Well ahead of the pandemic, cloud computing was already hitting its stride as more and more companies adopted it for a host of applications. Their goal was to become more agile overall, more efficient, and less tied to one location or another. When the pandemic hit, the shift to the cloud accelerated further, with Gartner predicting that the number of companies deploying in the cloud will surpass private, geographically-anchored data centers by the time 2021 comes to a close. With that in mind, decision-makers around the world are now laser-focused on how to keep their cloud-based assets safe and secure while scaling up networking capabilities.
To this point, even early adopters of cloud-based services seem to have a meager understanding of what it takes to keep data secure out there. Companies need to pay close attention to threats, and onboard cloud security experts to help them protect these assets.
In fact, the collective psychological mindset of cloud adoption with respect to agility vs. security was mapped in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Cloud Security. The graph shows that early adopters jumped into the innovation of cloud computing early, riding a graphed wave of excitement that often accompanies a groundbreaking development in technology. The peak of the wave represents a bubble of inflated expectations, which is inevitably followed by a drastic disappointment dip when something goes wrong, often when it comes to security issues. Nevertheless, early adopters are often then joined by late adopters as new security solutions and realistic expectations join together, creating rising enlightenment and improved productivity. As the tech industry enters this more stable plateau, even more risk-averse companies are starting to adopt cloud computing as a major strategy as well.
So, how much has cloud computing security improved? And how does SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) play into the future of security in the cloud?
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SASE: Secure Access Service Edge
First, it’s important to understand how SASE works and what it means with regard to cloud security. Secure Access Service Edge is a type of cloud architecture that combines security-as-a-service with network traffic services into a single deliverable service. This enables organizations using SASE to access both network and security functions and tools using one management console.
This simplifies an organization's ability to keep a handle on both of these critical functions, without regard to the physical location of employees or resources. Everything flows through cloud technology, bringing together network security features with software-defined networking (SD-WAN) functions such as:
- Secure web gateways
- Cloud access security brokers (CASBs)
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS)
- Firewall-as-a-service (FaaS)
- Zero-trust network access
Some of the best benefits of SASE include heightened security along with scalable, cost-effective, and agile networking abilities that give organizations the double-edged sword of network safety and speed that they wouldn’t have when using older, private legacy networks that are limited to geographical location. The SASE architecture has liberated many organizations to continue working through pandemic restrictions and even helped them innovate new ways of progressing and attaining better insight into operations and opportunities.
SASE Architecture: Four Pillars
The key to SASE is bundling the elements listed above into one package. These critical services create a flexible, multi-region, multi-tenant security platform that remains stable and reliable regardless of where data centers or employees are physically located. Specifically, SASE architecture comprises four essential pillars:
1. Global, Software-Defined Networking (SD-WAN) Services
To eschew latency problems from the global internet, an SD-WAN service creates a private infrastructure that connects individual PoPs, providing security and also the networking software used to connect to these resources. This prevents the network and the outside internet from touching, except in rare instances when the SASE connects to its global backbone.
2. Distributed Policy Enforcement and Inspection
SASE both connects and protects external devices across the system using inline traffic encryption and decryption, as well as malware scanning, DNS-based protection, sandboxing, DDoS and other protection strategies as defined in the SASE's given security and routing policies.
3. Cloud Architecture
Cloud architecture with regard to SASE services is ideally multi-tenant, scalable and affordable. This enables organizations to expand as needed without being tied to service chains or hardware requirements that could impede agility.
4. Driven by Identity
SASE verifies user identity based on several specifics that add layers of extra security, including location, user device and more.
The Benefits of SASE
Combining network functionality and intensive security in one package through the cloud gives organizations the ability to scale to their needs, respond quickly to sudden changes in situations (e.g. COVID-19 and its ongoing unpredictability), and provide the agility to grow regardless of where your employees and resources are located. It improves data visibility, sensitive data security and enhances threat protection, even for employees and their devices working from home. These benefits work in four ways specifically:
1. Reduced Complexity and Cost Burden through Edge and Backbone Unification
SASE enables organizations to access consolidated technology stacks as a single vendor, which gives them one point of origin and lowers costs. The provider can offer internet access, data center services, cloud apps, networking and security all at once.
2. Enhanced Agility
With flexible scalability and features, organizations can kickstart new digital business opportunities quickly, sharing applicable data with contractors and partners securely for rapidly developing new services, APIs and apps.
3. Ease of Use
Because SASE streamlines agents per device, it minimizes “app bloat” and creates a consistent user experience on any device, anywhere. This reduces overhead and nips threats with clear policies and protocols.
4. Stronger Security
SASE inspects and examines the totality of data flowing through the system and measures it against strict security policies, regardless of where and how the traffic is flowing. Users, locations and devices are quickly identified and verified.
The Challenges of SASE
As with any emerging technology, there are challenges to successfully implementing SASE architecture, particularly as IT groups grapple with how to find the best providers for diverse functions. It’s not an instant cure-all, the same with any other solution that emerges. It makes sense to understand both the benefits and the challenges in order to weigh them against your organization’s particular needs and goals. Some specific challenges also include:
1. Mistaking SASE-Similar Structures for Actual SASE
This is a matter of understanding what SASE is and what it isn’t. For example, it is not simply glorified UTM (unified threat management), yet when organizations mistake it for that, it can cause issues. The whole point of SASE is to deliver a single cloud service for both security and networking, globally. It’s bigger than just having SASE-based appliances running in the cloud. True SASE requires the right architecture in order to provide that unified service smoothly and successfully.
2. Understanding that Integration is Not Enough
While security and networking have previously been thought of as two separate, but intertwined entities, with SASE these things have now converged to become one technology in the cloud. Making it work correctly requires a certain set of cloud-native skills and ways of thinking in order to deploy them correctly and not be hampered by extra, outside security functions or networking optimizations running parallel to these. This only increases complexity and reduces scalability and agility, which is the opposite of what SASE is supposed to accomplish.
3. Failing to Ask the Right Questions during Proof-of-Concept Discussions
The most critical thing to ask when deciding on SASE for your organization is if the proof-of-concept truly unifies the security power and SD-WAN capabilities so they can be managed from one console. Bring cloud-native subject matter experts to the table to examine whether or not the architecture is truly unified, or just a bunch of separate applications bound through a layer of orchestration.
4. Ignoring Your Need for Customization
One of the best things about SASE, aside from its core functions, is that you don’t have to implement it all at once, casting aside legacy infrastructure in one savage jolt. You can gradually apply SASE piece-by-piece according to business needs and budget. This means you can go at your own pace and customize it for your use cases, applying it more broadly as your understanding and confidence increases. Is this still a challenge? Yes, because it will take some brain power and work to decide how best to apply SASE in this customized manner.
Why is SASE Important?
Network security has never been a simple matter. With every new development, new threats emerge, so it’s a constantly moving target. Doing business in the cloud is no different. In the past, organizations would route traffic to static corporate networks where security policies and services managed threats. With more and more organizations migrating into the cloud, however, these legacy solutions are falling short, which requires a new paradigm. SASE brings cloud networking and security together within a fully SD-WAN architecture. It’s a crucial step forward into a more secure cloud computing future.
Businesses can obtain analytics, share data, gain insight and streamline administrative duties by using the unified management platform possibilities of SASE. This cloud-native architecture enhances zero-trust security and makes it easier to manage while providing networking capabilities that scale as needed.
Zero trust helps organizations quickly evaluate data, devices, users and appliances across the infrastructure, providing optimal visibility to enhance security. Every attempt to access the network is observable and must conform to security policies, significantly reducing vulnerabilities and keeping your data safer. SASE streamlines the work IT needs to do and frees personnel up to solve more pressing matters by employing artificial intelligence and automation.
Have you been considering adopting SASE in your organization? If you have questions, reach out to us and let’s discuss your needs today.