In today's complex enterprise environments, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) grapple with the constant challenge of staying ahead of threats, managing complexity and ensuring efficient and secure access. The ever-evolving corporate networks now encompass both cloud and on-premises infrastructure and distributed workforces. Balancing security and connectivity has never been more challenging.

Hybrid and multi-cloud IT ecosystems of today introduce complexity to effective security management. Innovative technologies like SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) and zero trust offer a promising way to simplify security architectures and policy management. SASE integrates networking and network security functions, such as SD-WAN, SSE and ZTNA, into a single cloud-native service, streamlining secure access. Likewise, zero trust focuses on data protection and reduced access by removing implicit trust and access control in networks. These approaches provide the efficiency and flexibility that the enterprise needs.

Still, complexity and a lack of interoperability can limit the potential of these technologies. This is where standards come into play, and they have a crucial role in addressing these challenges.

Challenges in modern enterprise security

Complexity is a significant pain point in modern IT environments. The use of multiple vendors and solutions for security and network functions makes it challenging and time-consuming to manage and troubleshoot the network while ensuring security. The proliferation of hybrid, distributed and multi-cloud environments adds to this complexity. Meanwhile, remote workforces and increased cloud adoption have expanded the attack surface, putting critical data outside the traditional perimeter and heightening the risk of threats. Manual processes, a lack of automation, and limited scalability hinder agility and increase costs. Limited visibility into cloud and network traffic, security postures and performance further complicates identifying issues and optimization of performance, making it difficult to respond quickly to potential cybersecurity threats.

The promise of SASE & zero trust

SASE and Zero Trust, with their cloud-native models, are well-suited for today's distributed enterprise environments. SASE combines networking and security into an integrated cloud service, streamlining access, authentication and authorization, and management. Zero trust enhances security by eliminating the assumption of trust and minimizing access. Together, they provide efficient, scalable and flexible access, allowing enterprises to support their dynamic cloud infrastructure, mobile workforce and evolving needs with security that is user-friendly and adaptable to changing threats and requirements. The result is simplified access, improved agility and efficiency and ultimately an enhanced user experience.

The role of standards

SASE represents a shift in thinking about security due to its integration of networking and security. Networking and security teams may possess different skill sets, making it vital to establish a common language to create synergy among these teams. SASE standards define shared terminology, service attributes, and a service framework, simplifying solutions and enabling customers to compare SASE offerings more easily.

SASE standards facilitate multiple deployment models. Cloud security providers and service providers can make adjustments to their implementations to comply with SASE standards. This, in turn, enables them to offer SASE solutions that best support enterprise needs.

Benefits of standards

The rise of hybrid work has created a need for unified security and networking that provides seamless and secure access for distributed users. SASE delivers this user-centric approach, but implementation can be complex. Industry standards like those offered by MEF reduce this complexity for enterprises, enabling faster decision-making and deployment. Furthermore, as SASE becomes critical for securing cloud-native applications and remote workers, organizations need assurance that they are selecting effective solutions tailored to their needs. Independent SASE certification provides this assurance by validating performance and security. Broad adoption of unified standards and certified offerings empowers enterprises to evaluate options easily and implement SASE with confidence, enabling secure digital transformation. Ultimately, standards and certification deliver visibility and confidence for businesses embracing SASE in today’s distributed environments.

As enterprises continue their digital transformation journeys in today's complex hybrid environments, CISOs are focused on tackling security challenges like reducing complexity, improving efficiency and enabling secure access across distributed users and cloud infrastructure. New technologies like SASE and zero trust offer compelling solutions, but only if thoughtfully implemented with interoperability and standards in mind.