SD-WAN is evolving from stand-alone technology to just another feature within WAN edge appliances that deliver...
multiple application-centric services to remote and branch offices.
The trend is due to an alignment between the interests of SD-WAN vendors and enterprises. The former sees revenue potential in SD-WAN's rising popularity while the latter wants consolidation of network infrastructure for the branch.
In a survey scheduled for release next month, the Enterprise Strategy Group, based in Milford, Mass., found that 60% of IT organizations in medium to large companies preferred SD-WAN as a feature within a broader package of branch network services. Only 36% of the 300 respondents thought of the technology as a stand-alone product.
SD-WAN vendors that deliver the traffic-routing software the way customers want will have access to a fast-growing market. IDC estimates revenue from SD-WAN infrastructure and services will increase nearly 70% annually to more than $8 billion in 2021.
Enterprises are turning to SD-WAN-only appliances to lower the cost of connecting branch offices to cloud-based business applications. Rather than backhaul all traffic to the corporate data center, companies can separate packets marked for the cloud and send them directly to the internet -- a faster and less expensive option.
Startups selling SD-WAN appliances that plug into an enterprise's network infrastructure have dominated the market for the last few years. Today, companies are looking for more versatile hardware that incorporates SD-WAN, WAN optimization, firewalls and IP services such as voice over IP.
"With time, you'll see SD-WAN products shift from dedicated single-function hardware to software loads on multifunction appliances," said Andrew Lerner, an analyst at Gartner.
"They might architect their solutions differently, use different nomenclature, have different approaches to building a partner ecosystem, and be further or lesser along the path to bringing the vision to fruition," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.
Choosing the right SD-WAN vendor
More than 40 companies sell WAN edge infrastructure, including SD-WAN, so trying to separate those with products that match an organization's needs will take work. In a recent market report, Gartner had recommendations for making the right choice:
- Everything should begin with the applications served by the network. Technologies that meet their requirements are the best candidates for the shortlist.
- Choose an SD-WAN vendor with products that are in line with the organization's long-term WAN and application architecture. Purchases shouldn't operate in a silo.
- Companies ready for an edge router refresh or replacement should consider SD-WAN alternatives.
- Do not assume that a single set of WAN edge functionality will fit the needs of every business unit and branch office. Create a list of requirements for each location.
- Finally, because SD-WAN favors the use of broadband for internet connectivity, do not assume legacy MPLS connections for applications are dead. Gartner expects a mixture of internet and MPLS connections to provide enterprises with the needed performance, reliability and security for the next three years.
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