SMBs Seeking SASE, And MSPs Are Ready To Deliver

There’s a huge untapped market for MSPs in helping small organizations adopt secure access service edge, which offers lower costs, better security and a simple deployment.

For many SMB and midmarket customers, the only thing holding them back from shifting to newer cloud-delivered approaches for network security at this point is awareness of the option—and finding the right MSP to work with.

Secure access service edge (SASE) is offered as a modern, cloud-delivered alternative to traditional on-premises security products such as firewalls, often paired with VPNs for enabling remote access. In recent years, demand for SASE has surged among large businesses as they’ve looked to provide distributed workforces with secure access to corporate applications and resources.

Now, executives at SASE vendors and MSPs report that the interest in SASE among smaller organizations is rising fast.

“The demand is really alive and well,” said David Gottesman, founding principal and CEO at San Francisco-based solution and service provider Epic Machines. “The key is, are they aware that it’s a possibility or not? A lot of times they just don’t know it’s available.”

For many SMB and midmarket customers, SASE offers a compelling combination of benefits: reduced costs, improved security and simple deployment, according to Gottesman. Often, no new hardware is required.

To bring the technology to smaller customers, Epic Machines has created a program in partnership with major SASE provider

Zscaler, which on its own hasn’t had the ability to serve the smallest businesses with SASE in the past.

“Now we can do that for [Zscaler]. We can quote one user if we want,” Gottesman said, noting that SMB and midmarket organizations represent a “massive” untapped market in the U.S. for SASE.

At another top SASE vendor, Netskope, an effort is also underway to bring the technology down from the enterprise level to the

midmarket. In January, the company launched a new version of its SASE platform that aims to cater more effectively to the needs of midmarket customers, including with a separate pricing model as well as the ability for MSPs to package the offering with their own first-level support.

At Halo Global, an MSP and Netskope partner based in Gladstone, Ore., CEO Darren Carlson said he sees a huge opportunity to bring SASE down from the enterprise level to the midmarket.

“We know every one of these [midmarket] customers needs it as a solution,” Carlson said. “And they’ve wanted it—they just haven’t had an ability to have access to it.”

Netskope has designed the new SASE offering to enable MSPs such as Halo Global to more easily and cost-effectively bring this technology to midmarket-size customers, he said.

“I think the midmarket is going to explode over the next two to three years with this just because they all need it,” Carlson said.

Many midmarket organizations are remote- and mobile-enabled at this point, making SASE a natural fit for them, Netskope cofounder and CEO Sanjay Beri told CRN.

Midmarket customers are also increasingly demanding managed options on security and networking, given the shortage of available talent in the field, which is a main reason why Netskope has focused on enabling MSPs with the new SASE version, Beri said.

Meanwhile, customers and MSPs alike are realizing that simply adopting a managed firewall service is the “wrong solution,” he said. Whatever the iteration, traditional firewall technology “doesn’t solve the security needs” on its own in the era of distributed work, he noted.

At Epic Machines, while SASE hasn’t proven to be difficult to deploy for smaller organizations, there often is an adjustment in thinking needed among customers, Gottesman said.

With the “zero trust” security emphasis involved in SASE, “I like to refer to it as an application-focused approach versus a

network approach where you create the network and then you secure it,” he said. “With cloud, you secure the cloud first and then you allow access. So it’s a different mindset.”

For some organizations that have long relied on firewalls and VPNs, “the hard part in the transition is the mindset of a lot of the folks who did these deployments” originally, Gottesman said.

“They have to think differently about the way that they’re approaching IT,” he said. “It’s letting go of a lot of the network paradigms and thinking differently about how to connect using cloud technology.”

The results, however, can be transformational. For one customer, a small construction firm, Epic Machines was able to transition the company to SASE for a fraction of the cost it was paying previously for managed services, Gottesman said.

And notably, “the amount of hardware they needed to buy was zero,” he said. “That made a big difference.”