Nearly everyone in the networking industry has heard of secure access service edge (SASE), which combines software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) with security service edge (SSE) to protect the entire network. But whether organizations have implemented it is another story. Because of the scope of SASE, it can be intimidating to consider, even if it’s the best way to increase your organization’s security posture for employees no matter their location. 

Single-vendor SASE has emerged as a deployment strategy to reduce complexity, cut costs, and unify management. This approach is when one vendor supplies all aspects of SASE from SD-WAN to the cloud-delivered security services within SSE. This approach eliminates the headache that comes with purchasing, onboarding, and managing solutions from various vendors to cobble together everything you need. Single-vendor SASE reduces the time and resource demand on the IT team, which is critical given the ongoing cybersecurity skills gap. 

If you’re overwhelmed by the scale of SASE, you aren’t alone. The best first step on your journey is finding a single-vendor SASE solution that meets your organization’s unique needs. From there, you can decide the best implementation plan. 

To help organizations understand and realize all the benefits of single-vendor SASE, I’ve outlined key criteria to keep in mind when evaluating solutions.

1. Unified management

For organizations managing a hybrid workforce environment, SASE remote user management should converge with on-premises management. Such consolidation can be even more effective when components deployed in the SASE cloud interoperate with on-premises solutions, ensuring consistent policy orchestration and enforcement. In addition, SASE should integrate into your larger network and security architecture rather than working as a one-off solution. Ideally, the security protocols and policies within SASE are identical to those used elsewhere in the network.

2. Comprehensive, industry-leading security

When evaluating a SASE solution, its security elements need to be expansive and include a full stack of defense capabilities and tools. Also, it is important that all SASE points of presence (PoPs) provide the entire security stack, which should include: firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), domain name system (DNS) security, intrusion prevention system (IPS), data loss prevention (DLP), secure web gateway (SWG), Zero-trust network access (ZTNA), sandboxing, and cloud access security broker (CASB). 

3. Unified agent

Consider a SASE solution that provides a unified agent that can be used for multiple use cases, including endpoint security features and secure connectivity to the cloud and the applications. A unified agent simplifies operations for the IT team and improves user experience.

4. Ability to adapt to evolving network demands

Enterprise networks are always changing, so it’s best to choose a SASE solution that works well in multiple areas, including large branches, microbranches, regulated environments, remote locations, and across the globe. For example, it’s a good idea to choose a solution that integrates with LAN and WAN products and can intelligently redirect traffic to secure microbranches and OT devices. Prioritize a SASE vendor with a strong innovation track record and history of rolling out updates to address new enterprise needs.

5. Validated by third parties and the market

Unbiased, third-party testing and validation from industry analysts can help you understand whether cybersecurity solutions deliver on their marketing taglines and meet your organization’s specific infrastructure needs. Additionally, look for a SASE vendor that has a proven track record in the cybersecurity industry. Although new players may emerge and introduce innovative solutions to the market, it’s important to work with a security vendor that has a history of commitment to its customer base. Peer reviews and analyst reports can provide you with valuable insights on SASE vendors.

6. Deep, native integrations

Vendor sprawl within enterprise environments reduces visibility and control. As recommended above, look for a single-vendor solution, but also make sure that it converges networking and security into a unified solution out of the box. Security and networking components that operate in siloes can’t be automated, and SASE solutions that don’t work with the rest of the network mean that IT teams can’t track and secure communications end to end. 

7. No impact on user experience

A strong SASE solution will seamlessly hand off connections between the cloud and on-premises devices, allowing access and security policies to follow the user rather than terminating at the network’s edge. While it’s ideal if a SASE solution can improve user experience, it’s more important that the solution doesn’t negatively impact user and device connectivity.  

8. Lower total cost of ownership 

When considering the price of a SASE solution, remember that there are cost savings that come with using a single-vendor SASE approach is based on fewer licensing fees and maintenance costs. There are also significant and real savings that come with reduced complexity, lower support costs, and consistently superior user experiences leading to greater productivity—all driving a lower total cost of ownership.

SASE is a Journey

Keep in mind that SASE is a journey, and you’ll likely develop a plan to deploy capabilities in stages to ease your organization into this new architecture. And if you keep these criteria in mind when you select a single-vendor SASE solution, you’ll benefit from comprehensive security, unified management, and improved user experience for all employees no matter their location, driving cost savings and improving business outcomes.