Why SD-WAN is poised to take off in 2020

From 5G network slicing to multi-cloud networking, software-defined WANs are evolving to offer a whole lot more than just branch connectivity. And this is the year industry analysts expect we’ll start to see the vast potential of this foundational technology.

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Full Speed Ahead for SD-WAN

It’s the Year of the Rat—but is it also the Year of the SD-WAN?

Maybe you’re already thinking about making the switch to software-defined wide-area networking. But analysts are saying this is the year the technology will truly take off—in part, thanks to other key technologies like 5G and multi-cloud.

“Just a few years ago, discussions about how SD-WAN technology could transform the enterprise edge into a more flexible cloud model brought quizzical stares. Now, everybody and their cousin in the networking market are putting together an SD-WAN strategy,” says Scott Raynovich, founder and chief analyst at Futuriom, in an article for FierceTelecom.

And as we enter a new year—and a new decade—he expects software-defined WANs to “move deeper into the cloud” to solve issues like cloud security, cloud applications performance and multi-cloud connectivity.

SD-WAN evolution

The SD-WAN of ‘yesterday’ helped to solve SaaS challenges, according to Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, in an article for eWeek.

But the SD-WAN of ‘today’ is “paving the way for the convergence of network, security and artificial intelligence (AI) to help businesses address growing IT challenges as they shift to a cloud-first model.”

Certainly, adoption of this technology is on the rise. A recent Gartner forecast analysis on enterprise networking connectivity growth trends predicts that by 2023, “60% of enterprises will have implemented SD-WAN, up from less than 20% in 2019, to increase network agility and enhance support for cloud applications.”

Here are a few reasons why 2020 could be the Year of the SD-WAN:

5G network slicing

As 5G makes its way into the enterprise, we can expect to see the emergence of 5G network slicing. Basically, this is where radio access networks, or RANs, are split into separate virtual networks for specific applications.

“In many cases, application-based routing decisions for those networks will come from SD-WAN-like capabilities sitting behind the RAN,” says an article in Network Computing. As 5G gains traction this year, so too will SD-WAN—along with the new capabilities these combined technologies will offer.

SD-WAN and multi-cloud

Multi-cloud momentum

The momentum of multi-cloud is, in turn, driving the momentum of SD-WAN. In an article in NetworkWorld, Cisco senior VP of engineering Anand Oswal says the growth of multi-cloud networking (and the need for secure access to cloud applications) will force many businesses to retool their networks in favour of SD-WAN technology.

More vendors are starting to offer value-added features, such as connectivity control for zero-trust security. The number of vendors offering such features doubled last year, and that number will double again this year, according to an article in SearchNetworking, “as SD-WAN vendors work to provide their MSP and network operator channels with features to accelerate SD-WAN adoption.”

Setting the stage for SASE

Secure access service edge, or SASE (pronounced sassy), is the latest acronym to join the IT lexicon. “SASE combines elements of SD-WAN and network security into a single cloud-based service. Managing and troubleshooting large WANs are two of the biggest headaches for IT departments, which SASE aims to tackle,” says Kerravala in eWeek.

While SASE is still in its infancy and won’t enter the mainstream for at least five to 10 years, software-defined WANs are a first step toward “self-driving networks of the future powered by AI.”

Read more:

Enterprise networking trends to watch in 2020
SASE and the future of enterprise networking
How 5G will affect your business in 2020

IDC reports that SD-WAN continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of the network infrastructure market. In 2018, sales of SD-WAN infrastructure increased 64.9 per cent to US$1.37 billion; by 2023, that market is expected to exceed $5.25 billion.

While 5G network slicing and SASE are still emerging, a software-defined approach will help set the foundation for future networking capabilities. Perhaps that means it will be the Decade of the SD-WAN.

Get more information in this free Allstream SD-WAN checklist.

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

Images: hanibaram/iStock; Just_Super/iStock

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