What Is SASE?

2 min. read

Secure access service edge (SASE) is a cloud-native architecture that unifies SD-WAN with security functions like SWG, CASB, FWaaS, and ZTNA into one service.

SASE Architecture

Technical diagram depicting SASE architecture
Figure 1. SASE Architecture


A SASE (secure access service edge) architecture combines networking and security as a service functions into a single cloud-delivered service at the network edge. This enables an organization to support dispersed remote and hybrid users automatically by connecting them to nearby cloud gateways as opposed to backhauling traffic to corporate data centers. It also provides consistent secure access to all applications while maintaining full visibility and inspection of traffic across all ports and protocols.

The model radically simplifies management and reduces complexity, which are two of the main goals of SASE. It transforms the perimeter into a consistent set of cloud-based capabilities that can be deployed where and when they’re needed. This is a more streamlined alternative to establishing a perimeter around the data center using a collection of disparate, point-product security appliances.

Because it’s cloud-based, secure access service edge enables a more dynamic and high-performing network that adapts to changing business requirements, an evolving threat landscape, and the new innovations that will shape the future of your network.

SASE Components

The 5 core components of SASE including SD-WAN, ZTNA, SWG, CASB, and FWaaS
Figure 2. SASE Components


The SASE framework aims to consolidate various functions and capabilities into minimal products or services from a limited number of vendors. This approach enhances operational speed and simplifies management. Five essential technologies are fundamental to secure access service edge deployments.


The secure web gateway (SWG) provides URL filtering, SSL decryption, application control, and threat detection and prevention for user web sessions.

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

FWaaS delivers a cloud-native, next-generation firewall, providing advanced Layer 7 inspection, access control, threat detection and prevention, and other security services.


A cloud-access security broker (CASB) oversees sanctioned and unsanctioned SaaS applications and offers malware and threat detection. As part of a DLP solution, it ensures visibility and control of sensitive data in SaaS repositories.


Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) enables continuous verification and inspection capabilities. It delivers identity-based and application-based policy enforcement for access to an organization’s sensitive data and applications.


An SD-WAN provides an overlay network decoupled from the underlying hardware, providing flexible, secure traffic between sites and direct to the internet.

SASE Use Cases

Powering Hybrid Workforces

For the hybrid workforce, a cohesive approach to network performance and security is essential. A secure access service edge architecture emphasizes scalability, elasticity, and low latency, catering directly to this need. Its cloud-based framework is optimized to deliver application-specific performance, while integrated digital experience monitoring offers precise visibility for everything affecting user performance.

The key advantage of SASE lies in the fusion of networking and security. This combination enhances threat monitoring and detection while filling in security gaps. The result is a streamlined network governance and simplified management, making SASE a foundational tool for supporting a hybrid work environment.

Connecting and Securing Branch and Retail Locations

The SASE model is vital for organizations leveraging SaaS and public cloud services because it addresses performance and security challenges. Using next-generation SD-WAN, secure access service edge optimizes bandwidth and ensures dynamic security, outperforming traditional data center approaches. The integration of digital experience monitoring guarantees an enhanced user experience.

It also reduces network and security expenses, and streamlines vendor management. Secure access service edge fortifies data security for branch and remote locations by enforcing consistent policies, simplifying management, and applying Zero Trust. This ensures the security of applications and data irrespective if they are located in private cloud data centers, public cloud services, or SaaS applications.

Supporting Cloud and Digital Initiatives

SASE is pivotal for cloud and digital transformation. As organizations lean into SaaS, seamless and secure connectivity is increasingly important. With its emphasis on security consolidation, SASE eliminates the limitations of hardware-based approaches, integrating services and optimizing branch deployments

Advanced SD-WAN techniques not only expand bandwidth but also provide deeper network insights, enhancing operations and application performance. Leveraging AI and ML significantly improves threat detection. Dynamic firewalls offer a comprehensive approach to content analysis, and secure protocols adeptly manage the data streams from IoT devices.

SASE Benefits

Graphic depicting SASE benefits


Figure 3. SASE Benefits


Visibility Across Hybrid Environments

SASE provides visibility of hybrid enterprise network environments that connect data centers, headquarters, branch and remote locations, public and private cloud, and users, regardless of location.

Support for consistent functionality and universal access to any resource from anywhere allows security teams to see all network activity including users, data, and apps all from a single pane of glass.

Greater Control of Users, Data, and Apps

Users frequently access varied applications from multiple locations and devices, often bypassing organizational policies to run them on nonstandard ports. This presents a challenge in monitoring and controlling such applications.

SASE, however, classifies traffic at the application layer, or Layer 7, eliminating the need for intricate port-application research and mapping. It provides clear visibility into application usage, enabling precise control and understanding.

Improved Monitoring and Reporting

Secure access service edge eliminates the need to monitor multiple consoles across different networking and security products or to create separate reports for key metrics. One platform handles monitoring and reporting, allowing networking and security teams to correlate events and alerts. This approach streamlines troubleshooting and speeds up incident response.

Reduced Complexity

Secure access service edge empowers businesses to streamline networking and security. By eliminating unnecessary, complex, and manually intensive point security solutions, operations can now shift to the cloud. This transition significantly reduces operational complexity and costs. The approach also resolves the logistical challenges associated with dispatching, installing, and updating networking and security devices at branch or retail locations.

Consistent Data Protection

In traditional WAN architectures based on MPLS, traffic from various locations is routed back to a central point. This design centralizes security, allowing a single firewall to enforce policies, but potentially becomes a bottleneck.

SASE addresses these inefficiencies by prioritizing consistent data protection across all edge locations. It streamlines data protection policies and eliminates challenges like security blind spots, policy inconsistencies, and shadow IT.

With secure access service edge, data loss prevention (DLP) policies are uniformly applied regardless of data location. This process streamlines deployment of new security services and applications from the cloud to various locations. There is also no need for individualized management at each endpoint.

Reduced Costs

Some organizations invest in commodity point networking and security products. Although this may seem less expensive initially, administrative costs often get out of control. Limited networking and security staff must learn different management consoles and operating systems (many of which have limited remote management capabilities).

SASE enables organizations to extend the networking and security stack to all locations in a cost-effective manner.

Lower Administrative Time and Effort

The cost to train and retain networking and security staff on many point networking and security products can quickly exceed initial capital investments. SASE enables single-pane-of-glass management of networking and security functions for all locations in a consistent manner. The consolidation reduces administrative burden and helps lower training and retention costs.

Less Integration Needs

SASE combines multiple networking and security capabilities and functions in a unified cloud-delivered solution, thereby eliminating the need for complex integrations between multiple point networking and security products from different vendors.

Better Network Performance and Reliability

SASE helps organizations improve network performance and reliability for users and locations by delivering software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) capabilities. This allows load balancing, aggregation, and failover configuration for multiple links from different sources, (e.g., MPLS, broadband, and LTE.

This helps reduce congestion and latency associated with backhauling internet traffic across MPLS connections or routing traffic across a connection that’s experiencing high utilization or performance issues.

Enhanced User Experience

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) improves operations and optimizes experiences for every user, working from home or from branch offices, without the complexity of installing additional software and hardware.

Potential SASE Implementation Challenges

While SASE is a relatively new cybersecurity model, reputable vendors already have proven processes. As with all technology implementations, potential obstacles can arise, but enterprises shouldn’t be dissuaded from investing in SASE. When prepared with knowledge, organizations can overcome questions and challenges with ease.

Redefining Team Roles and Collaboration

The implementation of SASE demands a re-evaluation of roles within the IT landscape. Especially in hybrid cloud setups, it necessitates enhanced collaboration between networking and security teams. The confluence of responsibilities can pose challenges, particularly when distinct teams handle on-premises and cloud-based infrastructures.

Navigating Vendor Complexity

The plethora of available point products and security tools can be overwhelming. SASE combines various tools and methodologies, so organizations can more easily traverse the vendor landscape and adopt an architecture that aligns to their transformation goals.

Ensuring Comprehensive Coverage

While SASE offers a consolidated approach, some scenarios, especially in branch-heavy setups, might necessitate on-premises solutions. This requires a judicious balance between cloud-driven and on-premises strategies to ensure seamless networking and security.

Building Trust in SASE

Despite its advanced capabilities, a segment of professionals remains wary of transitioning to SASE, especially in hybrid cloud scenarios. It's crucial for organizations to engage with reputable SASE providers, ensuring they have established credibility and can effectively address both networking and security needs.

Product Selection and Integration

For businesses with siloed IT teams, deployment might entail selecting multiple products to cater to networking and security separately. Integrating these solutions, while ensuring they are complementary, is vital for streamlined operations.

Addressing Tool Sprawl

Transitioning to a cloud-centric SASE paradigm may render certain existing tools redundant. It's essential to identify any redundancies and mitigate potential overlaps to prevent fragmented capabilities, ensuring a cohesive technological infrastructure.

Collaborative Approach to SASE

The success of SASE hinges on the collaborative effort of both security and networking professionals. Their combined expertise ensures the chosen SASE components align with the broader organizational objectives, optimizing the benefits derived from this technology.

SASE Misconceptions

Graphic depicting misconceptions about SASE


Figure 4: Common SASE Misconceptions


SASE is merely a cloud-based VPN.

SASE provides a comprehensive suite beyond the scope of a traditional VPN. Incorporating various functionalities, such as secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers, and firewall as a service, SASE offers a unified platform for extensive security and network needs, far surpassing the capabilities of a standard VPN.

Only large corporations benefit from SASE.

Businesses of all sizes can harness the advantages of SASE. For small to medium-sized enterprises, SASE can simplify network and security management. Its scalability ensures that organizations can adapt it to their unique requirements and growth trajectory.

SASE solutions are exclusive to remote work environments.

While SASE is often associated with facilitating remote work due to its secure access capabilities, it's equally beneficial for in-office infrastructures. SASE ensures that both remote users and in-office workers have consistent secure access to cloud resources, defending against threats regardless of physical location.

SASE compromises on-premises security for cloud advantages.

A SASE architecture doesn't mandate an exclusive cloud-centric approach. Organizations can integrate SASE solutions with on-premises systems, like next-generation firewall appliances, optimizing performance and security based on specific requirements.

Adopting SASE means foregoing other essential security technologies.

Although SASE offers a broad spectrum of security solutions, it doesn't eliminate the need for complementary technologies like endpoint detection and response or cloud workload protection. Implementing SASE doesn't mean sidelining other crucial security components but integrating them for a holistic security stance.

Best Practices for SASE Implementation

  1. Foster Team Alignment and Collaboration

    To effectively implement SASE, networking and security teams need to collaborate closely. Historically, these teams have had differing priorities: networking focuses on speed, while security emphasizes threat protection. Using DevOps evolution as a model, combine these teams' strengths for a unified goal. Rely on expert leadership and SASE vendors for education and training support to merge disciplines.
  2. Draft a Flexible SASE Roadmap

    Adopting SASE doesn't necessitate an instantaneous overhaul. Integrate SASE progressively, aligned with IT initiatives and business goals. Collaborate with vendors or MSPs in developing a roadmap, ensuring it's adaptable to dynamic business needs. Whether modernizing SD-WAN or enhancing security, use SASE as a vehicle for both convergence and progression.
  3. Secure C-Suite Buy-in

    Achieving executive support for SASE is vital. Highlight the benefits akin to cloud-based applications, stress the ROI, and underscore the reduced need for multiple vendors. Emphasize the comprehensive security that SASE brings, particularly in the face of escalating threats. As SASE projects progress, measure and report successes across various metrics.
  4. Establish a Plan

    Start by clearly determining SASE objectives tailored to your organization's unique challenges. Analyze the existing network setup, identify areas of improvement, and comprehend the present knowledge and tech landscape.
  5. Select, Test, and Deploy

    Identify and onboard apt SASE solutions, ensuring compatibility with existing technologies. Prioritize solutions that seamlessly integrate with your current tools and, before full-scale deployment, test them in a controlled environment to guarantee efficiency.
  6. Monitor, Optimize, and Evolve

    Once deployed, maintain strong support mechanisms. Continuously evaluate the SASE setup, adjusting based on feedback, emerging tech trends, and the organization's shifting needs.

How to Choose a SASE Provider

Graphic listing tips for choosing a SASE provider


Figure 5: How to Choose a SASE Provider


  1. Assess Integration of Network and Security

    The core premise of SASE is the convergence of networking and security services. A genuine SASE provider should offer both networking (like SD-WAN) and security services such as firewall as a service (FWaaS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), cloud access security broker (CASB), Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), and secure web gateway (SWG).
  2. Confirm Cloud-Native Design

    A SASE solution should inherently be cloud-native and be designed to handle all network edges, including on-site, mobile, and cloud.
  3. Evaluate Global Network Performance

    SASE shouldn't be limited by geography. Optimal performance should be guaranteed worldwide. For consistent performance, it's advisable to opt for providers that offer a global SLA-backed private backbone.
  4. Check for Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

    ZTNA is crucial for a comprehensive SASE approach. Traditional security measures become void once they're breached. In contrast, ZTNA allows enterprises to grant least-privileged access based on specific user identities and their relation to cloud, mobile, and on-site resources.
  5. Weigh Simplicity and Cost-Effectiveness

    SASE should lead to a reduction in both cost and network complexity. The goal is to minimize both capital and operational expenses, primarily by reducing the need for multiple physical appliances. Additionally, an intuitive management interface is paramount for efficient operations.
  6. Ensure Scalability and Flexibility

    The SASE solution must be scalable to address an organization's future needs. It should also be adaptable, capable of integrating with legacy systems, and support future technologies.
  7. Look for Multitenancy Capabilities

    A centralized approach to networking and security is beneficial. Multitenant software solutions offer role-based access and make it easier to allocate resources and responsibilities.
  8. Review Costs and Associated Features

    Analyze the cost in relation to the features provided. Factor in potential costs for integration with third-party software. Also, scrutinize the service level agreement (SLA) and associated costs.

Exploring SASE and Complementary Technologies

How SASE and 5G Work Together

Graphic depicting how SASE and 5G work together
Figure 6: How SASE and 5G Work Together


5G revolutionizes mobile networks with speed and reduced latency. As these networks evolve beyond traditional architectures, there's a pressing need to address new security challenges. secure access service edge is a potential solution, offering a centralized security framework tailored for the dynamic nature of modern networks.

When integrated with 5G, SASE optimizes the potential of the network without compromising security. By routing 5G traffic through a SASE platform, businesses can enforce consistent security measures and achieve improved operational efficiency. This ensures that as users access corporate resources from diverse locations, each connection undergoes rigorous validation, maintaining the network's integrity.

Incorporating software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) with 5G further augments this relationship. Together, they provide a secure high-performance framework, facilitating swift and safe communication across extended networks, redefining the standards of modern connectivity.

How IoT Integrates with SASE

Legacy IoT systems rely heavily on centralized service provider networks, leading to intricate routing and the potential for higher latency. The extensive spread of IoT devices and data across multi-region clouds exacerbates these issues. Secure access service edge is adept at handling IoT's distributed nature. By converging virtualized networking and security services, SASE offers centralized policy control, streamlining data routing and safeguarding it regardless of its origin or destination.

Shifting security closer to data sources, SASE uses distributed points of presence (PoP) to authenticate access based on distinct device attributes. This decentralized stance enhances IoT security, trims latency, and aligns with regional data regulations.

Protecting Data with SASE and DLP

Graphic depicting SASE and DLP
Figure 7: Protecting Date with SASE and DLP


Data loss prevention (DLP) aims to safeguard a company's data from loss, theft, or misuse, ensuring its protection irrespective of its state or location. However, the proliferation of data across various storage mediums and the ambiguity around its exact location pose security challenges. Traditional DLP solutions, tailored for legacy systems, often prove insufficient for modern cloud-integrated businesses. Secure access service edge (SASE) is a contemporary cybersecurity framework that merges network solutions with security services, enabling a holistic cloud-based security approach.

When integrated with DLP, SASE offers a unified method to discover and classify data, authenticate users and devices, apply data-centric policies, and detect malicious activities. Utilizing SASE's capabilities, organizations achieve consistent cloud data protection, simplified network management, reduced operational costs, and efficient security responses.

SASE vs. Other Technology and Security Solutions


SD-WAN provides a software-driven solution to optimize and manage distributed network connections, particularly between branch offices and main corporate hubs. Its primary role is to improve connectivity; however, it doesn't natively offer extensive security features. As a result, organizations often find themselves relying on additional security solutions, which can introduce challenges in terms of management, consistency, and overhead expenses. This is in contrast with the promise of SASE.

Conversely, secure access service edge integrates both WAN functionalities and a comprehensive set of security services into a unified framework. It is designed to ensure secure and seamless connectivity across various environments, from cloud to on-premises to mobile endpoints. This integration offers a consistent and built-in security approach, reducing the need for auxiliary security tools and streamlining network operations.


A cloud access security broker (CASB) focuses on safeguarding SaaS applications by extending traditional perimeter security protections to cloud-based deployments. It provides visibility and control over SaaS applications, ensuring only authorized access to enterprise data within these applications.

Secure access service edge is a broader, integrated approach that combines the security features of CASB with optimized networking capabilities like SD-WAN and other security solutions such as next-generation firewalls. While CASB concentrates solely on SaaS application security, SASE offers a comprehensive network and security framework. While both address cloud security, SASE provides a more holistic solution, integrating networking and diverse security functionalities.


Secure access service edge and Zero Trust edge both prioritize the amalgamation of network features and cloud-centric security. Their focus and methodologies differ.

SASE combines the capabilities of software-defined wide area networking with various network security functionalities, all delivered through a cloud platform. This ensures secure and optimized network connectivity, especially applicable to the rising trends of remote and dispersed teams.

ZTE emphasizes Zero Trust, striving for a comprehensive Zero-Trust-as-a-Service model that extends beyond access protocols. ZTE mandates authentication for all connections, regardless of source or purpose.


Secure access service edge serves as an extensive security framework, incorporating a multitude of security tools and services. Integral to SASE operation is Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), which operates as a specific security model within the broader SASE paradigm.

ZTNA is a pivotal element within SASE, emphasizing the principle that trust should never be implicit for any user attempting to access private applications. Instead, ZTNA operates on the premise of continuously verifying every access attempt, ensuring the security perimeter remains intact at the user-level.

While SASE offers a broad spectrum of security capabilities amalgamated into a single framework, ZTNA dives deep into access controls, fortifying network security by ensuring every access request undergoes rigorous validation.


Secure access service edge is a comprehensive framework that merges network service brokering, identity service brokering, and security services into a unified platform. The design streamlines security by consolidating various networking services under one control umbrella. This approach amplifies security measures for edge environments and standalone users while simultaneously enhancing the efficiency of networking services.

While SASE encompasses a broad spectrum of both security and network connectivity functionalities, SSE zeroes in primarily on security components, such as SWG, CASB, and ZTNA, omitting certain networking elements like SD-WAN.

SASE vs. Traditional Network Security

Secure access service edge integrates wide area networking (WAN) and network security services within a unified, cloud-based platform. This model, emphasizing flexibility, adopts the stance that identity is the new perimeter, concentrating on the security of individual identities.

This stands in contrast to the traditional network security framework that relies heavily on a fixed, secure perimeter, often defined by firewalls and intrusion prevention systems. As the landscape of digital work evolves, encompassing remote tasks and multiple device usage, the fixed perimeter concept has shown signs of redundancy, positioning SASE as a modernized approach that aligns more suitably with current technological demands and challenges.

SASE vs. Firewall

Secure access service edge and firewalls both serve the critical function of safeguarding digital assets, yet they operate on distinct principles and architectures. Firewalls primarily act as gatekeepers, controlling incoming and outgoing traffic based using set rules. In contrast, SASE, rooted in a cloud-native framework, integrates a broader array of security functionalities, extending its reach beyond mere traffic filtering.

The hallmark of secure access service edge is its adaptability to contemporary digital landscapes, enveloping features like zero-trust network access (ZTNA) and data loss prevention (DLP) that aren't innate to traditional firewalls. SASE is a more holistic approach addressing evolving cybersecurity demands, especially in environments marked by remote operations and cloud-centric applications.

SASE vs. Zero Trust

SASE and Zero Trust are both pivotal in modern cybersecurity, but they target different network security aspects. Zero Trust is a security construct predicated on a fundamental principle: "never trust, always verify." It focuses on ensuring no implicit trust is given to any entity, no matter the origin within or outside the network. Each access request is authenticated, and authorization is continuously verified.

Secure access service edge is a comprehensive framework that integrates various network and security services, including Zero Trust as one of its components.

While Zero Trust emphasizes consistent authentication and authorization, SASE goes beyond, considering more contextual data. In essence, Zero Trust can stand alone as an access control strategy, but secure access service edge inherently encompasses Zero Trust within its broader, multifaceted approach to security.


Secure access service edge and VPN both aim to secure network access but differ in mechanism and breadth. VPNs provide encrypted connections between users and an organization's network, channeling traffic through a central server which can introduce latency.

SASE, on the other hand, is a cloud-centric integrated solution that reduces latency by not relying on centralized servers. Rather than simply offering secure connections, secure access service edge leverages user and device identity, ensuring dynamic policy enforcement based on context and granting users only necessary access.

History of SASE

Graphic describing how SASE came to be over time
Figure 8: The History of SASE


Historically, companies relied on a hub-and-spoke wide area network (WAN) topology, with centralized servers and costly lines connecting remote offices.

As software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications emerged and virtual private networks (VPNs) became popular, businesses transitioned applications to the cloud. Firewalls in branch offices began enforcing security policies while optimizing traffic.

With the growth of cloud services, the dependency on on-premises resources diminished, and the inefficiencies of traditional network access became evident. To address these challenges, secure access service edge emerged, integrating multiple network and security technologies into one solution.

This evolution was underscored when key SaaS applications like Microsoft's Office 365 transitioned to Azure, necessitating efficient traffic inspection.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of SASE as remote work surged and secure networking became paramount.


Secure access service edge (SASE) is a cloud-native architecture that unifies SD-WAN with security functions like SWG, CASB, FWaaS, and ZTNA into one service.
SD-WAN optimizes and manages network connections without native extensive security, while SASE integrates WAN functionalities with a comprehensive security framework for seamless and secure connectivity across environments.
  1. SD-WAN
  2. SWG
  3. CASB
  4. FWaaS
  5. ZTNA
The SASE framework offers a cloud-delivered networking and security infrastructure, transforming the traditional perimeter into a set of dynamic, cloud-based capabilities that simplify management and adapt to changing needs. It ensures secure access to applications, full traffic visibility, and adapts to evolving threats and business requirements.
While SASE offers a cloud-centric solution with dynamic policy enforcement based on user context, VPNs primarily encrypt connections, sometimes introducing latency through centralized servers. The suitability of one over the other hinges on the specific needs and context of an organization.
SASE does not directly replace VPN; instead, it offers a cloud-centric solution with enhanced features such as dynamic policy enforcement based on user context. While VPNs focus on encrypted connections through centralized servers, SASE provides a broader and more integrated approach to secure network access without the potential latency of centralized servers.
Firewalls act as gatekeepers using set rules to control traffic, while SASE is a cloud-native framework offering a broader array of security functionalities.
Yes, SASE is cloud based, offering an integrated approach to networking and security services delivered from a unified cloud-native architecture.
Yes, SASE typically includes SD-WAN as one of its components. The SASE framework integrates various networking and security functions, with SD-WAN being a key component for optimizing and managing distributed network connections within this unified cloud-based platform.
The main promise of SASE is to provide an integrated, cloud-native framework that seamlessly combines network optimization and security services, enabling secure and efficient access to resources regardless of user location or the location of the applications and data they're accessing.
SASE is not merely a proxy. While SASE architectures often incorporate secure web gateways, which can function as proxies, SASE is a broader framework that combines various network and security functions in a cloud-native platform.