The SD-WAN market has exploded in 2020, driven by the need to support increasingly remote workforces, the emergence of the AI-driven WAN and the requirement to deliver branch performance that matches campus networks. As enterprises look at the year ahead, support for the distributed workforce remains a top priority, and SD-WAN is a crucial technology that businesses need to invest in to thrive in the “new normal.”
As we head into 2021, these are the biggest motivators for the enterprise to adopt SD-WAN:
- Increased demand for robust video quality: The days of in-person conferences and meetings have been traded with back-to-back Zoom calls. Though lags and connectivity issues are understandable, they can be frustrating and ultimately lead to decreased productivity. Experiencing these issues has increased the demand for more robust and higher bandwidth network connectivity, which is critical for video communications. This increasing demand is expected to continue to rise—although some businesses are planning to return to the office, many are adopting a hybrid work model that will require at last part-time remote work.
- Boosting bandwidth without breaking the bank: Outside of video calls, the surge in remote work has increased pressure on overall network bandwidth. The solution for organizations is, of course, to add more bandwidth, but doing so can be expensive. SD-WAN is an attractive option for increased bandwidth pressure because it’s a solution that can meet bandwidth pressure demands while remaining cost-effective.
- Centrally operated networks needed for distributed sites: Once enterprise video quality and bandwidth needs are fulfilled, the next step is to ensure that IT teams have the resources they need to effectively operate remote networks and deliver a great user experience from client to cloud. SD-WAN is a useful IT tool for network management because it provides full visibility into what’s happening across the network. And with the recent emergence of AI-driven WAN solutions, IT teams have more tools than ever before to get insight into user experience, enabling them to proactively and remotely resolve issues.
Despite the many benefits of SD-WAN, there are still a number of barriers that are keeping enterprises from adopting this technology, including:
- Concerns about quality of service (QoS) for applications across WAN: With SD-WAN solutions shifting traffic away from dedicated private circuits towards the public internet to reduce cost, businesses are often concerned about their ability to assure QoS for their critical applications. These businesses should look for solutions that provide insights into the experience from client to cloud as well as leverage data science and AI to detect anomalies. They should also automate the root cause determination and resolution through self-driving or IT actions.
- Lack of insight into user experience: Many SD-WAN solutions lack the insight into both user and app experience from wireless to wired to WAN, whether due to the use of link-based VPN connections rather than session-based protection and/or the lack of rich streaming telemetry from the network devices to a modern cloud-based AI system. New AI-driven solutions and session-based technologies are now available that can improve this insight to simplify network operations and assure great user experiences from client to cloud.
- Securing remote sites from potential security threats: By further extending the threat surfaces with a more distributed workforce, many organizations are concerned about the potential security threats that a distributed network could introduce. To mitigate this, it is critical to look for solutions that embrace a connected security paradigm that delivers insight into threats across the network while automating mitigation and enforcing security policies at the edge.
- Limited technical skills and knowledge: A common perceived barrier to SD-WAN adoption is the concern that there is a significant learning curve for the technology and not enough existing skills to plan and manage it. This is a valid concern, though there are solutions. First, some SD-WAN providers offer managed services and can oversee deployment for customers through an outsourced or hybrid IT model. Second, organizations can invest in closing the skills gap via training. Though the latter option can be more time-consuming, investing in employees to learn the skills can help enterprises save money in the long run and move the industry forward by up-leveling important technical skills that are increasing in demand.
Though there are notable barriers to SD-WAN adoption, there are also solutions for each one. If enterprises can overcome these barriers, implementing SD-WAN has the potential to improve scale, bring agility, unify policy and boost security efficacy through a collapsed and integrated AI-driven network. Deploying SD-WAN can be a significant investment for companies, but in the long run, the technology is an important step in moving enterprises into the next generation of networking.