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  • 24 August 2016 09:07

SD-WAN: What’s in a number?

By Peter Skarlatos, Systems Engineering Manager, Silver Peak Australia & New Zealand

Impressive numbers are being passed around when it comes to software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs). IDC predicts the market will reach $6 billion by 2020. Gartner suggests that 30 percent of enterprises will have deployed an SD-WAN by 2019.

Clearly the SD-WAN vendor landscape is heating up and everyone has their own projections of the arrival time. Our own numbers are: 135 new, paying enterprise customers around the globe who have selected our SD-WAN solution, EdgeConnect.

With all of these statistics, why would we collaborate with IDG Connect on a survey to generate even more numbers? Consider that most, if not all, of the figures to date have been collected with the idea of proving a point, or determining a measurement of a single idea. In our case, we simply asked mid-market and enterprise companies what they are thinking when it comes to SD-WANs. We didn’t know where it would lead or what the results would reveal. Nor did we have a point to prove. We just wanted to understand how companies perceive the SD-WAN opportunity.

We were in for a pleasant surprise. Based on our own customer numbers, we know SD-WAN is a hyper growth market, but when you hear that 92 per cent of companies surveyed have plans to implement SD-WAN in the next 12 months, it really hits home. Respondents are not simply saying they’re going to make broadband an active link, they’re saying their WAN will be based on broadband.

That means reliance on costly MPLS links will diminish – maybe these won’t be replaced entirely, but the established technology will wane quickly. It’s pretty aggressive to consider that in a year’s time broadband will become the preferred source of business connectivity.

The same 92 per cent plan to make the WAN broadband-based, but only if security and reliability concerns are addressed. More than half of the respondents claim that security (68 per cent) and reliability (53 percent) are holding them back from fully embracing Internet connectivity.

These are key consideration factors for enterprises and service providers when evaluating SD-WAN vendors and offerings. Established and emerging SD-WAN vendors claim to enable companies to leverage multiple sources of connectivity for end-users. But to truly deliver on the promise of SD-WAN, solutions must have the capability to segment applications via virtual WANs, much the way it’s done in the data centre.

That’s why the concept of a virtual network overlay with business intent policies is critical to success. Yes, encryption is important, but micro-segmentation of the WAN is what will really enforce security policy compliance and make an SD-WAN with broadband viable. And these virtual overlays will enable IT organisations to deliver varying priority and quality of service levels across the application mix. Nobody wants web surfing traffic to compromise VoIP or other business-critical apps.

Finally, even with all the discussion about augmenting or replacing MPLS with broadband, 83 percent of respondents said they would consider outsourcing their WAN to a managed service provider. This is why it’s critical for service providers to offer an SD-WAN solution in their services portfolio.

So, what’s in a number? A lot.

Sometimes you have to ask questions to understand what companies are thinking to validate the real opportunity. If you’re fortunate, the numbers align and underscore true market sentiment. And, that’s precisely what this survey has revealed – validating key assumptions, while providing some interesting thoughts along the way.

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