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Anywhere, Anytime Workplace Demand for SASE

The ongoing adoption of flexible working models within the enterprise market has significant implications for typical IT organizations that must now support knowledge workers and front-line employees that operate outside the corporate network perimeter.

The global COVID-19 pandemic created IT networking and security challenges. The expansion of the distributed workforce, an increasing reliance on cloud computing infrastructure, and the requirement to securely connect online employees -- wherever they choose to work, at any given moment in time.

Legacy IT solutions that have rigid network underlays and a requirement for on-premises infrastructure cannot adequately deal with these trends. This 'Anywhere, Anytime Workplace' led to demand for new Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions, with networking and security delivered as-a-service.

Anywhere, Anytime Workplace Market Development 

Although converging networking and security capabilities offer enterprises a promising solution, ABI Research believes there is still a considerable misalignment between CIO or CTO perceptions of SASE and the actual proven technology capabilities.

According to the ABI analyst assessment, it’s evident that most services remain in their early stages of convergence, and significant consolidation is required before the true value of SASE can be delivered.

"Consolidation and convergence are essential to driving the value proposition and re-aligning perception with reality. The three areas where this will be vital will be within the private network backbone, zero-trust architecture, and single pane of glass visibility. As these facets of SASE will be critical to its appeal to enterprises," said Reece Hayden, research analyst at ABI Research.

Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how traditional IT vendors bridge these apparent gaps. ABI Research predicts that a combination of M&A, organic development, and partnerships will deliver the most value in the short, medium, and long term.

IT vendors are split between those with cybersecurity expertise and those with networking expertise, with both parties’ development still required. Numerous factors will mean that, in the long run, managed service providers (MSPs) could likely be in the best position to gain from SASE developments.

According to Hayden, "MSP's role as trusted advisors and provision of end-to-end managed services will mean that enterprises, especially SMEs, will favor MSPs after the period of vendor lock-in fades."

This will be especially true for telecom service providers aiming to offer an integrated solution for the management of underlay (cellular network) and overlay (SASE) managed services.

Converging SASE and 5G wireless services is likely to have significant performance synergies, as drawing security to the edge of the mobile network will allow 5G enabled end-users to securely access applications.

SASE single-pass architecture could help securely deliver the performance promises of 5G communication networks. However, ABI says it's unlikely these technologies can be seamlessly integrated, as their core architectural differences mean this requires re-building SASE on 5G standards.

Outlook for SASE Applications Growth

ABI analysts believe the outlook within the global SASE market is positive, but some hurdles must still be overcome such that vendors and MSPs can maximize their solution’s value proposition.

SMEs could likely be the early adaptors, as their cloud-application reliance lends itself to this architecture. For many larger enterprises, adoption will be slower as the current significant deployment bottlenecks may cause delays.

ABI Research predicts that within 3-5 years, larger enterprises will begin the process of adopting SASE, as a single vendor, and fully converged, hybrid solutions emerge across vendors and MSPs.

"This means that, as the opportunities of SASE are wide-ranging, every enterprise, independent of size, must aim to realign expectation with reality and keep an eye on this underdeveloped but continuously evolving market," Hayden concludes.

That said, I believe the market is nascent and subject to shift and further evolve as CIOs and CTOs decide how they foresee utilizing these edge-computing technologies in the most effective manner. The early adopter of SD-WAN technologies has an additional issue to address. Most of these deployments were assumed to support a hub-and-spoke central location and branch-office network architecture.

Pervasive work-from-home employee trends have disrupted that prior IT organization assumption. Now is the time to consider plan-B solutions that are better suited for the Anywhere, Anytime Workforce.

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