As the market for cloud networking reaches half-trillion dollars, cloud solutions have become far more sophisticated and effective. That’s good news for businesses migrating essential business functions to cloud infrastructure – especially for SMBs. They need the easiest and most streamlined way to get up and running without a steep technical learning curve.
Though getting started with a secure cloud network isn’t necessary, it’s helpful to know the fundamentals behind some of the most reliable cloud-networking tools you’re likely to come across, especially SASE and SD-WAN. We’ll cover the primary considerations to keep in mind when comparing SASE and SD-WAN products, along with how these essential technologies should function together under the same provider to create the most stable and effective cloud-networking environments for businesses.
New Tools for New Digital Frontiers
A sudden increase in the demand for remote work pressured businesses to enable access to their private data infrastructure outside their traditional, physical network perimeters. While SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) had already existed for some time, it initially functioned only well enough to enable the basic functionality of the cloud-based infrastructure. As such, there were many gaps left to be filled by numerous third-party software companies to bring software-defined networking to its fullest capability.
Primarily, SD-WAN required alternate services designed to expand access to its somewhat poorly defined network boundaries and essential security functions needed to meet or exceed the security of on-premise networks. SD-WAN functioned perfectly well – and still does – to create the SaaS-based platform infrastructure businesses depend on when transitioning to the cloud. It is what’s set the stage for improved SaaS networking solutions, such as SASE, to expand on the possibilities of SD-WAN by adding to it:
- Greater functionality and accessibility (especially for remote users)
- Dependable security protocols that, in many ways, increase security beyond on-premise, trust-based network infrastructure
This need for SaaS expansion is crucial, and the most reliable SD-WAN networks are designed for maximum flexibility. Network operators look primarily to the flexibility of an SD-WAN system in terms of future scalability and its present ability to integrate with other app services that provide the end user with maximum functionality. Of course, doing so could quickly become more cumbersome – unless you cohesively integrated these alternate SaaS services into a single operating platform.
Related: SD-WAN 101: A Guide for Getting Started
The Emergence of SASE: Settling the New Cloud Frontier
SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) emerged in 2019 primarily as a cloud-based security model to fulfill the need from enterprise businesses for security protocols that could replace traditional on-premise security practices. To accomplish this, SASE synthesized several other security modalities, including:
- DNS Protection
- Firewall-as-a-Service (FaaS)
- Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB)
- Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA
- Secure Web Gateway (SWG)
SD-WAN precipitated the significant movement from physical, on-premise servers to cloud-based software in the first place, and it is still the essential backbone of SASE. Using a Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP), SD-WAN alone, has enabled IT managers to transfer previously unheard-of levels of critical business functions fully into a digital environment.
However, this core benefit came with new challenges that businesses could not easily overcome until the introduction of SASE. SD-WAN, if deployed alone, forces IT departments to expend enormous effort creating custom firewall services (FaaS), request authentication protocols (such as CASB would fulfill), and DNS protection services. This was necessary to protect their intellectual properties, which were now potentially accessible by anyone on the open internet. In short, it meant the end of the trust-based security protocols on-premise networks had long depended on.
SASE most cohesively synthesizes all of these necessary but previously disparate security protocols into one easily managed platform – and most importantly, it marked the beginning of the most streamlined zero-trust network security methodology yet known. This breakthrough now serves two essential functions for cloud-network operators:
- Network-access authentication occurs automatically in the background wherever access requests come from the clearnet
- The network becomes more sharply defined, allowing other security services to operate more effectively and accurately.
From these core benefits, SASE boosts the networking benefits achieved by SD-WAN while providing an incredibly advanced collection of the most crucial security features cloud-network managers everywhere depend on.
It’s important to emphasize that SASE is not replacing SD-WAN, and SD-WAN is indispensable to SASE. The most significant benefits of both are best achieved by using SD-WAN architecture that most cohesively integrates with SASE services, thus leveraging the flexibility, ease, and other benefits of SD-WAN infrastructure in full. If building a custom SD-WAN network from scratch, it’s even better to create the SD-WAN and SASE services together by hiring the same company to do both.
Related: SASE vs. SD-WAN: Are They Worth Comparing?
Complimentary Systems for Advanced Cloud Networking
Effectively managed SASE and SD-WAN solutions enable businesses to migrate some or all of their critical network infrastructure onto the cloud and simplify their IT network services. Because SASE is built on and made possible by SD-WAN, the future of cloud-based network infrastructure depends on how easily companies can leverage the most cohesive and reliable SD-WAN and SASE software services together.
Doing so requires a basic understanding of how they complement each other and their distinct roles in creating a more flexible, functional, and secure software-based server environment. While SD-WAN affordably improves network performance – especially at the critical “last mile,” where network loads are heaviest – it has several limitations when used independently.
Sharpening the Cloud’s Perimeter
Based on site-to-site connectivity, SD-WAN does not create a strongly defined perimeter and requires additional services to provide remote device connectivity and critical security functions. In the 2010s, enterprises often experienced more complexity with SD-WAN, not less, because they were left managing patchy collections of security services to hold their new infrastructure together.
SASE, on the other hand, incorporates the network performance gains of SD-WAN into a broader package of services for a more cohesive suite of the essential security features listed above. As a result, SASE draws more explicit boundaries around cloud-based environments, enabling safe connectivity from any device with network access – and when a single in-house provider delivers these functions of both SD-WAN and SASE, the entire network is as cohesive as possible.
Protecting the Perimeter
Being a suite of services, SASE goes well beyond basic network functionality. Most importantly, it involves protecting the edge of the SD-WAN through its security brokers (CASB) based on the zero-trust security philosophy. This enables the network to secure itself by authenticating almost every request for data, fulfilling the dual need of protecting the network while allowing employees to access it remotely from any device.
Now, digital assets located in an SD-WAN can function at their fullest while enabling more effortless connectivity without exposing those properties to external threats. The benefits of SD-WAN and SASE are most significant when managed as cohesively as possible – and that requires leveraging the experience of a leading IT management firm specializing in running concurrently or even building custom SASE solutions with an SD-WAN created from the ground up.
Streamlining SASE and SD-WAN Together for Ultimate Network Cohesion
SMBs can radically boost efficiency by integrating their cloud SaaS and technical-support services into a single trusted provider. It enables a more mobile and flexible workforce while providing IT departments with the tools necessary to scale up their entire network infrastructure quickly. With SASE, critical SD-WAN solutions are now just as functional and secure as affordable and flexible.
At BCM One, we apply our team’s depth of IT expertise to provide world-class cloud-networking and -security experiences to every customer. Contact us to leverage our network of over 50 tech partnerships for your SMB and start experiencing the benefits of safely and efficiently migrating critical work infrastructure to the cloud – all without needing to manage more than a single in-house vendor relationship.