Microsoft goes big on SSE – Here’s what that means for Cisco, Palo Alto

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) fired a warning shot to vendors in the secure access service edge (SASE) market last week, expanding its Entra product portfolio to offer a new security service edge (SSE) solution.

Dell’Oro Group’s Mauricio Sanchez told Silverlinings Microsoft is still a few pieces short of completing the full SASE puzzle, but noted its push in the space could put pressure on rivals including Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Versa and VMware.

The tech giant’s new SSE solution set comprises three products: its new Entra Internet Access offering, which is a secure web gateway; its new Private Access tool, which offers zero-trust network access; and its existing cloud access security broker, known as Defender for Cloud Apps. These, of course, run on the company’s Azure cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft’s move is perhaps unsurprising – in fact, Sanchez flagged the company as a potential “dark horse” contender in the 2023 SASE market in December. Still, Sanchez said the launch is significant in that it’s a concrete step toward Microsoft launching a full-blown single-vendor SASE solution. SASE, in Sanchez’s book, includes both security and networking.

In terms of what it needs to complete the SASE pie, Sanchez pointed to firewalling capabilities on the security side and SD-WAN for networking. Until it comes out with its own SD-WAN offering, Microsoft won’t be able to fully capitalize on the trend toward single-vendor SASE, he said.

But even without these components, Microsoft’s move is likely to have an impact on the market.

“I expect that Microsoft will cause some significant ripples when it comes to solution pricing,” he stated. “I’ve already started to see that. Compared to early on when vendors had much more pricing power, I expect that with Microsoft’s entry – if they stick to it – will lead to not a commoditization but pricing pressure to bring the prices down for baseline functionality.”

Going it alone

If Microsoft does eventually add SD-WAN into the mix to offer a full SASE suite, it will join the likes of Cisco, Palo Alto, Versa Networks, VMware and Cato Networks in the single-vendor SASE market.

Right now, the majority of the SASE market consists of disaggregated solutions – usually either security or networking. But consolidation in the SD-WAN space has given rise to more unified SASE players.

Gartner and Dell’Oro have both noted that only around 10% of the SASE market was comprised of single-vendor deployments in 2022. Gartner has tipped that number to jump to around 33% by 2025.

The question, according to Sanchez, is how much traction there is behind unified offerings.

“Single vendor SASE is accelerating because vendors are making acquisitions,” Sanchez said, adding this has inflated the number of single-vendor solution providers. “I would say that today the number of vendors offering single-vendor SASE is much larger than vendors having success in revenue in having a balanced business between networking and security.”

Only time will tell whether Microsoft could be one of the lucky few which have effectively managed the balancing act.