You say SASE, I say SSE, just don't call the whole thing off. Among the speedbumps halting SASE growth are confusion and divergence over the definition, plus product shortages.

Kelsey Ziser, Senior Editor

December 28, 2022

3 Min Read
Looking ahead: SASE is too messy

As 2022 draws to a close, it's the perfect time to start brainstorming New Year's resolutions. The telecom industry could certainly benefit from resolving to clear up confusion surrounding SASE if service providers' enterprise customers are expected to jump on board with yet another acronym with dreams of being a managed service.

What the heck is SASE anyway?

Among the speedbumps halting SASE growth is a bit of confusion over the definition. Secure access service edge (SASE, pronounced "Sassy") was coined by Gartner analysts in 2019.

Figure 1: SASE adoption has hit a few road blocks. (Image source: Eugene Sergeev/Alamy Stock Photo.) SASE adoption has hit a few road blocks. (Image source: Eugene Sergeev/Alamy Stock Photo.)

According to Gartner, SASE combines network security functions (such as SWG, CASB, FWaaS and ZTNA), with WAN capabilities (i.e., SD-WAN) to support businesses' secure access needs. Omdia Analyst Fernando Montenegro describes SASE as a "framework architecture, not a solution."

As a grouping of technologies, some confusion over SASE has arisen. To clear that up, industry organizations such as MEF are developing standards and definitions around both SD-WAN and SASE, in coordination with service providers.

SSE emerges because why not

Since no one could say "SASE" without giggling, or perhaps because launching a full SASE service was quite complex for a distributed workforce (thanks, COVID-19), SASE's sibling "SSE" was born.

"The contrast is that SASE focuses on a user's secure access needs as a part of the solution. SSE, on the other hand, mainly focuses on cloud-centric security services for the protection of users," according to Juta Gurinaviciute, Forbes Councils Member and CTO for NordLayer, a remote access security provider.

Gurinaviciute explained that SSE is SASE minus SD-WAN. SSE is essentially a way for enterprises to focus more on cloud-based security as a stepping stone to a full SASE service.

All hype or actual market adoption?

Whichever road is chosen – SSE or SASE – bringing together traditionally siloed networking and security services sounds enticing.

"I think everybody's really excited about SASE because enterprises keep asking about it," Omdia Analyst Adeline Phua told Light Reading in a recent podcast. "It's got so much buzz in the market."

However, Phua found that excitement about SASE/SSE hasn't necessarily equated to mass adoption of the service.

"We're thinking that maybe adoption is really hitting that tipping point, only to find out when we talk to service providers and to enterprises that the adoption is really not there yet," she added.

SD-WAN is only expected to hit 87% market penetration by 2023, according to an Omdia survey, explained Phua. Plus, enterprises that are using SD-WAN aren't deploying it at all their sites, she said. Part of the problem stems from supply chain challenges triggered by COVID-19 which have resulted in a shortage of products and SD-WAN deployment delays.

Service providers need to step it up

Where service providers can make progress in assisting their enterprise customers' adoption of SASE is by providing it as a managed service with significant value add "on top of just the staff, the platform itself," explained Omdia's Fernando Montenegro. That might look like providing more visibility into network health and potential security threats.

Phua echoed Montenegro's assessment: "Service providers will still need to keep looking out for new innovations and what else can we onboard to make sure that is a more complete solution for the enterprise customers. So there's still a lot of way to go in terms of this journey."

Here's to hoping the SSE/SASE road isn't as meandering as a Jack Kerouac novel.

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

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