The Growth of SD-WAN

June 15, 2016

By Michael Guta, Contributing Writer

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) uses software-defined networking (SDN) to efficiently route traffic to remote locations for enterprise wide area networks (WANs). Whether it is hundreds of branch offices or data centers dispersed over a large geographical locations, SD-WAN is proving to be the best technology to allow IT on how to handle their traffic with specific intentions.

Being able to configure different policies gives IT administrators the ability to express intentions that are more complex, which is extremely important in the current security threat landscape and always on services.

With SD-WAN, enterprises will have a centralized, application-based policy controller and analytics for application and network visibility with a software overlay that abstracts underlying networks. This makes it possible to cost-effectively deliver business applications while addressing the operational requirements of today's highly complex branch/remote site. It also optimizes software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)) and cloud-based services such as UC&C while improving branch-IT efficiency through automation.

This flexibility is fueling the growth of the technology as enterprises move away from legacy WAN connections that relied on special propriety hardware and the cost associated with the entire value chain of the technology. Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a technology many enterprises use to link their data centers with their remote offices. This was fine when most of the data was static and the traffic was mostly between the data center and branch office.

Today the environment is completely different, because traffic in branch offices goes directly into the Internet and mobile devices are continuously pulling data and applications in from the cloud.

According to the latest IDC (News - Alert) SD-WAN forecast released in March of 2016, the market intelligence firm said revenue from the segment will exceed $6 billion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 90 percent over the 2015-2020 forecast period.

The growth is attributed to enterprises as they seek to optimize their cloud strategies. Rohit Mehra, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at IDC, said, "As public and private cloud use continues to grow, WAN performance becomes critical to latency-sensitive and mission-critical workloads and inter-datacenter business continuity."

The IDC report also highlighted a U.S. survey in which nearly half of enterprises are planning to consider migration to SD-WAN over the next two years. However, the value proposition around SD-WAN is still a point of contention. The ROI or Return on Investment calculation when SD-WAN is being evaluated has to take into consideration the CAPEX and OPEX (News - Alert) of the overall cost of the WAN itself. This varies greatly depending on the elimination of private circuits, vendor lock-ins and propriety hardware.

Globally the SD-WAN market is being driven by different verticals, including Banking Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), oil and gas, healthcare, government, manufacturing and others. There is no question improving operational efficiency has become one of the key elements of enterprise strategies, and today that means optimized networks, making SD-WAN a key technology.

Edited by Maurice Nagle