DX, network complexity drive momentum for SD-WAN

Network architecture is complex, and is becoming even more so with the explosive growth of IoT and exponential demand for bandwidth. IT pros need greater control over the WAN — and the costs associated with it — driving the market for software-defined WANs.


SD-WANs have the potential to solve many of today’s networking challenges, from providing bandwidth on-demand to more secure cloud access. They’re transport-independent and capable of prioritizing traffic, all while driving down costs.

But, like all technology solutions, you have options: you can take the DIY approach, or you can turn to a managed service.

Digital transformation

Since it allows for virtualization of physical network functions, an SD-WAN can simplify branch office networking, helping to improve the user experience regardless of location.

While a lot of projects are still in the consideration or pilot stage, IDC estimates SD-WAN infrastructure and services will experience a compound annual growth rate of 69.9% and reach US$8.05 billion by 2021. Much of this is being driven by digital transformation, from the deployment of third-platform technologies such as cloud, analytics, mobile and social.

But it’s not just third-platform technologies fuelling SD-WAN growth, though it’s a significant driver. In part, it comes down to the need to simplify, simplify, simplify. Network architecture is complex, and is becoming even more so with the explosive growth of IoT and exponential demand for bandwidth. IT pros need greater control over the WAN — and the costs associated with it.

Simplicity and security

“The reason SD-WAN appeals to IT leaders for their IoT-based applications over legacy network technologies is the promise of simplified network deployment, centralized control and real-time application delivery,” writes Shawn Farshchi in an article for Forbes. SD-WANs also anticipate the needs of applications, he says, so machine learning and artificial intelligence will take WANs to the next level.

A recent survey of enterprise IT professionals by Israeli-based Cato Networks found the main use cases for SD-WAN include simplifying network or security architectures, providing secure Internet access from any location and integrating cloud data centres into the WAN. And an IHG Markit survey found that security is the primary network concern and main driver of new infrastructure investment.

MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), the current standard for WANs, is designed for use in data centres, so data isn’t encrypted during transmission. SD-WANs, on the other hand, use both public Internet and private networks, and allow you to encrypt traffic over a VPN; you can also segment WANs. That’s helping to meet the demand for increased network security.

DIY or MSP?

For a DIY solution, you need the in-house expertise to design, implement and manage the SD-WAN throughout its lifecycle. A fully managed option offers all the usual benefits — a subscription payment model, one phone call for troubleshooting — but a good MSP will also design a solution around your specific security requirements.

Although enterprises haven’t fully embraced managed SD-WAN, it’s a growing area. Managed SD-WAN revenues are growing rapidly as they displace traditional managed WAN services, according to analyst Lee Doyle of Doyle Research, which predicts worldwide expenditures on managed SD-WAN will exceed US$10 billion by 2022.

The Cato survey found that 17% of respondents want a fully managed service, while 49% are looking for a co-managed service. “What we’re seeing in the marketplace now is a desire to move more towards a hybrid network model as opposed to the hyped Internet-only model, one that consists of both an MPLS circuit and an Internet circuit at the branch office location,” writes Simon Morris in an article for ZDnet.

For distributed organizations with complex connectivity, managed or co-managed SD-WAN services can drive performance and improve the user experience, while lowering costs — in other words, you’ll get more bandwidth for your buck.

Stay tuned for Allstream’s upcoming announcement on managed SD-WAN services, which can help your organization benefit from secure and reliable network access that is easier to provision, operate and support.

Image: iStock

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