Monday, 25th May 2020

2017 predictions: SD-WAN

By David Hughes, CEO of Silver Peak.

Over the last few years, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions have quickly gained traction, fuelling a corporate WAN revolution – 2017 will be no exception to this trend. This is not least because while the rest of the infrastructure has become more agile and fine-tuned for the cloud and virtual world, the WAN has continued to be constrained by the inflexibility and costs associated with multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) networks.Indeed, the WAN has always been about connecting users to applications and MPLS makes sense when those applications are hosted in the data centre. However, with an increasing number of applications migrating to the cloud, which MPLS was not architected to support, organisations are growing frustrated with delivering consistent application performance and a predictable user experience.

The need for SD-WAN

The accelerating migration of applications to the cloud is driving the need for organisations to re-evaluate networking requirements, including broadband connectivity to connect branch office workers directly to cloud applications. With the favourable economics of broadband connectivity, it comes as little surprise that there is a networking industry movement afoot that harness broadband connectivity in a secured and optimised way.According to IDC, the SD-WAN market will grow to become a $6 billion industry by 2020.With this in mind, there is a need for enterprises to operate at ‘cloud speed.’ Indeed, Gartner predicts that by 2018, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will become the dominant model for consuming application functionality for approximately 80 percent of all organisations. To operate at this pace, organisations now face a number of challenges, which include improving the responsiveness and agility of the business and the network, while also reducing costs and providing predictable performance for cloud applications.

With SD-WAN, enterprises can flexibly and securely connect users to applications by the most cost-effective source of connectivity available. This enables enterprises to augment or replace MPLS networks with secure broadband connectivity. An SD-WAN supports multiple paths and allows connectivity decisions to be made independent of carriers, which helps enterprises avoid lengthy procurement and deployment delays for a faster time to service across branch locations. Once connected, an SD-WAN fabric provides visibility into both data centre and cloud applications and traffic, and provides the ability to centrally assign business intent policies to secure and control all WAN traffic.

SD-WAN outlook

With SD-WAN now a necessity within the enterprise, it’s predicted that the following trends will develop and gain momentum in the SD-WAN market in 2017, as well as impact enterprises and revolutionise the networking industry:

1.Hybrid SD-WANs go mainstream. As SD-WAN adoption gains ground and goes mainstream in 2017, the majority of initial enterprise deployments will be hybrid, leveraging both MPLS and a complement of broadband connectivity. Many enterprises already have some level of broadband connectivity to branch and remote locations, but these links often remain idle or are relegated to backup or disaster recovery (DR). Enterprises will begin to fully leverage this bandwidth to scale bandwidth cost effectively in line with expanding application and user requirements

2.Introduction of SLAs for SD-WAN over pure broadband. To date, the deployment of SD-WAN over pure broadband has been limited. In 2017, enterprise adoption of SD-WAN over pure broadband will accelerate dramatically as they realise that it's possible to deliver MPLS-equivalent quality of service and availability when combining any combination of transport, including consumer broadband connectivity. Whether or not vendors or service providers can deliver on pure broadband SLAs will fast become a key decision criterion

3.The differences between SD-WAN vendor’s approaches will become more apparent. To a large degree current SD-WAN solutions sound quite similar. However, under the hood, each vendor's offerings are fundamentally quite different and at varying levels of maturity. As enterprises gain experience with large-scale production deployments, the advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches will become clearer. Some vendors’ architectures may be limited to a narrow set of use cases

4.Tsunami of managed SD-WAN services to hit the market. Following the initial barrage of service provider SD-WAN announcements this year, 2017 will see a separation between the providers that deliver mature scalable offerings and those that rushed to market with a minimal viable response to demand. Throughout the year, it will become clear which SD-WAN architectures and solutions perform best for carriers - also revealing the criteria that matter most to enterprises when evaluating new managed SD-WAN service offerings

5.Best-of-breed or worst of everything?Some SD-WAN vendors will attempt to go horizontal, seeking to deliver rudimentary support for nearly every function imaginable – while others will focus on core competencies and build partnerships and ecosystems to service chain best-of-breed functions, capabilities and services. Vendors that embrace building an ecosystem to complement their own strengths will, ultimately, win

6.SD-WAN and on-demand WAN optimisation come together. Virtually all geographically distributed enterprises will continue to require WAN optimisation, perhaps not for all locations and offices, but certainly for a significant portion of their WAN traffic. It will become attractive to purchase WAN optimisation by-the-drip as an integrated service in an SD-WAN solution vs. buying it as a stand-alone product deployed at every location. Enterprises will demand the option to purchase and consume WAN optimisation on-demand for only the applications and locations that require it vs. over-paying for the maximum provisioned bandwidth across all sites

7.Fine-grained control of branch office internet breakout.Early SD-WAN offerings include the ability to breakout internet-destined traffic locally at the branch office. Enterprises are beginning to realise that this shouldn't be an all or nothing decision and will demand finer-grained control over which web traffic is broken out at the branch and backhauled to a regional hub in alignment with security policies. In 2017, geographically distributed enterprises will seek to steer different types of internet traffic in different directions/paths based on business intent. Deep visibility and control over internet traffic will become a critical requirement for SD-WAN deployments

8.Machine learning and AI to make debut in SD-WAN.Machine and deep learning (AI) are rapidly revolutionising all industries. 2017 will bring early instances of machine learning-based innovations to networking. We will begin to explore the possibilities of machine learning, ultimately enabling wide area networks to run themselves autonomously at some point in the future

9.Exiting 2017, leading SD-WAN vendors will surpass 1,000 customer deployments.2017 will mark the most important year for early industry leaders to gain momentum, making it increasingly difficult for new entrants to survive and thrive. Smaller SD-WAN vendors will struggle to remain relevant and be relegated to occupying a niche position in the market. It will become far more difficult for new entrants to bring incremental offerings to market and establish market penetration or traction

SD-WAN future

Ultimately, 2017 will be a year of rapid growth for the SD-WAN market. It offers companies increased agility through the simplicity of setting up new branch connectivity, as well as lower expenditure from both reduced IT requirements and using broadband as a means of connectivity. Moreover, SD-WAN offers enterprises centralised control and increased business productivity while providing the flexibility to use any combination of underlying transport technologies without compromising network or application performance. With this in mind, companies should feel confident in embracing the SD-WAN revolution in 2017 and beyond.

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