4 Big Takeaways from SASE Converge 2021 Day 1

Sep 29, 2021
6 minutes

The first day of SASE Converge 2021 brought together a diverse and impressive group of business and technology leaders to share their unique perspectives on SASE. What does secure access service edge (SASE) mean for each of them? In this post, I have distilled some of the diverse insights from the day.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about SASE Converge 2021 - don’t worry, you didn’t miss your chance! The sessions are available to watch on-demand.


#4: SASE Puts the User at the Center of the Universe

Gartner® Vice President and distinguished analyst Neil MacDonald kicked off his session by proclaiming that the excitement and energy around SASE has exceeded that of any other trend that he has covered in information security during his more than 20 years with Gartner.

MacDonald went on to deliver one of the most comprehensive, relatable descriptions of SASE that I’ve heard. With more data and applications outside of the traditional data center than inside, the classic network and network security architectures are fundamentally broken. SASE turns these models inside out and puts the user at the center of the universe. Regarding security, “the perimeter is no longer a location... it’s a capability, delivered dynamically from the cloud.”

He then described four meaningful outcomes to expect from implementing a SASE architecture today, including:

  • Opportunities for vendor consolidation
  • Reduction of complexity
  • Achieving a Zero Trust security posture
  • Most importantly, he said, SASE will allow your workers to do a better job today, regardless of location or device

Unlike the rest of the conference, Neil MacDonald’s session “Why SASE is Now a Strategic Imperative and How to Get Started Today” will only be available for on-demand replay for a limited time. If you missed it live, I recommend you stop what you’re doing and watch it now.


#3: SASE is a Significant Competitive Advantage

Prior to the pandemic, global investment bank Jefferies started adopting SASE using Prisma Access to secure access for their users and enable work-from-anywhere. Fast forward to 2020, the bank was prepared when the pandemic required them to shutter their offices and enable their entire global workforce to work from home. Meanwhile, many of their banking competitors were experiencing a less seamless transition to remote work.

“With a SASE architecture that is both providing the infrastructure and connectivity back to our data centers, as well as having that complete security stack baked into the middle very close to the end-user, wherever they were, globally, during the pandemic, that provided that critical backbone in order to enable our business to serve our clients,” said Josh Dye, senior vice president of information security at Jefferies. “We were able to take a lot of market share from other banks that weren’t able to pivot as quickly as we were, to be able to provide those services back to our clients.”

Hear more real-world customer experiences in the session “​​Meet the Ultimate SASE Trailblazers.”


#2: Employee Choice was Precipitated by the Pandemic and Work is Never Going to Be the Same

Like every other organization, when the pandemic struck, Palo Alto Networks needed to react quickly to ensure the safety and productivity of each of its 10,000 employees. However, the company also took this opportunity to reimagine other aspects of the employee experience as well.

Although remote work was initially a requirement for most office staff, the company leadership envisioned a future where work location was just one of many individual choices that an employee should be empowered to make for themself. Liane Hornsey, Chief People Officer, recalled that “We realized that if we could smash that paradigm (that employees should work from the office), and we were going to lose no productivity, there were other things we could do differently.”

In 2020, the company rolled out FLEXWORK, an employee choice-driven program that includes a broad range of initiatives – adding flexibility to benefits, learning opportunities, and work location. Even after the pandemic ends, Hornsey sees employer flexibility with respect to things like work location as a requirement for organizations to remain competitive with a global pool of knowledge workers.

Fortunately for Palo Alto Networks’ IT organization, enabling employee choice to work from anywhere was pretty straightforward. According to CIO Naveen Zutshi, because the company had already implemented a SASE architecture, there were no manual infrastructure changes required to enable the new FLEXWORK paradigm. What’s more, the shift to a cloud-based infrastructure has reduced the daily operational workload and freed up IT to implement new programs that will further enable the future of work at the company.

Hear more from Palo Alto Networks Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey and CIO Naveen Zutshi in the session “How Palo Alto Networks Enabled the Future of Work with SASE.


#1: SASE is the Only Way to Achieve Zero Trust for Users

In his session on the role of SASE in Zero Trust, Palo Alto Networks founder and CTO Nir Zuk introduces the Zero Trust Enterprise, a strategic framework for understanding and practically implementing a Zero Trust security posture throughout your organization. The framework breaks down the enterprise into the three domains (Users, Applications, and Infrastructure) and the four parts of each digital transaction that need to be verified (Identity, Device/Workload, Access, and Transaction) in order to remove all implicit trust.

Trying to get each of the necessary security functions as different point products for different use cases - the ‘whac-a-mole’ approach - will inherently have different levels of security, introducing some level of implicit trust. Therefore, SASE (by enforcing least privilege access and verifying user transactions in the same way, regardless of where the user is and what kind of application they are using) is the only way to truly achieve Zero Trust for users.

“We have an opportunity to do things right in cybersecurity,” said Nir Zuk. “We are rearchitecting our WAN and our internet security infrastructure. We are rearchitecting our data center security, our security operations centers… when it comes to Zero Trust for users, the best way to do that is SASE.”

Catch Nir Zuk’s session on-demand, “Stop Playing Security Whac-A-Mole: The Role of SASE for Complete Zero Trust.”


Don’t Miss SASE Converge 2021 Day 2

Day 1 may be over, but there is still time to register and watch day 2 live! Day 2 will cover deeper into the new product innovations that support SASE. All the sessions will be available on-demand, but the Gartner session on “Why SASE is Now a Strategic Imperative and How to Get Started Today” is only available for on-demand replay for a limited time. Watch it today! Be sure to read my recap of Day 2.

SASE converge webinar featuring Gartner, Why SASE is now a Strategic Imperative and how to get started today, Neil MacDonald, September 28, 2021.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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