What are the differences between SASE vs SSE?

What are the differences - SASE vs SSE

The major differences between SASE and SSE is which service type is being delivered via the cloud; security services or network services. If the core function of the solution is to provide security to networked services, that’s SSE. If a solutions’ main reason for adoption is to provide a more complete suite of network services with security for users and applications built-in, it will look a lot more like a SASE solution.

SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is an approach to security that looks to reimagine the old network security approach. It is no longer enough to "secure the network" as the attack surface for organizations used to be the network itself, but has now extended to the user. The enterprise attack surface is dramatically expanding in the face of both technological advances and changes in ways of working, for example the massive increase in Work From Home (WFH) following COVID-19.

SASE aims to provide secure access for all users to all legacy applications, cloud environments, SaaS applications, mobile devices and computer endpoints through a Zero Trust approach, securing the identity as opposed to the network itself. Rather than simply using firewalls, SASE is achieved through a suite of security solutions including Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), Secure Web Gateways (SWG), Privileged Access Management (PAM), and Identity and Access Management (IAM), which are generally delivered from the cloud as a single unified offering. If we break down SASE, the ‘A’ for ‘Access’ is all about protecting user identities and their access to resources.

Then there’s SSE (Security Service Edge), which specifically refers to the parts of SASE that deal with securing edge services like SD-WAN or CDNs, all while maintaining the important benefits of these services like WAN acceleration and Quality of Service (QoS).

Where SASE is the unified cloud-delivered security solution that brings all organizational access and identity management under a single platform, SSE is a pathway that secures the services edge first and can be incrementally implemented. For completeness, SASE solutions should include relevant SSE solutions, although SSE solutions don’t necessarily need to be implemented fully across the enterprise to benefit from SASE. This makes it possible to immediately secure the users while continuing to work toward securing the network services (or further improving network defenses). Conversely, some organizations may implement SSE across their network edge first because they’re already almost there and then add components to truly achieve SASE. Of course, with the widespread acceptance (which is not the same as adoption!) of the concept of Zero Trust, a full SASE solution which protects users and their applications is becoming preferable over protecting the network edge or perimeter and working toward the users and their applications.

How should SASE and SSE be compared?

SASE solutions and SSE solutions are not antithetical to each other, so, comparing them is not an easy thing to do. Considering that SASE solutions will generally contain what are technically SSE solutions, it may be easier to think of SASE as a cloud-delivered network service with security built-in versus SSE being cloud-delivered security services that protect your network edge. While SASE incorporates security features in its implementation, SASE itself is not really a security solution – only its components. On the other hand, while SSE may be implemented to securely connect to a cloud-delivered network service, they are not in themselves network services.

What is the major difference between SASE and SSE?

The major differences in product solutions between SASE and SSE is which service type is being delivered via the cloud; security services or network services. If the core function of the solution is to provide security to networked services, that’s SSE. If a solutions’ main reason for adoption is to provide a more complete suite of network services with security for users and applications built-in, it will look a lot more like a SASE solution. Once an organization starts implementing the cloud-delivered network services (i.e., SD-WAN) they are now working on a partial SASE solution, no matter what stage the SSE part of the implementation is at. Once SSE is implemented across networks and everything is fully and securely delivered from the cloud to wherever the users may be, a full SASE solution has been implemented.

How SASE and SSE are different from other solutions and similar to each other

These frameworks are both similar in the sense that they tie together many components of network access and security into a single unified solution on a cloud-delivered platform. The key difference is the type of service being delivered by the cloud platform, effectively unifying both WAN edge and security edge for an organization. These frameworks allow for an organization to centrally manage and apply security and access policies in a uniform way across their connected estate while maintaining ease-of-access for users to a wide variety of applications. Together, these frameworks are different from other solutions on the market in the sense that they are focused entirely on unifying all network and security services under a single unified platform. While other solutions will try to provide point solutions to solve individual network or security problems, these are frameworks that aim to tie components together.

Why would an IT decision maker benefit from SASE (Secure Access Service Edge)

An IT decision maker would benefit from a SASE solution if the organization were already moving toward cloud-delivered services. Then, they can provide their users with ubiquitous access to enterprise resources while meeting their security needs. The traditional network-level security approach with firewalls, IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), and a centralized Windows domain handling access control has never been an easy architecture to maintain with a remote workforce and it’s certainly not conducive to properly implementing a Zero Trust environment. SASE is the solution for these needs as it aims to provide central management, application delivery and security from the cloud to the users, wherever they may be.

Otherwise, an organization looking to modernize their infrastructure while building-in security would benefit from the SASE framework's solutions. The confusion comes in when someone believes that the implementation of SASE must be all-encompassing, or all-or-nothing. Therefore, they may feel that the true cost and time associated with implementation of a SASE solution may appear to be unaffordable when compared to point solutions that may seem to more quickly or even practically solve an immediate need. As mentioned previously, these point solutions only offer a piece to the overall security and modernization puzzle. SSE helps to bridge that gap a little bit and offers a way to think about SASE as a suite of components that can be implemented incrementally, therefore allowing decision makers to view these next-generation solutions on more of a level playing field.

Why would an IT decision maker benefit from SSE (Security Service Edge)

The SSE solution is going to be useful for organizations with same requirements – those who have a diverse and geographically dispersed workforce who need to use a variety of applications from wherever they are, whenever they need them – and they need to have a level of security assurance while doing so. But, SSE can be most beneficial for those who may not have the ability to deploy a single, unified platform for both security and network controls, as a single project. This is because SSE solutions can be implemented incrementally and can be viewed as somewhat of a stepping stone on the way to a complete SASE solution. The SSE solutions will focus on unifying and delivering security services to specific networks or services first, in this scenario. An IT decision maker may choose to go the SSE path first due to the high complexity, perceived or actual depending on circumstances, of implementation and deployment of a full SASE solution. Considerations could include direct costs, time, or impact to business operations. SSE gives some flexibility to the speed and rate at which the organization implements their security solution.

Use cases for SASE (Secure Access Service Edge)

There are several use cases where SASE solutions will truly shine. SASE is designed to achieve central management of network connectivity and data security and its underlying security components can work together to protect organizations from advanced and emerging threats, all while facilitating workforce transformation and securely enabling remote work, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and edge computing projects, WAN acceleration, and improvements in application and service delivery performance. As organizations adapt to today’s workforce and the modernization of the business technologies SASE solutions are positioned as a framework to unify solutions for network and security requirements that enable users to achieve their organization’s mission.

The move to SASE is a very large goal with a lot of organizational impact to consider. It is often not possible to implement all of the changes necessary for a true fully implemented SASE solution without a lot of planning. Many different departments (often times, if not all departments) will need to make changes in their operational workflows and IT organizations will need to expend additional resources for a period of time to maintain operations while enabling a smooth transition to new platforms (or new integrations between existing platforms). Most organizations are moving towards a cloud-centric infrastructure and delivery standard, so eventually SASE will be everyone’s goal. But, not all will get there in the same way or in the same time, as with many new technology paradigm shifts.

Use cases for SSE (Security Service Edge)

Use cases for SSE coincide with those of SASE but they tackle different parts of the same problem. Where SASE stands to globally centralize application and service delivery as well as security policy management for distributed organizations, SSE tackles security connectivity challenges in a way where the focus can be narrowed. SSE can be implemented to secure access to cloud services and applications, connecting and securing remote workers, preventing data loss and identifying important and sensitive data, as well as detecting and mitigating threats – but potentially for a single business unit or even geographic location. SSE usually fits well where organizations are moving infrastructure toward the cloud and steering away from any legacy on-premise network services, but don't have the ability to go all-in with global change from the beginning.

Conclusion - SASE vs SSE

To summarize, the difference between SASE solutions and SSE solutions is the set of services being provided by the solution; network services with security features or security services with networking components. They are not counter solutions, meaning that they do work together and even fall under the umbrella of the SASE framework when implemented together. They should be compared based on the services being delivered and can even be thought of as counterparts to each other. It is important to not compare SASE solutions to other component-level solutions like ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) or PAM (Privileged Access Management) solutions, as these are necessary parts of a complete SASE or SSE solution, not alternatives to those solutions.

Most importantly, we should understand why it makes sense to move toward SASE or SSE. Today, most organizations are going to reach a point where similar driving factors like cloud adoption and remote workforce enablement will justify the business and architecture changes necessary to move from traditional network security solutions toward SASE and SSE solutions. Any organization looking to embrace the cloud should be looking at SASE and SSE solutions, as they provide a way to deliver anything to or from the cloud securely. Finally, keep in mind that SSE solutions are there for organizations looking to incrementally make the move to the cloud or toward a full SASE solution, while SASE is more of a global end-state solution where an organization’s networks and security management are truly unified.

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