MEF aims to simplify SASE, Zero Trust with new industry standard

As vendors and telcos push out products in the rapidly growing secure access software edge (SASE) market, MEF has established a first-of-its-kind SASE industry standard, designed to help enterprises better understand and implement secure networking.

Dubbed MEF 117, the new standard defines what a SASE service is as well as key terminology such as SASE Agent, Identity and Access Management, SASE Edge, Network Termination Point and more. And it outlines what offerings a subscriber (i.e., an enterprise or entity that contracts to use a SASE service) should expect from a vendor.

A number of major telco players helped develop MEF’s SASE standard. Those include AT&T, Ciena, IBM, Nokia, Orange, PCCW Global and Versa Networks.

Additionally, MEF unveiled a framework for Zero Trust – MEF 118 – that breaks down how Zero Trust cybersecurity works and explains how organizations can mitigate network vulnerabilities when implementing a Zero Trust approach.

MEF’s SASE and Zero Trust specifications come one year after the consortium revamped its global SD-WAN standard to help enterprises boost interoperability of managed SD-WAN services at the edge.

At the time, MEF released MEF 95, a unified policy framework for its standards across SD-WAN and Network Slicing as well as SASE and Zero Trust.

The new SASE standard and Zero Trust framework aim to simplify the managed service selection process for enterprises, said MEF CTO Pascal Menezes.

“Enterprises are challenged to compare feature sets and solutions when selecting SD-WAN, SSE and SASE services, including Zero Trust Network Access, which can result in incomplete service offerings that don’t meet needs and expectations,” stated Menezes. “At the same time, service providers want to offer a complete, unified SASE service that includes networking and security under a single pane of glass.”

Mauricio Sanchez, Dell’Oro Group’s research director for Network Security, SASE and SD-WAN, praised MEF’s standardization efforts, pointing out they will help accelerate overall SASE adoption and pave the way for multi-vendor SASE.

“In the near-term, [MEF’s efforts] are contributing vocabulary and aligning conceptual frameworks that are vital to getting the industry to rally behind common, interoperable approaches,” Sanchez stated.

Enterprises will likely continue doubling down on network security spending, as Dell’Oro indicated this summer in its 5-year forecast for the segment. The SASE market in particular is expected to exceed $13 billion by 2026. Even as enterprises reduce spending due to inflationary pressures, Sanchez told Fierce in August he thinks security budgets are the least likely to get cut.

Enterprises and end users are interested in SASE because it bundles networking with security functions, as Futuriom founder and chief analyst Scott Raynovich noted in his April column. He added SASE managed services bolster security for hybrid work environments.

Some vendors have made strides to simplify SASE themselves. Aryaka in October introduced a solution that unifies key SASE functions like Secure Web Gateway (SWG) and Firewall-as-a-Service. By bundling these elements together, Aryaka aims to accelerate overall SASE rollout.

And Lumen this summer launched a digital purchase pipeline for SASE services, allowing its enterprise customers to easily select and configure the SASE products they need.