SASE VS. SSE: How Do They Differ?

If you thought the world of technology was out of acronyms to create, you thought wrong. Following SASE, Gartner introduced the term “SSE”, or Security Service Edge. In this article we’ll discuss how SSE differs from SASE and what types of companies should be considering it.

Before I get started, if you aren’t familiar with the term SASE, start with this article. It talks through the different features of SASE, who should look at it, and everything else you’ll want to know about SASE.

Introduction of SSE

To keep things simple: SSE is the security portion of SASE.

According to Gartner,

SSE is a collection of integrated, cloud-centric security capabilities that facilitates safe access to websites, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and private applications.

SSE is growing in popularity (even before it became an acronym) because it supports the idea of vendor consolidation. Instead of implementing multiple point solutions, companies are looking for one security provider who can do it all. Gartner reported back in March 2022 that 80% of companies looking for SSE-related services will choose a single SSE vendor.

Features of SSE vs. Features of SASE

I’ve heard it said, “SSE is just SASE without the SD-WAN.” While that’s kind of true, SSE is actually SASE without any of the network functionality. SD-WAN isn’t the only network feature within a true SASE platform, although it is the most popular. SASE may also include WAN Optimization, CDN, and more.

That said, SSE is the cloud-based security portion within SASE. It can include (but is not limited to):

  • CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker)
  • SWG (Secure Web Gateway)
  • ZTNA/VPN (Zero Trust Network Access/Virtual Private Network)
  • FWaaS (Firewall as a Service)
  • RBI (Remote Browser Isolation)
  • Encryption/Decryption

If you’d like more granular definitions of these features, visit my blog post defining the most common features of SASE.

Just like SASE, SSE is a broad term. It consists of numerous security features, but many vendors don’t cover every single one. As a result, just like we did with SASE, we see service providers who offer a few SSE features calling themselves SSE providers – and in some cases, full-blown SASE providers! For this reason, we always dig deeper to understand the client’s needs before matching them up with a solution.

Different SSE Providers

Gartner identified several SSE providers in their release of the SSE Magic Quadrant.

In addition to the providers shown above, Gartner also listed a few honorable mentions, including Akamai, Cato, and Cloudflare. While these providers have competitive SSE offerings, here are the reasons Gartner left them off the 2021 Magic Quadrant:

Akamai: Did not have API integrations as part of its CASB offering as off August 30, 2021.

Cato: Did not offer a full CASB solution as of August 30, 2021 (this has now changed).

Cloudflare: Did not offer API integrations as part of CASB as of August 30, 2021.

Menlo Security: Did not satisfy the minimum required financial inclusion criterion as of August 30, 2021.

Microsoft: Did not provide a proxy-based SWG as of August 30, 2021.

Proofpoint: ZTNA functionality was retired as of December 31, 2021.

It’s important to note that some of these solutions can be purchased through managed service providers (MSPs) if you’d like someone to help manage it for you. Gartner does not add MSPs to the Magic Quadrant.

Which Customers Should be Looking at SSE

SSE can technically be a fit for most customers, but here are a few situations where it’s a no-brainer:

  1. Companies that have a large remote workforce (SSE includes Secure Web Gateway and Zero Trust Network Access)
  2. Companies that are moving more to cloud-based applications (SSE includes Secure Web Gateway and CASB)
  3. Companies with security hardware or software, such as a firewall, that’s coming up on a contract expiration or end of life (EOL).

Those are just a few scenarios where SSE makes sense. That said, any company that is looking to increase their security posture should be looking at SSE in some form (either by itself, or as part of a full SASE solution).

How to Start a Conversation around SSE

If your company is interested in SSE, even if you’re not sure it’s a good fit, don’t hesitate to fill out our questionnaire and my team will be in touch shortly.