Ten SASE Trends To Look For In 2021


Another year, another era. 2020 was a year like none other for IT. The biggest exercise in remote working ever seen in the COVID-19 response. The worst hack in the SolarWinds attack. And, yes, the evolution of a new network architecture called SASE.

What does 2021 have in store for the SASE market? Based on conversations with my customers who’ve deployed SASE, the vendors offering SASE, and my own experiences in crystal ball gazing, here are my 10 SASE trends that I expect to be talking about at the end of 2021.

#10 SASE Writes the Obit for SD-WAN

It’s pretty amazing that SASE was only introduced, what, 18 months ago? But in a year from now, I doubt that we’ll be talking about SD-WAN as an enterprise architecture. Oh sure, there will be iSD-WAN deployments; it is a key component of SASE, after all. But SD-WAN as the key,  enterprise architecture will give way to SASE. SASE deployments —  not SD-WAN deployments —   will dominate our conversations by December.

#9 SASE means office connectivity AND remote access

Users are working from home, but if your company is like most, it will gradually also shift back to the office. This means that SASE offerings can’t ignore one or the other. They must equally support offices and remote users. For those SASE vendors that lack remote access, look for them to add the capability this year. For those SASE vendors already with remote access look for them to…

#8 …Give remote access more love

SASE was always meant to support users anywhere. In the rush to meet the pandemic crush, some SASE vendors quickly rolled out remote access. Look for them to go back and improve their offerings, enriching them with better security and reporting capabilities.

#7  Analytics for home users 

With users working from home, SASE reporting and analytics tools now face new challenges. IT will often be called on to diagnose what are in fact home WiFi issues. Expect SASE providers to add new tools and capabilities to help, if they don’t already have them already in their existing product.

#6 SASE gets MDR love

Security is implicit to SASE. You can’t have a SASE solution that does not secure the edges with a NGFW, SWG or both.  It is called secure access service edge for a reason. But while SASE solutions must include security capabilities, they don’t necessarily include the management of those tools and the analysis of those logs.

And that’s a problem, as most enterprises struggle with security. In a recent survey from Cato Networks, 71% of respondents made protecting the business against new security threats their top concern. The problem? Time and resources. 57% of respondents lacked time and resources to implement recognized security best practices. Of those, 32% of respondents indicated that they failed to timely patch their software and systems. With high profile attacks notably like the one that hit SolarWinds, I expect enterprises to address this problem

And that’s where Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services kick-in. They manage and maintain the security for infrastructure, proactively hunting threats. We’ve already seen several SASE providers deliver MDR in 2020, notably Cato Networks and Open Systems. I expect more will follow and will tightly integrate MDR into their SASE platforms.

#5 Best of breed will rule

The very early days of SASE were marked by a battle of architectures: spanking new cloud-native implementations went toe-to-toe with feature-rich appliances. In truth, there’s no disagreement that ultimately SASE is expected to be a cloud-native architecture; Gartner has said as much in their reports. It was only for those of us who work in the here-and-now, who actually build today’s networks, who have to deal with SASE appliances.

Ultimately, we’ll move to a cloud-native SASE services and then, like all areas, the story will be about features and capabilities. In 2021, expect the SASE market to mature and vendors to flush out their security offerings as well as their SD-WAN and remote access capabilities. With attacks like the SUNBURST malware generating the kind of high-profile coverage we’ve seen, IT leaders simply won’t risk compromising on security functionality. Do you really want to be the guy to explain why attackers exploited a router that sat unpatched for the last 18 months? Successful SASE companies will look to fold in best-of-breed functions into a cloud-native platform or bring their products up to speed to compete.

#4 PoPs will start popping up everywhere

By the end of 2021, we’re going to see SASE providers ramp up PoP deployments. SASE providers will go beyond the handful of compute PoPs delivered by cloud providers of today to deliver global, dense networks, opening their own PoPs or leveraging other cloud provider networks. PoP coverage will be critical if a cloud-native service is actually going to be enterprise ready. PoPs deployments will be driven by more than just the normal pressure placed when connecting up sites.

With companies sticking to a WFH (work-from-home) model, corporate networks will involve far more and varied locations. WFH will allow changes in hiring practices as new employees can be in remote locations, reducing payroll costs and letting companies tap skills that might not have been affordable or available in their area. From an IT perspective, this is going to pressure SASE providers to have PoPs in these remote areas to accommodate the new users.

#3 30% of new WAN installations will go SASE 

With offices sitting empty and companies investing in home users, infrastructure investments need to accommodate both domains. Legacy MPLS networks are sitting under-utilized and costing a bundle. All of which will push more and more organizations to reevaluate their priorities and invest in network architectures that equally accommodate offices and mobile users accessing applications in data centers and the cloud. SASE solution that can displace global MPLS backbone will get the nod.

#2 SASE meets IoT 

SASE is meant to connect ALL devices and resources and that includes…your refrigerator. During 2021, we’ll start to see the first SASE deployment that involves IoT infrastructure. Ultimately, though this might be a 2022 thing, look for SASE appliances to aggregate IoT sensor data, enabling organizations to deploy a single SASE appliance in their windmill, warehouses or anywhere else sensor data needs to be aggregated together.

#1 SASE brings peace and harmony to security and networking teams 

Peace and love will finally prevail in the IT domains as the security and networking team finally work together in harmony. With SASE, the two teams will gain a common platform they can both use for their respective domains. Relying on technologies, like role-based access control (RBAC), SASE providers will be able to give separate views to the respective teams. The integration of security and networking will give the team common reference points and reports to, dare I say, work together in peaceful IT bliss.

Agree or disagree with my projections? Let me know. And if you have a few of your own to share, email me here . We’ll be aggregating SASE predictions and post them in a future piece. Be sure to include your name, link to LinkedIn profile, and any bio information you want so we can show you some love in return.

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