SASE (secure access service edge) vendor Open Systems on Jan. 28 announced it was acquiring Swiss-based Sqooba, an AI-based IT analytics and visibility vendor. Open Systems will use Sqooba to enhance its SASE platform to include end-to-end visibility.
The timing for Open Systems is good, because SD-WANs are quickly evolving to SASE. SD-WANs obviously have been red hot over the past several years, but recently there’s been a stark shift in buying behavior. While most businesses I’ve interviewed have SD-WAN on the roadmap and interest is sky high, few have actually deployed it companywide. The main reason for this is the complexity of SD-WAN—particularly the security aspects—can overwhelm engineers.
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SASE is now top of mind with SD-WAN buyers
This shift in SD-WANs has been to integrate networking and security to simplify deployments. Gartner coined this “secure access service edge,” or SASE, genre and defined it as the integration of networking and security via a cloud-delivered model. Since Gartner’s first report, I’ve believed the definition to be incomplete because it should include visibility.
It’s hard to understand how a network engineer would know how to architect an SD-WAN without being able to see what’s going on. There’s an axiom with engineers that says, “You can’t manage or secure what you can’t see,” which underscores the importance of visibility.
Open Systems goes Sqooba diving
Open Systems was actually a pioneer in SASE because it architected its product to deliver integrated network and security before the term "SASE" was being used. The addition of Sqooba gives Open Systems a rich data source to correlate with its existing network data to provide better business-critical insights. There are many SD-WAN/SASE vendors that offer network visibility, but Sqooba is different in that it provides business-level data. For example, a renewable-energy company collects wind-turbine data to improve asset management, and an airport ground services organization gathers data to optimize logistics.
The combined data set will help Open Systems bridge the gap between business and the network. Almost all businesses that are undergoing digital transformation initiatives are deploying network-centric technologies, such as internet of things, mobility and the cloud. This means, for most organizations, network is the business, and as things change at a business level, so must network and security topology.
Security, in particular, has become extremely difficult to get right. The perimeter has dissolved, and it’s impossible to lock down the environment, because users and assets communicate directly with the cloud. All the new IoT devices, mobile workers and cloud services are creating a different set of requirements for the network. The missing pieces of the SASE puzzle fulfill these new demands with analytics, and that’s what Sqooba brings.
Sqooba bridges the gap between business insights and network insights
In the example of the clean-energy company, if Sqooba sees new wind turbines added, the network and security policies can be extended to those resources. Initially, I suspect the data will provide the visibility for engineers to make the changes, but over time, the entire process should be fully automatable.
In an interview with Open Systems CEO Jeff Brown, I asked about the ability to automate configuration changes. He said Open Systems is already highly automated but admitted there is room for improvement. The ability to correlate business-level information with network and security data makes it possible to extend the automation capabilities.
Cloud-managed matters more than cloud-delivered
Sqooba is delivered as a SaaS service, but the data can live in the cloud, in the company’s data center or a combination of both, which makes SASE deployments hybrid in nature (part cloud and part on-premises). This is the other aspect of Gartner’s definition that needs changing. The researcher mandates that it be cloud-delivered, but most large companies will have on-premises data and infrastructure, which is fine. The key is to do the hard stuff that requires lots of heavy lifting in the cloud.
So, it’s not cloud-delivered that matters as much as cloud-managed. As long as the cloud portal is best in class, it doesn’t matter where the data or infrastructure resides. Most large enterprises I’ve talked to prefer this model over pure cloud-delivered.
The interest in SD-WANs and SASE remains as high as it’s ever been, and the addition of analytics and visibility should help close the gap between companies that are interested and ones that fully deploy. Sqooba isn’t a huge company by any means but should pay big dividends for Open Systems and its customers.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.