Survey Examines WAN Transformation and SD-WAN’s Impact

Enterprises are heavily involved in reinventing their WANs, and they see SD-WAN as a primary enabler of this change. To deliver a truly intelligent SD-WAN, companies need to leverage solutions that drive business forward.

Ricardo Belmar

June 28, 2019

5 Min Read
Survey Examines WAN Transformation and SD-WAN’s Impact
(Image: Pixabay)

We recently sponsored a survey with Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) to examine changes to the enterprise WAN and what part SD-WAN technology plays in effecting those changes. The survey is entitled, “Wide-Area Network Transformation: How Enterprises Succeed with Software-Defined WAN.”

Survey participants include 305 enterprise WAN decision-makers and subject matter experts. The research examines all aspects of WAN transformation, from cloud enablement to Internet migration, and explores how SD-WAN fits in. It also investigates the way enterprises select, implement, and bring SD-WAN into their IT operations.

Primary WAN drivers

Survey participants were asked to identify the business issues and the technical initiatives that most impact their WAN strategies. Turns out, hybrid cloud and Internet of things (IoT) are two of the most common technical WAN drivers. For hybrid clouds, which encompass private infrastructure and public cloud infrastructure, the network that interconnects between the two requires careful consideration. With applications bridging both environments, enterprises are re-architecting the way remote sites connect to those applications.

Multi-cloud architecture, SaaS and IaaS migration, and hybrid cloud are primary WAN drivers, and a main influence on WAN strategy:

  • The average enterprise can trace 48% of WAN traffic to external cloud, SaaS and IaaS

  • Most enterprises expect cloud traffic to increase over the next three years

  • Cloud adoption is the #2 challenge to overall WAN success

These findings have major implications for WAN architecture, network service assurance, and security. Enterprises that rate themselves as very successful with the WAN have a higher percentage of cloud traffic at their remote sites. This clearly indicates that cloud enablement is a barometer for success.

IoT devices within branch offices can impact WAN and LAN infrastructure. They add further complexity, connecting from challenging remote locations, like vehicles, outside security cameras, weather monitoring probes, etc. Because of their unique locations, IoT devices need flexible connectivity options.

While security is a top priority, it doesn’t necessarily represent a major technical hurdle for the WAN, as much as implementing a sound strategy based on security best practices.

Additional WAN drivers include:

  • Cost reduction and optimization are a significant influence

  • Increasing endpoint devices connecting in the branch (e.g. smartphones, PCs/laptops, tablets, IoT, etc.)

  • 92% of enterprises will grow overall WAN bandwidth over the next two years

  • 74% are increasing their use of the Internet as a primary WAN connectivity option

  • 52% are supplementing MPLS with Internet connectivity (e.g. hybrid networks)

  • MPLS is not going away—only 15% of enterprises are retiring MPLS with Internet-only connectivity

Essential SD-WAN drivers

The survey looked at a number of major factors that are driving WAN transformation. These include cloud connectivity, security, virtualization, Internet migration, and network management tools.

Enterprises are looking to move away from managing every individual branch device, to a centralized system that allows them to orchestrate network services across distributed locations. The growing adoption of SD-WAN is a result of this need.

The study examines SD-WAN adoption among enterprise participants with 30 or more remote sites connected to the WAN, and at least 500 employees. With that in mind, these distributed companies have a great need for SD-WAN. In fact, 97 percent are actively engaged with SD-WAN in some way, with the largest group in the process of implementing SD-WAN, with initial deployments completed.

The top five business drivers of SD-WAN adoption:

  • Closes the skills gap in network teams

  • Cloud enablement

  • Improves security

  • Enhances network agility

  • Improves network and application performance

Survey participants were asked to identify SD-WAN features that are most critical to their networks. These key features reflect their attitudes on SD-WAN business drivers. The most important feature was integrated monitoring of applications and networks. This visibility is critical to performance management. It can also reduce complexity, giving network managers better insights into the end-to-end network. Security was another key requirement. However, enterprises will deploy their brand-preferences, with third-party on-premises or cloud-based security services and features, and integrate them with their SD-WAN solution.

SD-WAN success

One of the strongest correlations throughout the research data is between SD-WAN adoption, and the level of WAN success. Enterprises that have fully completed their SD-WAN implementation are five times more likely to describe themselves as very successful, compared with enterprises that have no SD-WAN plans, or are still in the research and planning phase.

  • 97% of enterprises are actively engaged with SD-WAN

  • 28% have completed an SD-WAN implementation

The research is clear. Enterprises are heavily involved in reinventing their WANs, and they see SD-WAN as a primary enabler of this change. They’re converts to the simplified management, increased visibility, and the flexibility, reliability and optimal performance to support business initiatives. To deliver a truly intelligent SD-WAN, companies need to leverage solutions that drive business forward.

In the end, it’s all about business empowerment, with SD-WAN solutions that align WAN performance with business goals and align application quality and performance with business intent. This is a fundamental shift from a network emphasis, to an application focus.

A copy of the report summary can be found here.

About the Author(s)

Ricardo Belmar

Ricardo Belmar is Sr Director, Global Enterprise Marketing at Infovista

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