.”
It’s evident that most services remain in their early stages of convergence, and significant consolidation is required before the true value of SASE can be delivered to enterprises. “Consolidation and convergence are essential to driving the value proposition and re-aligning perception with reality. The three areas where this will be vital will be within the private network backbone, zero-trust architecture, and single pane of glass visibility. As these facets of SASE will be critical to its appeal to enterprises,” explains Reece Hayden, Enterprise Connectivity and Distributed & Edge Computing Research Analyst at ABI Research. “Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how vendors bridge these gaps. ABI Research predicts that a combination of M&A, organic development, and partnerships will deliver the most value in the short, medium, and long run.”
Vendors are split between those with cybersecurity expertise and those with networking expertise, with both parties’ development still required. However, certain vendors have demonstrated more completeness and convergence than others. Cato Networks, for example, is a company leading the way with its private backbone and cloud-native convergence.
Numerous factors will mean that, in the long run, managed service providers (MSPs) will be in the best position to profit from SASE. According to Hayden, “MSP’s role as trusted advisors and provision of end-to-end managed services will mean that enterprises, especially SMEs, will favor MSPs after the period of vendor lock-in fades.” This will be especially true for telcos aiming to offer a “one-stop-shop” for the management of underlay (cellular network) and overlay (SASE) services.
Converging SASE and 5G is likely to have significant performance synergies, as drawing security to the edge of the network will allow 5G enabled end-users to securely access applications. At the same time, SASE’s single-pass architecture will help securely deliver the performance promises of 5G. But it is unlikely that these two adjacent technologies can be seamlessly integrated, as their core architectural differences mean that integration can only take place by re-building SASE on 5G standards. Presently, only Exium’s ‘Intelligent Cybersecurity Mesh’ seems to promise complete 5G core integration.
The outlook within the SASE market is positive, but certain consolidation and convergence hurdles must still be overcome such that vendors and MSPs can maximize their solution’s value proposition. Hayden observes, “SMEs will be the first adaptors, as their cloud-application reliance lends itself to this architecture. For many larger enterprises, adoption will be much slower as cloud restrictions, requirements for on-premises security infrastructure, and significant deployment bottlenecks mean that, at present, the solutions are not ready, and the value proposition of SASE remains unproven.”
ABI Research predicts that within 3-5 years, larger enterprises will begin the process of adopting SASE, as a single vendor, fully converged, hybrid solutions emerge across vendors and MSPs. “This means that, as the opportunities of SASE are wide-ranging, every enterprise, independent of size, must aim to realign expectation with reality and keep an eye on this underdeveloped but continuously evolving market,” Hayden concludes.