In 2019, Gartner introduced the world to SASE, its transformative Secure Access Service Edge technology, designed to take both enterprise security and networking to the next level. SASE blends SD-WAN networking capabilities with a stack of security features including data loss prevention (DLP), secure web gateways (SWG), virtual private networking (VPN), cloud access security brokers (CASB), firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), zero-trust networking, and antivirus and malware inspection. It was both a revelation and a revolution.

If there’s one word that really sums up the power of SASE architecture, it is “consolidation.” While many of the features SASE offers existed to some degree previously, what makes SASE a game-changer is that it combines them all into one fully integrated solution — offering simplicity, security, and scalability in one package. The result is a technology architecture that can save on cost, increase security, and offer considerably more ease of use. Just so long as you choose the right approach.

Consolidation matters

When it comes to networking and security, integration isn’t enough; consolidation is everything. On the surface, consolidation and integration might sound similar or even the same. In fact, there are crucial differences between the two approaches — and failing to appreciate these divergences could prove fatal for any organization wanting to adopt a SASE solution.

Simply put, integration in this context means failing to provide a comprehensive, all-in-one SASE solution. Some vendors try to offer an alternative SASE-style system, incorporating APIs for multiple appliances or solutions that are chained together in a complex, often multi-vendor arrangements. Far from seamless, these can cause problems ranging from deployment challenges to visibility and management problems. Convergence, on the other hand, means one single set of code, one interface for the entire network, and one data repository; meaning a single-pane-of-glass through which everything can be managed.

According to Gartner’s definition of SASE as a single vendor, cloud-native platform, multi-vendor offerings masquerading as SASE solutions don’t fit the criteria, making them poor substitutes for genuine SASE solutions. Given the fast-growing popularity of SASE, it’s no surprise that such bandwagon-jumping behavior exists. However, it’s certainly not in the best interests of organizations to settle for these lesser solutions.

Not “good enough”

Some might consider integrated solutions to be “good enough” in some contexts. While it is true that they have advantages over certain legacy alternatives, there’s no doubt that they are far less efficient than consolidated solutions. For instance, integrated solutions need to decrypt and then re-encrypt data for each solution, rather than just once in a consolidated solution. What this means for an integrated solution is unnecessary latency being added to the network, since it’s not possible to carry out all networking and security processing in parallel, but rather having to perform the traffic decryption, inspection, and re-encryption multiple times. This is just one of many examples of how integrated solutions are suboptimal compared to consolidated ones.

SASE isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the call for SASE is just ramping up. According to Gartner, by 2025 some 60% of enterprises will have a strategy for adopting SASE. That’s up significantly from the approximately 10% of enterprises that had a strategy for this in 2020.

One of the big drivers for SASE has been the rise in remote working. During the pandemic, many companies allowed their employees to work remotely, often geographically dispersed over large areas. In order to do this, they had to be able to access company networks, systems, apps, and other resources — and, crucially, to be able to do this in a secure, straightforward manner.

SASE’s promise of anywhere, anytime access to the network was, therefore, an enormous boon to the newfound popularity of remote work. While the effects of the pandemic are now (hopefully) starting to lessen in many countries around the globe, paradigm shifts like remote work aren’t going to fall by the wayside. For lots of organizations and employees, some of the changes made during this time have been positive — and “hybrid” workplaces that are no longer limited to on-premises work is likely to be one of them.

Choose the right option

Companies must therefore invest in SASE or risk missing out — or even putting themselves at risk. Fortunately, SASE solutions are reaching maturity, and seeking out a provider that can help you in this capacity is easier than ever. Gartner, which coined the SASE category, to begin with, includes “sample vendors” in its Hype Cycle for Enterprise Networking report. If you are an organization looking to start your SASE journey, this is a great place to begin if you’re looking to sort the genuine offerings from the lesser integrated solutions that don’t measure up to the true potential of SASE.

When you decide to embrace the next generation of networking and security solutions, make sure that you opt for an implementation that offers you everything you need. A comprehensive, consolidated offering won’t just help you now; it’ll also set you up for the foreseeable future while offering a plethora of advantages you simply won’t find in integrated solutions. Qualitatively, there really is no comparison between the two.