8 SD-WAN Predictions for 2018
The SD-WAN market is still white-hot, as buyers turn to the technology to cost effectively meet burgeoning bandwidth demands while realizing benefits such as simplified WAN management and better application performance.
What’s not to like?
In fact, there is so much upside with SD-WAN that vendors and service providers new and old are rushing to stake a claim, roiling the still young market. Here are the major developments you can expect in the coming year:
- Industry consolidation has been the watch word, and will continue through 2018.
In August Cisco acquired SD-WAN player Viptela, and in early November VMware announced it was acquiring VeloCloud. In just the SD-WAN appliance space alone there are some 40 providers, so it goes without saying that more market consolidation is in the cards for 2018.
While that contraction will simplify the supplier landscape, it will require enterprise buyers to do more homework as the acquiring companies work to integrate various product lines. For example, how will Cisco’s iWAN portfolio evolve now that the company has swallowed Viptela? What kind of options and questions do existing iWAN customers now face?
With the players in flux and WAN edge strategies continuously evolving, enterprise buyers may be forced to take on some SD-WAN integration work themselves, or, at the least, be prepared to re-evaluate their SD-WAN strategy on an annual basis.
- SD-WAN adoption will tilt away from an appliance-only model toward managed services.
The product flux resulting from consolidation will help further tip the SD-WAN scales away from box solutions toward managed services, particularly for mid- to large-sized organizations. It is fair to say that 2018 will be the year of managed SD-WANs as enterprise buyers tire of puzzling together SD-WAN solutions from ever-changing piece parts.
The SD-WAN services that will prove to be most desirable are the ones that virtualize the WAN end-to-end, instead of relying on non-managed Internet backbone links – prone to congestion and other gremlins — between virtualized edge components.
The shift to managed SD-WAN solutions will also cut into legacy MPLS services, which will lose market share on an accelerating basis as buyers reach instead for SD-WAN options that are easier to manage and are much more elastic, eliminating the need to put up with month(s) long service change requests. In fact, many companies are already ripping and replacing their static MPLS backbones and opting for software controlled WANs, a trend that will become more prevalent in 2018.
- Security capabilities will become a critical purchase criteria and drive new innovation.
As SD-WAN competition intensifies, you’ll see suppliers trotting out additional capabilities to make their offerings more appealing. Some companies, for example, now offer WAN optimization capabilities, and you’ll see innovation around everything from routing to multiple devices and additional security options.
It goes without saying that security add-ons aren’t going to help much if the underlying integrity of the SD-WAN platform doesn’t deliver table stakes such as end-to-end encryption. And when it comes to SD-WAN delivered as a managed service, you also have to ensure data is encrypted in transit and that the physical device had been vetted by third-party top security firms.
But security options will become critical purchasing considerations in 2018, particularly when it comes to supporting cloud-based applications. Large enterprises will continue following a best-of-breed strategy for things like firewalls and opt to bundle that type of function into their SD-WAN purchase.
- SaaS-first enterprise initiatives will accelerate the adoption of SD-WAN.
By some counts, almost half of enterprise traffic today uses HTTP and HTTPS, the protocols that support cloud/SaaS applications, and that will ratchet up as the shift to cloud accelerates, so we can expect the SD-WAN players to focus more of their efforts on cloud optimization in 2018.
In fact, cloud migration is another key driver of SD-WAN adoption. Many service providers offer direct connections to IaaS offerings from the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, but organizations such as GE and others are putting a priority on SaaS, and the legacy MPLS service providers don’t have an answer for that. That means enterprise buyers reaching for SaaS will be looking to SD-WAN to improve the performance of these critical connections.
- Global enterprises will realize deploying SD-WAN over the Internet will not address application performance issues.
Using the Internet as the underlying transport can offer a low-cost, flexible and rapid deployment option for regional SD-WAN scenarios, but companies with globally distributed branch offices and employees need to look at the bigger picture, especially if the SD-WAN will be used to support links to cloud/SaaS applications.
Companies that rely on SD-WANs using Internet links in a global deployment will sacrifice application performance and productivity since user experience deteriorates significantly with an increase in distance. Latency, packet loss and jitter are inherent to the Internet and these issues are exaggerated when data must travel further. Internet-based SD-WANs also cannot commit to SLAs, so IT leaders don’t know what to expect in terms of reliability and application performance.
IT leaders in global enterprises must deploy an SD-WAN solution with a cloud-native private network, such as Aryaka, if they want to ensure real-time delivery of their mission-critical applications.
- Enterprise buyers will wake up to the fact that many SD-WAN tools don’t have an adequate mobile strategy.
With some 40% of employees today remote and/or mobile, you’ll see SD-WAN suppliers scrambling to accommodate this large and growing part of the workforce. Vendors that rely on SD-WAN appliances, for example, can’t expect workers to carry around those gizmos, and the soft clients that some offer instead quickly become a management nightmare in terms of tracking who has downloaded what version, when, virtually ensuring an uptick in support calls. Expect to see more suppliers strive to offer clientless SD-WAN.
- IoT will fuel the adoption of SD-WAN.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will create billions of new data end-points through devices or systems, constantly relaying a growing volume of data across enterprise networks. The fundamental requirement for any IoT project to be successful is the availability and access of real-time data for all stakeholders. The promise of simplified network deployment, centralized control, and real-time application delivery is going to be critical for CIOs to choose SD-WAN over legacy network technologies for their IoT-based applications.
For example, Augmedix, a leading healthcare technology provider, opted for a global SD-WAN to eliminate latency issues worldwide. This helps physicians become more productive by enabling them to use Google Glass to communicate with human scribes across the globe to document the health records of patients in real-time.
- SD-WAN tools will adopt machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to take WANs to the next level.
One of the advantages of SD-WANs is the network becomes aware of the needs of the applications it supports and can react accordingly. You just don’t get that with MPLS. And in 2018 we’ll start to see more efforts to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve on those capabilities. The potential is there, for example, to predict network behavior in real time and route traffic over the best path, and use machine learning algorithms to identify network issues before the customer even feels them.
You can expect these and other SD-WAN developments to unfold in 2018 because the one prediction guaranteed to come true is this: This fast growing and still evolving SD-WAN market will continue to attract vendor investment and buyer interest because the returns are so outstanding.