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The continued rise of single-vendor SASE offerings promises benefits to businesses. What are the pros and cons of the security architecture option?

Mounting interest in single-vendor SASE solutions looks to be on the road to flipping the market away from multi-vendor offerings that have been tracked since pre-Covid.

Some market research reports done this year confirm that more enterprises are opting for one company, as opposed to multiple technology firms, to provide and pull together all crucial pieces of the SASE architecture. One example is from Dell’Oro Group, where its research found that while multi-vendor solutions have accounted for most of the market for years, single-vendor SASE solutions will take the lead this year.

Another report by the Gartner Group found that single-vendor SASE offerings are expected to constitute one-third of all new deployments by 2025. That is up from just 10% last year.

Why is the single vendor SASE trend paramount to IT leaders?

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is an enterprise networking technology category introduced by Gartner in 2019. It converges the functions of network and security solutions into a unified, global cloud-native service. SASE allows an architectural transformation of enterprise networking and security. That, in turn, lets IT provide an agile and adaptable service to its users. It combines WAN edge services with Secure Service Edge tools and services to securely connect remote users and sites to data, cloud services, and the enterprise.

Enterprises are finding single-vendor SASE offerings more appealing than before. That's largely because the segment maturity has and continues to increase, which has resulted in an increase in comfort in purchasing an entire security architecture package from a single vendor, according to Dell’Oro Group.

Single-vendor SASE benefits

With this approach, one SASE provider delivers multiple benefits. The offerings typically:

  • Converge network and security capabilities into a single, cloud-delivered service.
  • Enable enterprises to consolidate different point products, drop appliances, and empower consistent policy enforcement.
  • Cut integration and management times and resources between multiple SASE components.
  • Make it easier to monitor and troubleshoot.
  • Attain granular SLAs spanning all aspects of performance provided by the single vendor to cut finger-pointing.

Potential disadvantages with single vendor approach

Going with a single vendor approach with SASE is not without risk, according to Ian Barkin, a business of technology and management issues expert, founder of 2B Ventures, and an MIT Management Graduate. He notes that some points to consider with a single vendor solution are that:

  • Enterprises face vendor lock-in, where you are dependent on one vendor with limited power in negotiations and changes.
  • Businesses may miss innovation and new capabilities that working with multiple providers can often deliver – and faster.
  • Depth and breadth of expertise and resources that may exceed what is available with a single vendor that may be available by a multiple vendor team.
  • Enterprises may have to deal with quality issues or service disruptions if the vendor underperforms or fails.

Another technology expert believes single vendor SASE solutions are an “overpromise” and that finding a single SASE provider is easier said than done.

"They promise simplicity, integration, and a single point of contact for support," began Matthew McKee, Director of Technology and Transformation at Bluewave Technology Group, a tech assessment and evaluation firm. "However, in practice, finding a single vendor that excels in all the areas encompassed by SASE can be a daunting, if not impossible, task, and that's before layering in the unique requirements of your business." Network solutions and security are complex fields, each comprising multiple sub-disciplines. It is rare to find a single vendor with top-tier expertise in all these areas."

The top SASE vendors: Key takeaways

The most important point when it comes to teaming with a top SASE vendor is that the companies in the market offer a wide array of services and solutions. Some of the vendors deliver a complete and managed SASE service. These offerings are often called single-vendor SASE solutions. Others supply either critical SD-WAN or cloud-based security solutions and then, in turn, team with a vendor or provider that complements their offering to build a complete SASE solution. Given these points, how should businesses advance their understanding of SASE single vendor approaches and beyond?

Technology research and analysis firms such as Gartner Group and Dell 'Oro Group have recently published reports on single-vendor SASE, with most positioning vendors based on what they offer and what they lack.

Reviewing independent research combined with content that explains SASE basics, market trends, and relevant industry developments will aid in your undertakings.

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The plan targets five bands for greater use, calls for a dynamic spectrum-sharing testbed, and incentives for advanced management products.

Greater and more efficient use of precious wireless spectrum has taken a top priority in the U.S. with the release by the White House on Monday of a plan to help the nation optimize spectrum use and management.

The Secretary of Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), has developed the National Spectrum Strategy to promote private sector innovation and further the missions of federal departments and agencies, according to the White House.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which handles commercial uses of spectrum and coordinates with other Federal departments and agencies, also collaborated in the effort.

The NTIA claims the Strategy will do the following:

  • Expand access to advanced wireless broadband networks and technologies, whether terrestrial-, airspace-,satellite-, or space-based, for all Americans.
  • Drive technological innovation (including innovative spectrum-sharing technologies).
  • Boost U.S. industrial competitiveness; protect the security of the American people.
  • Foster scientific advancements; promote digital equity and inclusion.
  • Maintain U.S. leadership in global markets for wireless equipment and services, as well as innovative spectrum-sharing technologies.

Focusing on five bands for earlier use?

Extensive study, input, and analysis led the NTIA to "identify the following five spectrum bands meriting in-depth study in the near term." Use of some of these bands is already underway, however. "This approximately 2,790 megahertz of spectrum represents a mix of bands for potential expanded governmental and non-governmental use for an array of advanced, next-generation applications and services:"

Lower 3 GHz (3.1-3.45 GHz): Pursuant to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) has studied the possibility of sharing this 350 megahertz of spectrum with the private sector. DoD’s studies helped to determine whether this band should be reallocated for shared Federal and non-Federal use and licensed through auction.

5030-5091 MHz: The FCC, in coordination with NTIA and the Federal Aviation Administration, is expected to take near-term action to facilitate limited deployment of UAS in this band. Thereafter, this 61 megahertz of spectrum will be studied so that the FCC can optimize UAS spectrum access across the band while avoiding harmful interference to other protected in-band and adjacent-band operations.

7125-8400 MHz: This 1,275 megahertz block of spectrum will be studied for wireless broadband use (on a licensed and/or unlicensed basis), though some sub-bands eventually may be studied for other uses. There are, however, a variety of mission-critical Federal operations in this band (including Fixed, Fixed Satellite, Mobile, Mobile Satellite, Space Research, Earth Exploration Satellite, and Meteorological Satellite services) that will make it challenging to repurpose portions of the band while protecting incumbent users from harmful interference.

18.1-18.6 GHz: This 500 megahertz of spectrum will be studied for expanded Federal and non-Feder

al satellite operations, consistent with the U.S. position at the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), which would add space-to-space allocations to this band (among others). Fixed Satellite Service downlink operations are currently authorized in the band. In addition, non-Federal Fixed Service is authorized in the 18.1- 18.3 GHz segment of the band.

37.0-37.6 GHz: Building on prior collaborative efforts of NTIA, DoD, and the FCC, this 600 megahertz of spectrum will be further studied to implement a co-equal, shared-use framework allowing Federal and non-Federal users to deploy operations in the band.

Also on the to-do list:

DSS Testbed: “The U.S. Government will establish a national testbed for dynamic spectrum sharing. This testbed will be a critical part of the U.S. Government’s effort to advance the technology for spectrum access within 12 to 18 months, in collaboration with industry, with an emphasis on dynamic spectrum sharing. The testbed will serve as a technical demonstration platform, enabling national policymakers to identify and assess spectrum access technologies through experimentation in Federal and non-Federal spectrum segments.”

The “Moonshot:” The NTIA claims the U.S. will, within 12 to 18 months, complete a so-called “moonshot” effort, in collaboration with industry, “to advance research, create investment incentives, and set forth measurable goals for advancing the state of technology for spectrum access, with an emphasis on dynamic forms of spectrum sharing for all users.”

What’s next for the National Spectrum Strategy?

The availability of additional spectrum could lead to new and advanced services for enterprises, government agencies, and other users – sooner than all parties had reason to expect. However, this would require a high level of coordination, collaboration, and commitment – likely last seen with the original moonshot.

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Are the latest NTN developments, led by the FCC and LEO bird owners, milestones on the road to broadened use of satellite services by Enterprise IT?

Communications services that leverage Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites promise to expand communications and network services for enterprises far beyond high-speed Internet access.

The emergence of these planned satellite services could be aided in part by the FCC’s recent streamlining of the application process and provide enterprise network planners with new options for optimization.

A year ago, the focus was on how much time it would take big-name players such as Iridium, SpaceX, OneWeb, AST, Viasat, Amazon (Project Kuiper), and others to launch enough LEOs into space to build constellations of birds to be considered viable for enterprise IT. Delays have slowed some players, such as Amazon, which recently launched its first two LEOs for its internet service into space recently. But by comparison, Musk's SpaceX has launched thousands and is offering services internationally.

What is NTN?

NTN stands for Non-Terrestrial Networks, and in this context, it specifically refers to a specification released by the 3GPP in early 2022 as part of Release 17.

NTNs are defined as wireless communication systems that operate above the Earth's surface, involving satellites at LEO, medium-Earth orbit (MEO), and geostationary orbit (GEO).

What can they enable?

Beyond voice and text, there are two other offering areas to expect, according to TechlteWorld.

Edge Computing: NTN can support 5G mobile edge applications by providing distributed computing and content delivery capabilities in diverse geographic locations.

Low-Power IoT: NTN is good for low-power IoT devices and applications, making it suitable for remote sensor deployments and environmental monitoring.

What is 5G in NTN?

Advances in standards, such as those from 3GPP, are creating opportunities to integrate NTN into an interoperable, standardized wireless experience spanning the globe, according to 5G Americas. Emerging LEO satellite services technology is advancing wireless networking for users.

The promise of 5G NTN partnerships

T-Mobile/SpaceX and Verizon/Amazon strategic partnerships support via LEO satellites connectivity and messaging for users beyond the reach of wireless networks. Iridium teamed with wireless infrastructure creator Qualcomm.

Satellite communications providers have forged ahead, prepping more than internet services, including packages that let individuals work from remote locations and when mobile.

Services delivered via LEOs have gained ground in the internet services market, helping in the defense sector, maritime communications, and agriculture.

The FCC acts to fuel satellite service evolution

At an open meeting last month, the FCC revealed changes to the satellite application process designed to fuel advancement in the space sector by simplifying and shortening the protracted procedures.

The FCC moves are needed to address the increasing volume of pending applications, with roughly 56,000 currently in the queue, which the chair said is double the backlog it had years ago.

The move is meant to drive innovation, according to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. “It is a new era, so we eliminate old rules that no longer meet the moment and establish clear timeframes for placing space and earth station applications on public notice. This makes our process easier to understand for existing players and new entrants alike.”

Another plus for the sector’s advancement comes from the recently created FCC Space Bureau, which provides FAQs and workshops to give more applicants information to help them file.

Two critical questions for Enterprise IT are:

What is the timing for satellite-to-cellphone services? SpaceX-owned Starlink claimed its satellite-to-cellphone (NTN) service will launch in 2024. The Musk-owned company said in mid-October it will first offer SMS, followed by voice and data services, and IoT connectivity in 2025.

Will the latest developments accelerate the availability of satellite services? What remains to be seen is how quickly the LEO satellite's opportunity can expand and gain broad acceptance from businesses, financiers, regulators, and countries around the globe. However, the recent streamlining of the application process by the FCC, combined with progress by Amazon's Kuiper undertaking, could speed up the service delivery process.

The road ahead for NTN and LEO-driven satellite services

Corporate network planners should expect the NTN service sector to deliver an array of new networking offerings beginning next year and into 2025. This period would place this satellite to cellular sector options into the realm of additions to enterprise network expansion and enhancement. Look for use cases in additional vertical industries, as many businesses are looking to expand their use of satellite-driven services.

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A zero trust architecture reduces a network's attack surface and lowers the risk of a data breach. Here are some tips when implementing such an architecture.

Understanding Zero Trust Architecture

Zero trust is a high-level strategy that assumes that individuals, devices, and services that are attempting to access company resources, even those inside the network, cannot implicitly be trusted. To enhance security, these users are verified every time they request access, even if they were authenticated earlier.

Read more: Top Tips for a Strong Zero Trust Architecture

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Plan to expand? Prepare for country-specific plans to sunset 2G and 3G nets for 5G to rise.

IT leaders need to evaluate the benefits and the challenges of wireless networking outside the U.S. before deciding whether to do business in foreign countries.

For now, and for years, they need to avoid getting stuck in the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks in favor of newer 5G network service. That typically means forced software or hardware device upgrades.

While many countries have sunset the older networks to drive 5G, many countries, including most of Africa and chunks of Asia, are sticking with 2G and 3G for the foreseeable future. This results in technical and business barriers for expansion-minded U.S. enterprises.

Thinking of International Expansion? Not so fast.

Torecap, wireless operators in the U.S. and abroad have recently shut down their 2G and 3G networks to use the precious radio frequency spectrum to support the creation of more advanced and feature-rich 5G networks.

However, there is no single mandate or timeline for other countries to make the switch. In fact, countries with two or more wireless operators, including the U.S. and Canada, do not have a single common date for shutdowns.

This creates a global puzzle of wireless offerings for businesses to piece together. Doing business in countries not on the same page can result in slower speeds, higher costs, communications complexities, and security challenges.

Questions to ask operators when planning a business expansion

When considering expanding a U.S. business into foreign countries, IT planners need to research the following crucial items.

  • What is the country's timeline for sunsetting older wireless networks in favor of 4G and 5G networks and services? They vary, and many countries do not have one.
  • Will reported 5G benefits over older wireless nets – lower energy costs and less carbon use – be passed along by operators to new businesses in a desired country?
  • What wireless service(s) will the countries’ carriers provide for IoT devices, most of which have relied on 2G and 3G networks in the past (and in the U.S.)? Will 2G service continue for IoT and other dependent devices after 5G takes hold?
  • What version/release of 5G do/will you support? For example, a recent version supports a capability called NR Reduced Capacity (RedCap), which extends advanced 5G features to previously low-speed IoT devices and more.
  • What phones, remote devices, and vendor CPE does/will the 5G network support?
  • Is/will Voice over LTE (VoLTE) be supported over 4G networks for phone calls once 2G and 3G networks are turned off? VoLTE was created for 4G and will also work with 5G New Radio (NR) networks. Voice calls over 3G are less reliable and of lower quality.
  • Will you/when will you deploy 5G standalone (SA)? 5G standalone is a type of 5G network that operators build specifically from start to finish for 5G, meaning it combines a 5G radio access network (RAN) with a 5G core. Networks running standalone 5G could deliver faster speeds with lower latency for tasks such as monitoring the health of government vehicles and tracking edge devices. Networks running 5G are bringing faster speeds to smart cities, healthcare, and finance.
  • Will you employ network slicing in your 5G network? Network slicing is an emerging feature that enables network operators to slice up cellular bandwidth to create customized, logical, and virtualized networks over a multi-domain infrastructure. These slices can create the potential for advanced and specialized services that offer differentiation across a 5G network.
  • Since 3G sunsetting is typically not a flash cut, can you provide a map and timeline that shows which areas will lose service first, starting when, and for how long?
  • Do operators have sufficient funds for the rollout of 5G, or will they be looking to heavy network users like big tech and social media firms to subsidize the efforts? A request earlier this year by many European telcos spawned debate over whether some of the largest network users should contribute to funding 5G networks.
  • Will wireless operators offer satellite-to-cellular connectivity to consumers? When? And will it be free or a pay extra add-on? This emerging capability will enable users with newer cell phones to reach their destination via low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

A final word on network sunsettings

Finding information, guidance, and advice for enterprises seeking to expand their domestic networks internationally or networks to additional foreign countries is hardly light lifting. However, tech companies in foreign countries can typically provide valuable dos and don’ts to make the wireless sunsetting and 5G deployment puzzle far less intimidating than a Rubik’s Cube.

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While SD-WAN offers many advantages over MPLS, the choice between them should be based on the specific needs and context of the enterprise. Here are some points to consider when making the choice.

When designing a network to connect central and far-flung offices, IT leaders are presented with two core choices. One is a Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) overlay, and the other is Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology with routers.

To understand which option better meets your network needs today and tomorrow, it's crucial you understand the key difference between the solutions. SD-WANs are service-provider agnostic. In contrast, MPLS requires enterprises to use the same service provider at all locations.

Read more: SD-WAN vs MPLS: What's The Difference & Which Is Better?