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SDWAN and SASE? Where’s the Connection?


These days, staying ahead of the curve when it comes to things like networks, connectivity, and communication can feel like learning a different language. There are so many terms to keep up with, from “UCaaS” to SIP, and SBC. With a multitude of new concepts to get your head around, it’s easy to end up getting confused.

One of the most important concepts you’ll need to come to terms with in today’s networking landscape is “SDWAN”, or Software-Defined Wide Area Networking. SDWAN is now considered a critical purchase for around 82% of IT decision makers. It’s also one of the most important disruptive technologies for modern companies, ranked alongside tools like 5G networks and IoT.

However, the more you explore the world of SDWAN, the more you encounter concepts like “SASE” – another aspect of networking gaining attention from leading analysts like Gartner. So, what exactly is SASE, and how does it connect to SDWAN?

The Link Between SDWAN and SASE

Let’s start with the basics. Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, or SDWAN, is a centralized, software-based approach to managing and building networks responsible for connecting distributed offices and employees. Companies have begun to rapidly increase their usage of SDWAN in a world where hybrid and remote work is becoming more popular.

SDWAN has been rapidly gaining greater popularity in the last ten years, as an agile, cloud-friendly approach to connectivity. With workloads now shifting to the cloud at speed, SDWAN gives enterprises a more reliable and flexible way to manage a range of network connections.

By unbundling various underlying network transport services and allowing for a software-defined approach to Wide Area Networks, SD-WAN helps enterprises to improve network performance and address challenges like MPLS bandwidth. SDWAN can also deliver additional fault tolerance, and resilience, along with greater reliability via dynamic routing.

So, where does SASE come in? SASE, or “Secure Access Service Edge” is considered a turning point for the networking landscape. Today, many companies still see SASE as a “repackaging” of SDWAN, but SDWAN is actually a subset of SASE. SASE can go beyond the basics of SDWAN on its own by bringing other network and security services into the connectivity fabric.

The Challenges of SDWAN

SDWAN on its own has a lot to offer in the modern networking space, from a centralized control environment for managing connections, to dynamic path selection functionality, so you can ensure the most crucial applications get the most bandwidth.

The rapid growth of SDWAN, to a potential market value of $8.4 billion by 2025, is an insight into how valuable this technology can be. However, SDSWAN alone does have some limitations. Many of the issues companies have with SDWAN come from the fact that an effective modern network requires more than just site-to-site connectivity using flexible cloud services.

SDWAN appliances can have issues like:

  • Lack of advanced security features: SDWAN appliances can help address a range of networking use cases, but they don’t always help with security requirements on their own.
  • Missing global backbone: SDWAN appliances sit on top of an underlying network infrastructure. This means there’s no global backbone.
  • Limited support for mobile workforces: SDWAN appliances are best suited to site-to-site connectivity, which means they may be lacking when supporting field workers.

SASE is widely regarded by many as the next step forward in SDWAN technology. According to Gartner’s definition of SASE, the solution is a combination of security functions, SDWAN capabilities, and security functions. This means SASE systems give you all the benefits of SDWAN, plus some additional “bonus” benefits.

What Does SASE Do Better than SDWAN?

SDWAN is a crucial component of an SASE architecture, but it’s also just one part of a holistic solution. SASE solutions allow businesses to create a single, unified, and global network, which can secure and connect all enterprise sites, SD-mobile users, and edge environments, as well as cloud resources. This allows for a more flexible connectivity stack.

Used correctly, SASE can take SDWAN to the next level, by giving companies the flexibility they want, without compromising on the agility, cost savings, or reach of SDWAN, or the predictability and performance of the MPLS.

Cloud friendliness, flexibility, agility, and cloud savings are all major benefits of SDWAN, and they’re advantages companies can continue to leverage with SASE. The added benefit of SASE is you also get further networking functionality and essential tools for security. Gartner and other analysts therefore believe SASE will provide a more holistic solution for connectivity to modern businesses.

Key characteristics of SASE include:

  • A cloud native environment: A cloud-native, and multi-tenant approach to WAN technology means SASE solutions can support any edge endpoint, from applications used by the mobile workforce to those accessed by remote employees. Even better, you can access this flexibility without sacrificing performance, or security. Because everything is based in the cloud, you can also easily apply upgrades, patches, and changes.
  • Global network: There’s a global private network backbone available from some SASE solutions, which means companies can leverage special features like an uptime guarantee, or access to additional tools for ongoing reliability.
  • Networking and security convergence: SDWAN is an excellent tool for flexible connectivity, however, Gartner and other analysts believe it’s just one piece of a wider puzzle. Alongside SDWAN, SASE also provides features like IPS, SWG, NGF, and more. Your entire network security infrastructure can be delivered from the cloud, for better visibility and control over the entire workforce.
  • Simple management: SASE removes the need for various distinct appliances and a complicated integration process, with an all-in-one, simplified management interface. This helps to keep costs and confusion as low as possible, while improving business performance.
  • Enhanced security: The biggest focus of SDWAN is on smart routing. This is ideal if you have an extensive security system already in-place. On the other hand, with SASE, you get networking and security in one place. There are various crucial tools stacked to help protect against various web-based threats, and cloud issues.

SDWAN vs SASE: Which is Better

Technically, whether you choose to invest in SDWAN on its own, or a full SASE infrastructure, you’re going to be using SDWAN as a tool for upgrading your network connectivity and business ecosystem. The only difference is that with SDWAN, you’re investing in a single technology solution, and with SASE, you’re getting an all-in-one tool for networking and security.

A SASE solution works by providing branch offices, mobile users, retail locations, and other edge environments with secure, and consistent connectivity anywhere. The technology works by leveraging SDWAN alongside additional security tools, to provide companies with an enhanced view and better management of their entire network.

Used correctly, SASE can be a powerful way to reduce capital costs and cut the overheads often associated with deploying networking and security strategies at scale. SASE can also reduce deployment times and improve the time to benefit for businesses.

Unless you already have a comprehensive security environment in place, upgrading to SASE could be an excellent way to access:

  • A holistic view of an organizations network, for better security and control.
  • Simplified network complexity and management with combined SDWAN and other infrastructure solutions (like security tools) in a cloud-based platform.
  • Improved access to agile security fixes and patches to stop cyber-attacks.
  • Better overviews of the company network, and improved access for users on the go.
  • Reduced costs by refining the tools a team uses into a single platform.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing the right security and networking solution for businesses. However, combining networking functionality, security features, and SDWAN, you can end up with a far more comprehensive solution.