Secure access service edge (SASE) is a network architecture that rolls SD-WAN and security into a single, centrally-managed cloud service that promises simplified WAN deployment, improved security, and better performance.\nAccording to Gartner, SASE\u2019s benefits are transformational because it can speed deployment time for new users, locations, applications, and devices, as well as reduce attack surfaces and shorten remediation times by as much as 95%.\nWith the pandemic, adoption of SASE has been on an upward swing. Gartner predicts in its most recent SASE roadmap that 80% of enterprises will have adopted a SASE or SSE architecture by 2025, up from 20% in 2021. (Security service edge, or SSE, is a security-focused subset of SASE that\u2019s basically SASE without SD-WAN.)\nIt\u2019s a meteoric rise, especially considering that Gartner only coined the term SASE in 2019. So is it too early to expect networking professionals to get certifications in the technology? Or is now exactly the right time?\nCato's SASE, SSE and business certifications\nAn early player in the SASE certification market is SASE provider Cato Networks, which launched Level 1 of its SASE Expert certification in November 2020, followed by Level 2 in September 2021.\nIn 2022, Cato added to its SASE certification lineup with new security-focused SASE certifications. The SSE Expert certification was launched in July, and SASE Advanced Security certification is also available.\nCato also added two business-focused SASE certifications in 2022. The courses are SASE Deployment & Management and SASE Business Impact & Strategy.\n\u201cPeople are looking to understand what exactly are SSE and SASE, sift through all the noise, and understand what value both can bring to their enterprise IT,\u201d says Eyal Webber-Zvik, Cato\u2019s vice president of product marketing.\nCompared to other networking certifications, like the CCNA, which is more about how to operate the technology, Cato\u2019s SASE and SSE certifications are high-level overviews. \u201cOur certification is more about what SASE and SSE mean, what are the implications, and what it means to different IT teams,\u201d says Webber-Zvik. \u201cYou see presentations, whiteboards, reading materials, and at the end of each section, there is a quiz. When you complete all the sets and pass all the tests, you get the certification.\u201d\nThe majority of the material covered is not Cato-specific, he says. However, the certification does use Cato\u2019s implementation of SASE and SSE in its examples.\nTake, for instance, single-pass processing. According to Gartner, this is a key characteristic of SASE, and it means that networking and security are integrated. \u201cWe explain it according to Gartner\u2019s definition,\u201d Webber-Zvik says. \u201cWe also provide an example of Cato\u2019s implementation and use that to articulate what single-pass processing can look like when it\u2019s outside Gartner theory and in real life.\u201d\nThere is no charge for Cato\u2019s certification training and exam, but that might change, he says.\nThe SASE Expert Level 1 certification has twelve sections, and it takes about a day to complete. The SASE Expert Level 2 has five stages, takes about half a day, and requires that applicants first complete level one.\nCATO\u2019s SASE Deployment & Management and Business Impact & Strategy certifications each take about half a day to complete. On the security front, Cato\u2019s Advanced Security and SSE Expert certification each take about half a day to complete.\nThe training and testing are delivered on the Credly platform. \u201cIt integrates with LinkedIn, so it\u2019s automatically shared on your LinkedIn profile,\u201d Webber-Zvik says.\nAs of mid-December 2022, more than 2,500 people have earned the level one certification, and they represent multiple levels of professional experience and job categories, says Dave Greenfield, Cato\u2019s director of technology evangelism.\n\u201cThe level two certification has seen 950 people certified, and the SSE Expert certification has been awarded to 545 people,\u201d says Greenfield. \u201cAs for Cato\u2019s Advanced SASE Course, 75 certifications have been issued for SASE Business Impact & Strategy, 73 for SASE Deployment & Management, and 109 for SASE Advanced Security Certification.\u201d\nThe Cato SASE certificate offers some extra benefits for some companies. \u201cChannel partners with certified staff get a greater margin and some deal registration advantages, more accounts to practice and demo on, and so on,\u201d Greenfield says.\nNetskope, Versa and Palo Alto offer SASE certs\nOther companies are also jumping onto the SASE certification bandwagon, and more will follow, says Liz Miller, VP and principal analyst at Monte Vista, Calif.-based\u00a0Constellation Research.\n\u201cVendors are consolidating, and single vendor offerings are picking up speed, which will also accelerate attention on certifications and put those SASE certifications in an even bigger spotlight,\u201d she says.\nCato\u2019s certification is unique in that it has more than one level, says Miller. \u201cBut pretty much anyone offering a converged platform will start to offer similar training and certification badges and honors,\u201d she says.\nVersa Networks\nAnother company offering SASE certifications is Versa Networks. It offers a free Versa SASE Essentials course and has a channel-partners program to certify companies on its SASE platform.\n\u201cThe prescribed program training, certification, and enablement activities focus on SASE design and deployment,\u201d says John Atchison, Versa\u2019s head of global channel marketing. \u201cUpon completing exams proctored by a third party, Versa ACE Partners are certified and have access to the SASE Specialized badges.\u201d\nThe way the system works, he says, is that individual professionals take the courses and certification exams. \u201cOnce the company has completed the requirements, they obtain status \u2013 such as Titan Specialized \u2013 and access the specialty badges,\u201d he says.\nNew for 2022, Versa announced two SASE Sales enablement courses and certifications for its ACE partners. Capitalizing on SASE Growth with Versa is meant for partners that want to become SASE Sales certified, and Winning with Versa SASE \u2013 Sales Workshop is meant for partners that wish to become SASE Sales specialist certified.\nVersa says that training sessions are held in local times live and on-demand, and thousands of partners were trained and earned Versa SASE Sales certifications in the past year.\n\u201cThese enablement courses and certifications are explicitly designed for partner sales professionals to help them understand the market dynamics accelerating global SASE demand, identify opportunities, and offer Versa SASE solutions to meet the growing needs of enterprise customers,\u201d says Atchison.\nAccording to Atchison, partner enablement will remain a key focus for Versa in 2023, and the company plans to continue to enhance its curriculum and certification courses.\nNetskope\nSASE vendor Netskope jumped into the arena in June 2021, launching its SASE accreditation course.\nAccording to the company, the course is aimed at network infrastructure and cybersecurity practitioners and is designed to be vendor agnostic. The course is valued at $1,000 but is currently free; it's interactive, instructor-led, and conducted virtually.\nAfter the course, students take the accreditation exam, and those who pass receive a SASE Accredited Architect certificate.\nThe curriculum includes the basic technology and architecture concepts of SASE, covers important component technologies and models that collectively comprise the SASE models, and includes practical examples, case studies, and use-cases illustrating how SASE is implemented in real-world settings. The course is made up of two four-hour sessions and takes two days to complete. The exam is 45 minutes long and can be attempted twice.\nNetskope is currently offering four classes a month. Registration is available online, but seating is limited, so classes can fill up. Participants are not required to complete any prerequisites before taking the course.\nPalo Alto\nPalo Alto Networks jumped into the ring back in October 2020 with its own SASE course, Prisma Access SASE Security: Design and Operation.\nThe class is a four-day instructor-led course that offers students hands-on experience with configuring, managing, and troubleshooting Prisma Access SASE.\nThe course is taught virtually or in person and is offered by Palo Alto authorized training partners worldwide, usually costing around $4,000.\nPalo Alto says that participants will receive a certificate of completion after taking the course, and the SASE course can supplement other recommended courses for those preparing for the Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer exam.\nAccording to Palo Alto, the primary audience for the SASE training is security administrators, security operations specialists, security analysts, network engineers, and security engineers.\nPalo Alto says participants must complete the Firewall 10.0 Essentials: Configuration and Management course and the Panorama 10.0: Managing Firewalls at Scale course as prerequisites before taking the SASE course, or have equivalent experience. Participants must also have experience with networking concepts, including routing, switching, and IP addressing.\nDo you need SASE certs?\nSASE certifications have value when combined with knowledge of the SASE framework and capability to help get a migration plan rolling, says Constellation\u2019s Miller. \u201cBut does everyone need to run out to get this? Likely not yet.\u201d\nSASE is an important framework\u2014and it can\u2019t be stood up in a day, or a week, Miller says. \u201cIt is a security framework to bring security and network connectivity into a single cloud platform. This is core to rapid transformation that is durable and secure not just today but as the edge and cloud continue their trajectory of expansion.\u201d\nCompanies will need individuals who are well-versed in the what and the why of converging cloud platforms. \u201cThis is where, potentially, certifications will come in handy,\u201d she says. \u201cIndividuals who put in that time will also extract the knowledge and the insights needed not just to implement the framework but also to troubleshoot and specify needs within a specific scenario or enterprise.\u201d\nThe new SASE certifications are nowhere near as involved as something like Cisco's CCNA certification, says Rik Turner, senior principal analyst for emerging technologies at Omdia. But the certifications could still be valuable, Turner says, even if they are vendor specific.\n\u201cThe SASE market is growing, so any certification held by a networking professional is going to be of greater value going forward, and its importance is only going to increase as the market continues to expand,\u201d he says.\nThe certifications will show you are familiar with at least one vendor\u2019s SASE offering, says Turner, and there should be a reasonable degree of commonality between them all.\n\u201cI suppose it\u2019s a bit like, in a previous era, someone showing up for a job interview with Cisco qualifications, which might be of some use if you were a Foundry or Extreme shop,\u201d he says. \u201cOr maybe someone who was familiar with HP-UX could be of interest to a Solaris shop.\u201d\nThere are currently no independent organizations offering SASE certifications, but that is likely to change as the technology matures.