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SASE hype includes SD-WAN, but does it need to?

Much of the hype around Secure Access Service Edge features the importance of SD-WAN with SASE, but do the two need each other to thrive? Research says probably not.

One of the more popular cybersecurity trends in 2021 will undoubtedly be Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE. As enterprise networks evolve to better manage traffic from remote employees, as well as applications and data served from public cloud environments, SASE works to secure connections, regardless of which networks communication flows across.

While SASE is a concept with tremendous potential and SASE hype is palpable in the IT industry, some confusion surrounds how it relates to another popular technology: software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). Let's look at whether SD-WAN and SASE architectures need each other to thrive in modern enterprises and if SASE hype will become a reality.

The role of SD-WAN in SASE

In a recent report titled "SD-WAN is Not a Critical Part of SASE," InfraMomentum pointed out that SASE can be decoupled from SD-WAN and still reach its fullest cybersecurity potential.

One report excerpt stated: "Although Gartner Research coined the term SASE, their inclusion of SD-WAN as a key architecture component is shortsighted. As businesses continue to migrate applications and data into public clouds, SASE will eventually eliminate the need for most forms of WAN connectivity including SD-WAN."

As businesses continue to migrate applications and data into public clouds, SASE will eventually eliminate the need for most forms of WAN connectivity including SD-WAN.

It's no secret that SD-WAN technologies have been integral parts of enterprise networks for nearly a decade when IT architects originally discovered that intelligent path selection, link health monitoring, load balancing and a centralized control plane can help improve branch office network performance to remote applications and data. However, it's important to note SD-WAN's hyped capabilities are only possible when administrators have control over the underlying network.

If, for example, a branch office user wants to access resources in a public cloud environment, SD-WAN's intelligent routing benefits stop as soon as packet flows reach the internet. Thus, as more applications and data continue to migrate to public cloud environments, SD-WAN's usefulness significantly declines.

But what about enterprises that still manage applications and data in-house and continue to take advantage of SD-WAN's inherent benefits? What can SASE do for them? To put it simply, a lot.

SASE hype will not disappoint

Traditional SD-WANs lack the network security mechanisms required to protect data and devices while remaining flexible enough to adjust to changing traffic flows. IT departments that manage business-critical services in-house or in a hybrid cloud architecture will find deploying SASE alongside SD-WAN provides uniform security protections for traffic streams to public or private cloud resources and increases efficiency from a data transport perspective.

Thus, businesses in this situation may benefit from abandoning traditional network edge security architectures in favor of SASE, as the SASE hype is likely to live up to expectations. Combining SASE and SD-WAN provides the utmost efficiency in traffic flow and cybersecurity adaptability.

SASE does not need SD-WAN to thrive when critical applications and data already reside in public cloud environments. However, for businesses that operate in hybrid cloud architectures and still find value in SD-WAN, SASE eliminates many headaches in protecting data and communications endpoints.

Put another way, SASE can stand alone without SD-WAN, but for SD-WAN to thrive in 2021 and beyond, SASE is a complementary data security architecture.

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