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The ultimate guide to SASE: Best practices and benefits for security architects

By Jaye Tillson, Field CTO

Welcome to "The ultimate guide to SASE: Best practices and benefits for security architects." In this guide, we will explore the history of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and its significance in today's ever-evolving world of cybersecurity.

We will delve into the best practices that security architects should consider when implementing SASE, as well as the myriad benefits it brings to organizations.

Understanding the history of SASE


Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud-native architecture that integrates network and security functions into a unified framework. It aims to provide secure access to applications and data for users, regardless of their location or the underlying infrastructure. SASE combines software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) capabilities with security services such as secure web gateways (SWG), firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), and more. By converging these functions, SASE simplifies network management, enhances security, and enables organizations to deliver a consistent and secure user experience in today's distributed and dynamic digital landscape.

Evolution of SASE

The emergence of SASE can be attributed to the need for a more unified and scalable approach to networking and security. Traditional networking and security approaches often involved separate and siloed solutions, which made it challenging to manage and secure the increasingly complex and distributed networks of modern organizations.

With the shift towards cloud-based services, remote work, and the rise of digital transformation, the traditional perimeter-based security models became inadequate. Organizations needed a more agile and flexible architecture that could seamlessly adapt to changing business needs while ensuring robust security measures.

Cloud-based services offered scalability, cost efficiency, and the ability to access applications and data from anywhere. However, cloud services also introduced new challenges in terms of network connectivity, performance, and security. Remote work trends further accelerated the need for secure access to resources from outside the traditional network perimeter.

Digital transformation initiatives, driven by the increasing adoption of cloud computing, mobile devices, and IoT, required organizations to rethink their approach to networking and security. The traditional hub-and-spoke architecture, with its reliance on backhauling traffic through a central data center, was no longer efficient or effective.

In response to these challenges, SASE emerged as a comprehensive solution that integrates networking and security functions into a single cloud-native architecture. It allows organizations to leverage the benefits of cloud-based services, secure remote access, and deliver consistent security policies and controls across the entire network infrastructure. SASE aligns with the dynamic and distributed nature of modern business operations, providing organizations with the agility, scalability, and security required to thrive in today's digital landscape.

Key components of SASE

SASE encompasses several essential components that work together to create a comprehensive security framework. These components include:

  1. Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN): SD-WAN is a key component of SASE that provides organizations with the ability to connect and manage their wide-area networks (WANs) in a software-defined manner. It offers enhanced network performance, agility, and cost-efficiency by dynamically routing traffic over multiple connections, such as MPLS, broadband, or cellular networks.
  2. Secure Web Gateways (SWG): SWG is responsible for securing and filtering web traffic, ensuring protection against web-based threats such as malware, phishing, and data exfiltration. SWG inspects web traffic in real-time, enforcing policies to prevent malicious access and unauthorized data transmission.
  3. Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS): FWaaS delivers firewall functionality as a cloud-based service, eliminating the need for on-premises hardware. It provides essential network security by enforcing policy-based access control, monitoring traffic, and detecting and preventing unauthorized access and malicious activities.
  4. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA): ZTNA is a security model that verifies and validates every user's identity and device before granting access to resources or applications. It ensures that users have the necessary permissions and adheres to the principle of least privilege, minimizing the attack surface and reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  5. Data Loss Prevention (DLP): DLP is a critical component of SASE that helps organizations prevent the unauthorized transmission of sensitive data. It monitors and inspects data in transit and at rest, applying policies to detect and block the transmission of confidential information, such as personal identifiable information (PII) or intellectual property.

These components work together within the SASE architecture to provide a comprehensive security framework. They leverage cloud-native technologies, scalable infrastructure, and centralized management to ensure consistent security policies and controls across the entire network. By integrating these components, SASE enables organizations to achieve seamless connectivity, robust threat protection, and granular access controls, all while simplifying network management and reducing operational complexities.

Best practices for SASE implementation

Assess organizational needs

When implementing SASE, it is crucial to start by assessing your organization's unique requirements.

This assessment should consider various factors, including:

  1. Network infrastructure: Evaluate your existing network infrastructure, including its size, complexity, and geographical distribution. Identify any challenges or limitations that may impact SASE deployment, such as legacy systems, connectivity options, or bandwidth requirements.
  2. Security posture: Assess your organization's current security posture and identify any vulnerabilities or gaps. Determine the level of security controls and policies required to protect your data and resources adequately. Consider compliance requirements specific to your industry, as well as any unique security challenges you may face.
  3. User demands: Understand the needs and expectations of your users, including their locations, device types, and application requirements. Consider factors like remote work, mobile access, and the need for seamless user experience. This will help determine the scalability, flexibility, and performance requirements of your SASE solution.

By conducting a comprehensive assessment of your organization's needs, you can determine the optimal SASE deployment strategy. This evaluation will empower you to make informed decisions regarding vendor selection, architectural design, and implementation approach.

It will also ensure that your SASE solution aligns with your organization's specific requirements, providing the best possible security and network performance.

Build a robust SASE architecture

Building a robust SASE architecture is essential to ensure scalability, flexibility, and adaptability to meet changing business needs. Consider the following factors when designing your SASE architecture:

  1. Scalability and flexibility: Choose a SASE solution that can scale as your organization grows. Consider the potential increase in users, locations, and network traffic. The architecture should also be flexible enough to accommodate future technology advancements and evolving security requirements.
  2. Vendor selection: Carefully evaluate and select vendors that offer comprehensive SASE solutions aligned with your organization's needs. Consider factors such as their experience, reputation, product roadmap, and integration capabilities. Look for vendors that provide a wide range of security and networking services to ensure a cohesive and efficient implementation.
  3. Service-Level Agreements (SLAs): Define clear SLAs with your chosen vendors to establish expectations for service performance, availability, and support. SLAs should include metrics such as uptime guarantees, response times, and incident resolution procedures. Ensure that the SLAs align with your business requirements and risk tolerance.
  4. Interoperability: SASE involves integrating multiple components, so it's crucial to ensure interoperability between these components. Work closely with your vendors to understand their integration capabilities and ensure seamless communication between different SASE elements. This will help avoid compatibility issues and optimize the overall performance of your SASE architecture.

By focusing on scalability, flexibility, vendor selection, SLAs, and interoperability, you can build a robust SASE architecture that meets your organization's unique requirements. This will enable you to adapt to changing business needs, integrate various security and networking services effectively, and ensure a seamless and secure user experience.

Implement a Zero Trust model

Implementing a Zero Trust model is critical for enhancing security within the SASE framework. Zero Trust security is based on the principle of assuming that no user or device can be trusted by default, regardless of their location or network connection. It requires verifying and validating every user's identity and device before granting access to resources. Here's how the principles of Zero Trust align with the SASE framework:

  1. Micro-segmentation: Micro-segmentation is a core principle of Zero Trust security that involves dividing the network into smaller segments and applying granular access controls. In the SASE framework, micro-segmentation ensures that access to resources is restricted based on user identity, device health, and other contextual factors. This helps prevent lateral movement within the network and limits the potential impact of a security breach.
  2. Identity-based access controls: Zero-trust security emphasizes the use of identity-based access controls to grant or deny access to resources. Users must authenticate and prove their identity before being granted access, regardless of their location or network connection. In the SASE framework, identity-based access controls are enforced through technologies such as Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), which authenticate users and devices before allowing them to access specific applications or data.
  3. Continuous monitoring: Continuous monitoring plays a vital role in enforcing the Zero Trust approach within the SASE framework. It involves real-time monitoring of user behavior, network traffic, and security events to identify any anomalies or suspicious activities. Continuous monitoring allows for immediate detection and response to potential security threats, ensuring the ongoing integrity and security of the network.

By implementing a Zero Trust model within the SASE framework, organizations can strengthen their security posture and mitigate the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches. Micro-segmentation, identity-based access controls, and continuous monitoring work in tandem to enforce the principles of Zero Trust security, providing robust protection for resources, regardless of their location or the network connection being used.

Ensure secure connectivity

Securing network connectivity is crucial within the SASE framework to protect data as it travels across networks. Here are some best practices for ensuring secure connectivity:

  1. Encryption: Implement strong encryption protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data in transit. Encryption ensures that even if intercepted, the data remains unreadable and protected from unauthorized access.
  2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security to user authentication. Require users to provide multiple factors, such as a password, a unique token, or biometric data, to verify their identity. MFA helps prevent unauthorized access, even if credentials are compromised.
  3. Secure protocols: Use secure protocols for network communication, such as HTTPS for web traffic or IPsec for virtual private networks (VPNs). Secure protocols ensure data integrity and confidentiality, protecting against eavesdropping or tampering.
  4. Data protection in transit: Ensure secure transmission of data by segmenting and encrypting sensitive information at the packet level. Use technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs) or secure tunnels to establish secure connections between different network locations, preventing interception and unauthorized access.
  5. Data protection at rest: Implement strong encryption measures to protect data at rest, such as encrypting data stored on servers, databases, or in the cloud. Use robust encryption algorithms and manage encryption keys securely to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data when it is not actively being transmitted.
  6. Data loss prevention (DLP) measures: Implement DLP measures to identify and prevent the unauthorized transmission or loss of sensitive data. Use content filtering, data classification, and data leakage prevention techniques to monitor and control data access, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations and preventing data breaches.

By following these best practices, organizations can establish secure connectivity within the SASE framework. Encryption, MFA, secure protocols, and data protection measures help safeguard data both in transit and at rest, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access or data loss. Implementing DLP measures ensures that sensitive information is properly protected and monitored throughout its lifecycle, maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of organizational data.

Benefits of SASE for security architects

Enhanced security and visibility

When it comes to enhancing security and visibility, SASE offers a holistic approach that provides numerous benefits for security architects. Let's delve deeper into these points:

  1. Holistic security approach: SASE integrates various security functions, such as secure web gateways, firewall-as-a-service, data loss prevention, and more, into a unified platform. This comprehensive approach allows security architects to manage and secure network traffic from a centralized location. By consolidating security capabilities, SASE eliminates the need for multiple disparate security solutions, simplifying management and reducing potential security gaps.
  2. Centralized visibility and control: SASE provides security architects with centralized visibility and control over network traffic, regardless of the location or device being used. This visibility allows for real-time monitoring and analysis of network activity, enabling security architects to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities more easily. With SASE, security policies can be enforced uniformly across the entire network, ensuring consistent security measures across all access points.
  3. Consistent security policies: SASE enables security architects to establish and enforce consistent security policies across all network access points. Whether employees are accessing the network from the office, remote locations, or through cloud applications, SASE ensures that security policies are consistently applied. This consistency helps mitigate the risk of security breaches and reduces the burden of managing different security policies for various access methods.
  4. Threat detection and response capabilities: SASE incorporates advanced threat detection and response capabilities, leveraging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. These technologies enable SASE to identify and analyze network traffic patterns, detect potential security threats, and respond to them in real-time. By proactively identifying and mitigating threats, SASE helps security architects stay one step ahead of cyberattacks and minimize the impact of security incidents.

By adopting SASE, security architects gain a holistic security approach that provides centralized visibility and control over network traffic. The consistent security policies, threat detection, and response capabilities offered by SASE contribute to a robust security architecture, protecting the organization's data and infrastructure from potential threats.

Simplified management and operations

Simplified management and operations are essential benefits of SASE that can greatly benefit security architects. Let's explore how SASE streamlines network and security management, reducing complexity and overhead:

  1. Streamlined network and security management: SASE consolidates various network and security functions into a single platform, allowing security architects to manage both aspects from a centralized location. This consolidation eliminates the need for multiple disparate solutions, reducing complexity and simplifying management. With SASE, security architects can have a unified view of the network and security infrastructure, making it easier to oversee and control operations.
  2. Centralized policy enforcement: SASE enables security architects to enforce security policies uniformly across the entire network, regardless of the access point or location. This centralized policy enforcement ensures consistent security measures, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. By centralizing policy enforcement, security architects can efficiently manage and update security policies without the need for manual configuration on individual devices or access points.
  3. Automated updates: SASE incorporates automated updates, ensuring that security measures and capabilities are always up to date. This eliminates the need for manual updates and patching, reducing the risk of security gaps due to outdated software or configurations. With automated updates, security architects can stay proactive in addressing emerging threats and vulnerabilities, enhancing the overall security posture of the network.
  4. Simplified deployment and provisioning: SASE simplifies the deployment and provisioning of network and security services. With a cloud-native architecture, SASE allows for quick and easy deployment across various locations and environments. This flexibility enables security architects to rapidly scale network and security services based on business needs. Additionally, SASE leverages software-defined networking (SDN) principles, allowing for dynamic provisioning and configuration changes, reducing the time and effort required for manual configuration.

By embracing SASE, security architects can benefit from streamlined network and security management. The centralized policy enforcement, automated updates, and simplified deployment and provisioning offered by SASE reduce complexity, overhead, and manual effort. This allows security architects to focus more on strategic initiatives and proactive security measures, ultimately improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.

Scalability and flexibility

When it comes to the topic of scalability and flexibility, SASE offers:

  1. Dynamic scalability: SASE is designed to accommodate the evolving needs of organizations, providing seamless scalability as the business grows or experiences fluctuations in demand. With SASE, security architects can easily scale network and security services up or down by leveraging cloud resources. This flexibility allows organizations to adapt to changing requirements without the need for significant infrastructure investments or complex migrations.
  2. Agility in adapting to changing business requirements: SASE's flexible architecture enables organizations to quickly respond to changing business needs and market demands. Whether it's expanding into new markets, onboarding remote employees, or adopting emerging technologies, SASE offers the agility required to support these initiatives. By leveraging cloud-native principles, SASE allows security architects to rapidly deploy and configure network and security services, adapting to evolving business requirements with minimal disruption.
  3. Benefits of cloud-native architecture: SASE's cloud-native architecture provides numerous benefits for scalability and flexibility. Firstly, it leverages the elasticity of cloud resources, allowing organizations to scale their network and security services on-demand. This eliminates the need for upfront investments in hardware or infrastructure, providing cost-efficiency and resource optimization. Additionally, the cloud-native nature of SASE enables organizations to leverage a wide range of cloud-based services and integrations, providing flexibility in choosing the most suitable solutions for their specific needs.
  4. Location and device independence: SASE enables organizations to support a distributed workforce and various access methods without compromising security or performance. With SASE, employees can securely access the network and cloud resources from anywhere, using any device. This location and device independence facilitate remote work, business continuity, and support for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, enhancing flexibility and productivity.

SASE offers scalability and flexibility by accommodating the dynamic needs of organizations. Its cloud-native architecture supports seamless scalability, agility in adapting to changing business requirements, and location and device independence. By leveraging SASE, security architects can ensure that their network and security infrastructure can scale effortlessly, adapt to evolving needs, and provide the necessary flexibility to support business growth and innovation.

Embrace the power of SASE

In conclusion, SASE represents a paradigm shift in network and security architecture, providing security architects with a unified and scalable solution to address modern challenges.

By following the best practices outlined in this guide, organizations can successfully implement SASE and unlock its numerous benefits, including enhanced security, simplified management, and unparalleled flexibility.

It’s time to embrace the power of SASE and stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity.