2020 networking trends: SD-WAN, 5G and edge

COVID-19 has disrupted business as usual. Plans for the year ahead have been thrown out the window, both at work and in our personal lives. But networking technologies have become more critical than ever—now, and when we come out the other side of this pandemic.

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While it’s hard not to be distracted by COVID-19 these days, networking technologies remain an essential part of doing business—and network pros are looking ahead to trends that will shape (and future-proof) our world in the years to come.

Indeed, many of these tools have become even more critical as businesses support remote work forces and supply chains.

Consider the impact of 5G at this point in time: “5G’s lightning-fast speeds, near-instantaneous communications, and increased connection density makes it primed for remote interactions, which has become top of mind for many organizations and enterprises as caution mounts over the spread of the virus,” according to an article in Business Insider.

IDG’s recently released 2020 State of the Network survey focuses on four of these key networking technologies: SD-WAN, 5G, edge computing and data centres. Some of the key findings, based on interviews with 268 IT pros, include:

  • 71 per cent of organizations are actively researching or have SD-WAN in production
  • 61 per cent of organizations are actively researching or have edge computing tools in production
  • Technologies with the most interest include network security monitoring, server consolidation and WAN optimization


While the market for software-defined WANs had been ramping up pre-coronavirus, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Indeed, the technology—which serves as a connector fabric between branch offices, data centres and cloud—is ideal for setting up remote work forces.

The survey found that 44 per cent of organizations are already using or piloting  SD-WAN, while another 28 per cent have it on their radar. Benefits cited by respondents include better monitoring and management, increased resiliency and improved network security—all of which are big concerns during a pandemic.

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SD-WANs can also provide a foundation for hybrid cloud and multi-cloud adoption—though currently that’s happening more at an enterprise level than within small or mid-sized businesses, according to the survey results.

Indeed, “the increased use of containers and cloud-based applications that need access from the edge is also driving the use of SD-WAN technologies,” according to an article in NetworkWorld.

But respondents also foresee barriers to adoption, such as capital costs and a technology learning curve. That’s perhaps why more than half of organizations surveyed are already using or piloting WAN optimization (the predecessor to SD-WAN) as a way to replace MPLS sprawl.

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Other findings:

5G: Only eight per cent of organizations surveyed have 5G in production and another eight per cent are in the piloting stage. While these numbers are still low, 5G is expected to “set the stage for IoT and new high-bandwidth applications” and adoption will jump to 70 per cent over the next three years. Indeed, COVID-19 “may fast-forward 5G adoption and help support the economy during this period of disruption,” according to the survey.

Edge computing: The survey found that network leaders are “prioritizing the use of edge computing to reduce network latency, lower operational expenses, and real-time data processing.” But they’re still concerned about enterprise security since not all IoT devices are built with security in mind.

Data centres: Of those surveyed, 59 per cent say their data centre is undergoing an upgrade to support newer technologies (in part, this is because they’ve experienced outages over the past year).

Concerns that massive spikes in usage during shelter-in-place would “break the Internet” highlights the essential nature of networking technologies. People are understandably distracted, priorities are understandably shifting.

But advanced networking technologies and digital transformation initiatives can help businesses get through this and come out stronger on the other side.

To learn more about Allstream’s SD-WAN product, click here.

Images: Wenjie Dong/iStock; dem10/iStock

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