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SD-WAN Series - Part 1: The Wide Reach of SD-WAN

Published: 28 February 2017

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is fast becoming the talk of the town. Cisco and Gartner have both predicted that the segment will grow from $129 million last year to $1.24 billion in 2020. That’s an eye watering rate of growth, but what is behind this growth and what might we expect from the service in 2017? Here, we aim to take a look at what lies in store for the SD-WAN market in the year 2017 from the potential introduction of Artificial Intelligence to the upgrading of networks, and the security liabilities that need to be addressed.

SD-WAN technology is seen as the replacement for IPVPN MPLS, and this is due to the trend where companies are moving their applications into the Cloud. Software-defined networking (SDN), creates a dynamic networking layer which better utilises internet and broadband based networks. It can either be used to connect worldwide offices or connect branches to a central network.

SD-WAN has the ability to automate the process of adding new sites and altering the characteristics of existing sites, without having to adjust individual configurations. Its advanced capabilities also include the ability to utilise a policy-based, centralised orchestrator for managing network performance by intention.

An application signature database, which classifies thousands of popular applications, ensures optimisation of the flows of application traffic classes. The seamless management of connection types, handling of dynamic path selections, and improved support of business applications has made it a point of interest among companies who are planning the future of their network.

Forbes magazine was convinced enough to predict that 2017 will be the year when SD-WAN comes of age and most companies will be using or collaborating with it in some way. This helps to explain the heady growth predictions. However, this does not mean that we will see a proliferation of new providers in the area. Forbes suggests that the industry is already mature, with many offerings available and heavy competition. Instead, they anticipate that some of the smaller players will start to be forced to consolidate before the year is finished.

Nevertheless, we can still expect a multitude of SD-WAN services to be released in 2017, which will lead to the acceleration in the uptake of these services. Many companies already have access to remote locations, however, it is expected that capabilities will need to increase as the needs of each individual user and application increases.

The new SD-WAN services released in 2017 will run with different approaches. Although they generally tend to be fairly similar, every provider will have a slightly varied offering. Each approach has its pros and cons and most users will need to look at a variety of options before deciding what works best for them.

Vendors will look at a variety of approaches during 2017, some will attempt to cover all offerings and capabilities, while others will focus on specific abilities and making these work well. David Hughes of Silver Peak suggests that some providers may be side-lined to a few narrow use cases; which may well fuel the consolidation predicted by Forbes.

One of the challenges SD-WAN needs to face and overcome in 2017 is that security and networking are separated. NetworkWorld even asked, tongue-in-cheek, whether SD stands for “Security Disaster?”. It’s almost inevitable and necessary that we will see much greater collaboration between SD-WAN security and networking teams, which will allow better analytics as well as potentially better security.

So, it’s a big year ahead for SD-WAN, with stellar growth, new offerings, collaboration between networking and security, threats to providers who become niche and the inevitable consolidations as the market reaches true maturity. Watch out for it.

Written by Richard Thomas, Highlight Founder & CEO

SD-WAN Series - Part 2: Artificial Intelligence