Confusing to say the least, especially since the goal of both technologies seems to be identical: secure access, independent of underlying networks. So, what is the difference? And when should you choose one and not the other?

Let’s start with the similarities: both SASE and SD-WAN promise to intelligently connect branches, users, and devices based on the corporate policies on performance and security. Both use virtual overlay networks to route traffic automatically via the most secure and optimal route. And both can cover large geographical areas and are therefore especially suitable for international companies with offices on multiple continents.


Are SASE and SD-WAN the same or different?

The overall similarities make sense when you look at the Gartner definition of SASE: it is a combination of SD-WAN capabilities, WAN optimization, and security functions. While this is true, the solutions are often deployed at different locations. Whereas SASE is a cloud-native architecture, a best-of-breed SD-WAN solution often sits in a company’s own infrastructure.

Even though SASE and SD-WAN have different homes, newer SD-WAN solutions do offer cloud enablement. With these newer SD-WAN solutions, users are connected via a virtual cloud gateway using the Internet, making the connections to cloud solutions high-performing and safe. Your cloud acceleration could therefore be supported by either SASE or SD-WAN. It really depends on where you are on your journey and what needs you have concerning cloud and local routing.


Security is the biggest difference

The biggest difference between SD-WAN and SASE is of course security. SASE has a clear focus on security, combining security and network decision-making in the same solution. In contrast, SD-WAN’s focus is on providing smart routing. This makes sense if companies already have an extensive security practice or have a siloed approach. However, if not tackled intelligently, security could be a lot less effective or may even impact performance.

SASE’s focus on security means that multiple acronyms are stacked to form a single solution. Think of Secure Web Gateways (SWG) in order to protect users from web-based threats. Or a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) which secures traffic from and to cloud applications based on applied policies. Or Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) in order to check applications’ users, and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) to ensure endpoint security.



Given that the overall goal of SASE and SD-WAN is similar, when should you choose the former above the latter, and vice versa? The first reason you should consider SD-WAN instead of SASE is when you need locally hosted and secured data and appliances. This might be required when you want to separate OT and IT on a branch location, for example. Hybrid SD-WAN balancing on-premise and cloud networking and security will then be your best option.

A key reason to choose SASE rather than SD-WAN is when you don’t want to custom-build secure access. In other words, you’re looking for one seamless solution that has users and devices as the focal point and one solution to embed all your performance and security policies in. Not only will this enable you to easily raise your security levels, but you will also reduce costs and complexity since you only have to deal with one vendor for your network and security solutions.


Don’t jump to conclusions

Don’t, however, rule out one in favor of the other without first thoroughly checking what solution best serves your needs. That’s where we can help you, since we offer both, and do so ‘as a service’. This means that we don’t just advise you on which solution is best, and then implement it: we’ll manage it for you too. We check security and performance – 24/7, so you can spend your valuable time on more complex projects.

Talk to one of our experts today to see what solution will work best for you.

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