SASE and Zero Trust reinforcing a robust security defense

After the closing of GNE 2023, we spoke exclusively with Kevin Vachon, COO of MEF.

TyN: How do you evaluate the call for the event taking into account the existing global complications.

Kevin Vachon: MEF has a track record of hosting highly successful and impactful industry events. When we set out to organize MEF’s Global Networking Event (GNE), held in Dallas, Texas in Oct 2023, our first industry event since the onset of the pandemic, we took some uncertainties into consideration as part of the planning process. In the end, the response we received from the beginning was tremendous. With hundreds of attendees from around the world, GNE was a resounding success.

The success of GNE speaks to MEF’s ability to convene the industry for collaborative discussions on critical matters and also highlights the pivotal role of Network as a Service (NaaS) in shaping the future of the communications industry.

TyN: Compared to the last MEF event, what improved this new edition?

K.V.: The focus and objectives for GNE was very different than anything we had done before. Our past events had a broader set of topics related to all of MEF 3.0 work and GNE was soley focused on NaaS. GNE was unique in that it brought together for the first time senior executives and decision makers in the commuications industry to collaborate with the broader NaaS community to share insights and exchange knowledge on important topics. In addition to the knowledge exchange, the convergence of various sectors at GNE including service and technology providers, enterprise, and cloud, among others, offered attendees the opportunity to look at NaaS from diverse angles. For senior executives and decision makers, GNE provided an invaluable opportunity to deepen their understanding of NaaS’s integral role in that evolution.

Central to MEF’s NaaS message at GNE was the release of its NaaS Industry Blueprint which serves as a foundation for the industry to build upon as it develops the NaaS ecosystem. MEF’s NaaS Industry Blueprint is designed to help service providers develop, market, and deliver the next generation of NaaS offerings. The blueprint also helps enterprises make informed decisions about which NaaS offerings are right for their specific needs. 

GNE also included those in the community that are uniquely focused on implementing MEF Lifecycle Service Orchestraion (LSO) APIs for NaaS and other use cases.

TyN: Could you explain in a simple way for our readers what SASE Certification is?

K.V.: MEF’s SASE certification program is designed to increase market confidence in cybersecurity solutions and services by providing a certification and rating system for vendors and service providers to indicate the effectiveness of their SASE offering. 

Available to MEF technology and service provider members worldwide in early 2024, the program includes certification for SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network), SSE (Security Service Edge Threat Protection), ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) and SASE based on test programs developed by MEF partner CyberRatings.  Certification will also ensure compliance to the MEF SD-WAN (MEF 70.1) standard, and industry first standards for SASE (MEF 117) and Zero Trust (MEF 118). Cybersecurity threats and solutions are constantly evolving so certification is not a one-time event. Participants in the program will be able to continuously certify their products and services to demonstrate their effectiveness.  

The beta program for SASE certification underway now includes MEF members Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Versa Networks, and VMware and is supported by MEF’s Board of Directors, which includes senior executives from AT&T Business, Colt Technology Services, Comcast Business, Liberty Latin America, Lumen, Microsoft, PCCW Global, Orange, Sparkle, and Verizon Business.

TyN: The architecture of the SASE network, how much more cloud security does it offer to companies that are within this network?

K.V.: SASE offers a significant improvement in cloud security for a number of reasons:

  • SASE combines networking and security services into a single platform giving organizations a more comprehensive view of their security posture and making it easier to identify and respond to threats.
  • SASE services are cloud-based, which means that organizations can benefit from the latest security updates and innovations without having to invest in new hardware or software.
  • SASE can be easily scaled up or down to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes. This is especially important for organizations with cloud-based applications and a dispersed workforce.
  • TyN: SASE plays a predominant role in the Zero Trust network. Could you explain in a simple way how they are interrelated?

K.V.: Zero Trust is a security strategy that eliminates automatic trust in network access, and it serves as the foundation for SASE. SASE and Zero Trust combine to safeguard data, applications, and network policies, reducing vulnerabilities and reinforcing a robust security defense against cyber threats. Zero Trust adopts an identity- and data-centric security approach, removing implicit trust from the security infrastructure and requiring verification for anyone or anything seeking network access. When coupled with established standards, SASE and Zero Trust offer a streamlined and comprehensive security solution that enforces policies network-wide, reducing the attack surface and creating a strong security perimeter that poses significant challenges for malicious actors.

TyN: I imagine that they have closed this magnificent event already thinking about how to organize next year’s event to improve themselves as we are accustomed to. Can you tell us something about the 2024 event?

K.V.: Following the success of GNE 2023, MEF will continue to drive its mission forward in response to the evolving communications landscape under a NaaS umbrella. Our goal is to incorporate services, automation APIs, ecosystem development, and certifications seamlessly into a NaaS framework. Realization of this goal includes MEF’s continued promotion of collaboration with those actively developing relevant standards and solutions to ultimately foster a thriving ecosystem. We expect that GNE 2024 will play a significant role in this effort and in particular, will provide a progress report on the evolution of the NaaS industry over the next 12 months.

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