News & Analysis

AI-managed Services in SASE Market

The secure access service edge market is an evolving one and the next stage could be an AI-drive cloud-based unified securing and networking platform

Given the pace at which cyberthreats are becoming more sophisticated, the demand for an AI-driven solution that is cloud-based is witnessing growth in parallel. So, the next level of the secure access service edge (SASE) market could witness the development of new AI and ML based machine learning tools. 

A report published by SdXCentral quotes Palo Alto Networks SVP Kumar Ramachandran to suggest that the increasing prevalence of technology vulnerabilities and the diminishing reaction time for security vendors and customers highlights the need for tools like machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Not surprising, given that there’s a whopping 161% spike in the usage of tools such as Cobalt Strike, that enable large scale attacks with at least 100 new URLs being created daily using generative-AI technology. Ramachandran believes there is a need for deep data science investments in this domain. 

Security cannot wait for things to go wrong

The official noted that the data volumes required to address use cases could add up to a massive level and gave the example of stopping threats emerging within 15 minutes would need users to move away from the old model of waiting for signature generation and publishing. Palo Alto Networks processes over 236 billion threats daily, which translates to over a trillion a week. 

The diverse data sets are then used to train machine learning models, he said, adding that 95% of zero-day threats stop using in-line machine learning that operates at scales way beyond what it was some years ago. This speaks of the power that a unified platform can generate where one has terabytes of data that can be used to train AI systems. 

Market experts hold the view that moving to the AI / ML models enables better functionalities in terms of how to organize divisions and people based on the level of manual work and the activities they perform. Given this scenario, companies would be asking for partnerships on a managed service basis to guide them through operating at scale. 

Moreover, the shift from network and security transformation to a SASE-based model would also require reorganizing teams from a silo system to a more seamless one. When the transition begins, the managed service partner could help map out the current scenario to the end-state while evaluating tools and capabilities on a collaborative and integrated approach. Ramachandran said Palo Alto Networks already has partnerships with Accenture, NTT and others to provide SASE-based services. 

A platform approach to security as a managed service

Another upcoming trend around this front is the operational visibility of the SASE platform whereby architecture is drawn up in a fashion where the managed partner becomes a part of the transformation process in the form of a mission-critical infrastructure. He said this is crucial as SASE solutions need to be available and reliable with low downtime. 

“If the SASE solution is down, the customer stops. That’s different from deploying public firewalls in your data center and having redundancy [where] you’re responsible for managing the availability of those devices that [are] on-prem,” the official was quoted as saying in the published article. 

Ramachandran is of the view that with the fast pace of maturing, the SASE markets would see customers seeking the right architecture, design and vendor. And the onus of providing them, either directly or through partnerships, would be that of the managed services provider, who may end up owning the transition itself.

The shift has happened; now it will pick up pace

A year ago, customers were still attempting to wrap their heads around the SASE model and why they should transform to such a system and what use cases it provides. Now, things have changed to an extent where customers are seeking the right architecture, design and the apt solution for such transformations. And Palo Alto Systems is pitching the idea of a unified platform as the one way to get the right data then train the systems to deliver security on the fly.  

Ramachandran believes that the trend is here to stay. Coming off the pandemic travails, businesses have stepped right into macroeconomic challenges leading them to solutions that are operating at scale and have platform capabilities that make them easy to manage, especially if there is a managed services partner around. 

“We’re definitely seeing a huge push in the SASE world, where customers want to come in and say: Listen, I don’t want this point product only for secure web gateway, for my CASB [cloud access security broker], for my VPN, for SD-WAN – give me a platform approach,” he concludes.

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