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Seven trends in place for SD-WAN technology in 2017

SD-WAN technology and deployment made leaps in 2016, with an increased number of use cases and suppliers. Check out seven trends on the SD-WAN horizon for 2017.

Software-defined WAN has become a trusted technology in many organizations within the past year, with the number of installed branch locations connected via SD-WAN in the tens of thousands. Now, 2017 looks like it will be another record year for SD-WAN technology advances and branch deployments. With that in mind, here are seven SD-WAN trends to watch in 2017.

1. Move to enterprise scale. During 2017, SD-WAN will move from pilot projects to full deployments in many highly distributed organizations, like retail and financial services. As organizations migrate from dozens to thousands of SD-WAN branch locations, they will need SD-WAN technology that offers the following:

  • The ability to integrate with installed WAN branch network elements;
  • Zero-touch provisioning at the branch; and
  • Standards to promote interoperability with multivendor deployments.

2. Mature product offerings. SD-WAN technology is rapidly moving beyond its initial functionality, like its ability to deliver hybrid WAN architectures or services. As products mature in 2017, buyers should look for the following SD-WAN capabilities:

  • Improved centralized management, orchestration and administration;
  • More granular analytics and application visibility; and
  • The ability to work with third-party network security, as well as better built-in security.

3. Merge with WAN optimization functionality. Many organizations currently benefit from WAN optimization appliances that compress, deduplicate and accelerate certain types of WAN traffic. In 2017, SD-WAN technology will continue to subsume WAN optimization by providing built-in or optional WAN acceleration functionalities. A number of WAN optimization suppliers are now also positioned as SD-WAN suppliers, including Riverbed Technology, Cisco, Silver Peak and Citrix. Expect more SD-WAN suppliers to follow suit.

4. Improved on-ramp to cloud services. IT organizations are rapidly increasing their use of public cloud platforms and applications to augment their internal IT resources. With this hybrid cloud approach, enterprises can utilize public clouds for application innovation and flexibility, for their ability to scale during periods of peak demand, and as backup for redundancy and disaster strategies.

Public cloud traffic has driven demand for SD-WAN, but SD-WAN suppliers are expanding their capabilities to ensure high-speed and low-latency connectivity between multiple cloud providers and enterprise networks. Many SD-WAN and cloud companies have already announced deals, including Citrix with Equinix and Viptela with Microsoft Azure. More announcements between public cloud and SD-WAN providers can be expected throughout 2017.

5. Increased managed services offerings. Managed service providers (MSPs) are increasingly offering SD-WAN options, like with unified communications or outsourced WAN. Many organizations that wish to simplify their WAN operations can benefit from SD-WAN options delivered by MSPs.

According to a recent survey released by Versa Networks, growing complexity is cited as the top concern in terms of branch network security, and more than half of the companies surveyed said they would consider managed SD-WAN. Many service providers have already chosen an initial SD-WAN partner, like EarthLink and AT&T with VeloCloud, for example. Expect to see an explosion of managed SD-WAN services in 2017.

6. Rise of internet-only connections. Most large organizations have started their SD-WAN journey with hybrid WAN architectures -- typically MPLS and internet. Some smaller enterprises have opted for internet-only or internet with Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless WAN options. As the reliability and security of SD-WAN technology becomes well-established, expect to see name-brand enterprises migrating to internet-only options to maximize bandwidth and reduce MPLS costs. LTE is poised to become a primary backup link for smaller branches, and suppliers that include Cradlepoint are well-positioned here.

7. More suppliers, mergers and acquisitions. SD-WAN is the hottest software networking segment, with more than two dozen suppliers. New suppliers have entered the market with SD-WAN technology and with technologies like orchestration that make SD-WAN work better. In 2017, more companies will position themselves in the SD-WAN market.

In 2017, the SD-WAN market will also see some of its first consolidation, as large, broad-based networking and IT vendors buy SD-WAN startups to complete or augment their product portfolios. Finally, expect some companies to leave the crowded SD-WAN market due to extreme competition and challenges in customer acquisition.

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