Back to Blog Home

The fundamentals of SASE and zero trust security

This post compares SASE and zero trust, defining how these two interconnected security approaches strengthen the security fabric of your organization both separately and combined.

What is SASE and zero trust?

Securing sensitive data becomes increasingly complicated as hybrid and fully remote environments become prevalent. Traditional security models fail in distributed IT environments, where every network-connected device represents a potential risk.

Businesses can overcome the challenges of modern networking with flexible, scalable, and evolving security measures. Two critical approaches to cloud security are secure access service edge (SASE) and zero trust. SASE comprises leading network technologies available as a single solution, usually SD-WAN, SSE, secure VPN, and CASB. Zero trust is a security framework that references the overall security fabric rather than any specific technology. Instead, it is a set of principles and best practices across the security landscape. No single vendor or product currently offers a complete zero trust offering. However, SASE is a vital element of zero trust.

This post compares SASE and zero trust, defining how these two interconnected security approaches strengthen the security fabric of your organization both separately and combined.

Key terms

  • Secure access service edge (SASE): SASE (pronounced “sassy”) is a portfolio of network and security tools encompassing four primary technologies:
    • Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN): A virtualized cloud alternative to MPLS hard line networks.
    • Secure service edge (SSE): Merges secure web gateway (SWG) and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) technology and other cloud-based security tools.
    • Secure virtual private network (VPN): An encrypted connection between each user device and the enterprise network.
    • Cloud access security broker (CASB): Security checkpoints for cloud-hosted assets that protect Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud platform services.
  • Zero trust: Zero trust is a security methodology that minimizes the surface area of attack by implementing principles, best practices, and technology tools across the digital estate. No user, location, data, network, device, or user is implicitly trusted. Zero trust is a living ideology, and new elements are continuously adopted to meet evolving security protocols.

Learn more: Three vital tactics for embedding cloud network security

The technology fueling zero trust and SASE

On a fundamental level, the movement in cybersecurity over the past several years has been to consolidate and simplify security solutions. Zero trust and SASE emerged due to this trend to help network managers facilitate their networking tools and gain greater visibility. A zero trust framework and SASE solution offer streamlined tools without sacrificing security.

Zero trust is not a technology but a set of principles for consolidating existing security technologies. NIST and CISA define zero trust across five pillars:

  1. Identity.
  2. Devices.
  3. Networks.
  4. Applications/workloads.
  5. Data.

As organizations begin implementing a zero-trust security model, they can leverage various techniques and tools such as multifactor authentication (MFA), next-gen extended detection and response (XDR), data encryption, e-mail security, and password hygiene to secure each infrastructure pillar. However, it’s important to note that zero trust is not limited to these solutions and may evolve based on emerging security trends and business requirements.

On the other hand, the SASEsuite of complementary technologies is a core element of zero trust. By merging SD-WAN, SSE, VPN, and CASB into a single networking product, SASE addresses issues critical to cloud-based networks. Like zero trust, SASE also operates across several pillars.

  • Verified identity access ensures that only verified devices and users have access.
  • Cloud-native delivery enhances overall security and infrastructure.
  • Complete edge support supports all digital, physical, and logical network edges.
  • Global distribution supports all users worldwide, regardless of their location.

Read more: Core advantages of a managed secure access service edge solution

Comparing zero trust and SASE

Zero trust and SASE overlap in their focus. However, they are not interchangeable.


  • Identity: Identity is a pillar in the zero trust framework and SASE. Organizations must address identity access and create appropriate security policies to protect sensitive systems and data access.
  • Unification: Where SASE consolidates technologies, zero trust consolidates multiple principles and technologies into a unifying framework to address modern security threats.
  • Verification and re-verification: Zero trust and SASE require authentication for each function or area of the network.
  • Contextualization: Both security systems feature monitoring tools that flag suspicious user behavior


  • Identity: Zero trust asks users to continuously re-verify their identity. In contrast, SASE integrates with identity sources and monitors connections between users and data to confirm that access matches the zero trust policies.
  • Scope: While SASE focuses on the network, zero trust applies to every technology category in an organization.
  • Solution category: SASE is a technology that merges multiple network products into a single solution (whether through a single-vendor provider or a third-party technology partner like OnX Canada). Zero trust, on the other hand, is a moving target that businesses constantly work towards.

Why merge zero trust with SASE?

Security tends to integrate, streamline, and centralize operations. OnX recommends implementing a zero trust security framework with the appropriate SASE solution (or solutions) for your organization. This approach demonstrates the following benefits:

  • Extensive security: SASE and zero trust enhance visibility, root out security gaps, and reverse security architecture silos.
  • Simplified network operations: Central controls streamline the network admin’s toolkit and simplify the overall IT environment.
  • Scalability: Security measures can scale up or down quickly, thus improving organizational agility, performance, and cost-efficiency.
  • Optimized resources: Automating and integrating network functions frees IT staff to focus on mission-critical tasks.

Combining SASE and zero trust into a unified solution ensures your organization’s security fabric is as robust as possible.

Where to start?

In security, it’s not SASE versus zero trust. Instead, the goal is zero trust; for many organizations, SASE represents a significant step towards that goal.

SASE implements network protections for your organization. However, deploying SASE can be cumbersome for many IT departments, spanning months or years.

In some ways, zero trust is more straightforward, as a company can begin its journey toward better security from wherever its current security efforts lie. Most enterprises can immediately start the first steps, resulting in swift security ROI. Creating a zero trust roadmap will streamline the process and maximize the benefits for your organization.

Consult with our team today to determine your specific security needs and build a custom security plan to encompass zero trust, SASE, and other security solutions your organization needs to defend against evolving security threats.

Get in touch.