2017 has been a pivotal year for software-defined WANs (SD-WANs). In June, Gartner declared that SD-WANs were now going mainstream, a major shift from just three years earlier, when SD-WAN was still new enough to be affectionately described as "SDN Hits the WAN."
In that time, perceptions of SD-WAN use cases evolved substantially. It went from being seen by some as a cost-effective, MacGyver-esque solution for simplifying complicated hub-and-spoke WANs, to a network Swiss Army Knife capable of much more – e.g., reliably delivering complex traffic across hybrid cloud IT infrastructures, no matter the underlying transport or application architecture.
Then, the router king Cisco, moved in to acquire Viptela, and VMware upped the ante with its acquisition of VeloCloud. Additionally, Tier I carriers opened another flank with SDWan-as-a-Service.
With SD-WAN now emerging as the next-generation edge solution for service providers and enterprises, where does it go next? Gartner believes that we’re entering a hyper-growth stage driven primarily by three major inflection points in IT infrastructure: digital business transformation; accelerated migration to hybrid-cloud IT topologies; and bi-modal IT duplicating legacy data centers with digital business operations. To get there, continual innovation from SD-WAN providers is necessary in the coming year. Here's what to look out for emerging now and throughout 2018:
#1: Total Disruption of the Edge-Router Orthodoxy
Greater adoption of SD-WAN should make a major dent in demand for traditional edge routers next year. SD-WAN providers handled only two percent of WAN-edge infrastructure refreshes in 2016, but are expected to perform more than half of them by 2020, according to Gartner.
The universal functionality of a contemporary SD-WAN allows for the consolidation of one or more traditional networking devices including router, firewall and WAN optimization.The flexible subscription model of SD-WAN consumption can replace the costly upfront investment of edge routers – software (network controller) is eating the router!
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#2: The Rapprochement of SD-WAN vs MPLS
SD-WAN vs MPLS is a common framework when discussing the future of the WAN, but it is not the only way to understand ongoing WAN evolution. SD-WAN providers can also deploy their platforms as overlays in hybrid WAN models, thereby augmenting an existing investment in MPLS and legacy equipment, and extending total cost of ownership (TCO) value.
Granted, MPLS is under immense pressure as demand for bandwidth and cloud services keep increasing, making broadband, cellular and satellite more appealing (and less expensive) alternatives. But MPLS still has some advantages – such as last-mile management – that will continue to cement its place in many WANs, including SD-WANs, in 2018 and beyond.
#3: The Looming Blockchain Insurgency
The recent surge of interest in cryptocurrencies and initial-coin offerings (ICOs) has generated new speculation on the future of blockchain applications. Blockchain's potential is considerable, especially for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
#4: Tighter Security Integrations
As SD-WANs become central to the support of cloud and IoT applications, expect security integrations to become even more important differentiators between specific SD-WAN solutions. A secure tunnel using 128b or 256b AES encryption is created across all aggregated WAN paths on-demand, with no requirement to preconfigure anything, reducing the attack surface of an edge network.
#5: Seamless WAN-edge to Cloud Transformation
Cloud connectivity at the edge is a huge market driver for business-critical apps like Salesforce.com and Office365. A sophisticated SD-WAN fabric utilizes diverse links (e.g., DIA Internet, broadband DSL, LTE and more), Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect, and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute links to ensure the highest level of reliable and instantaneous failover for cloud-connected apps. Talari's WAN-to-cloud infrastructure enables "liquid" application flows that are unimpeded when heavy loss and jitter conditions occur, or even link failure, and in the case of hardware appliances, a fail-to-wire contingency.
#6: Bridge the Digital Transformation of Enterprise Business
The imperative to transform every business into a digital enterprise is a strong driving force that enables contemporary organizations to straddle legacy environments while implementing a progressive software-defined edge network that delivers immediate ROI to recapturing lost minutes of uptime.
#7: Maintain a Bi-Modal IT Strategy without Disrupting Continuity
SD-WAN can connect in a unified fabric all relevant nodes running legacy apps as well as organic and SaaS apps that enable digital business transformation, for both corporates and supply chain partners.
#8: Increased Volume of Cloud Component in Hybrid or Hyperconverged Infrastructures
While the clear majority of data and apps still run on customer premises, upwards of 85 percent according to 451 Research, leveraging the immersive bandwidth benefits of SD-WAN will enable enterprises to incrementally increase the volume of cloud-based data centers to their edge networks, without taking performance hits nor suffering from over-provisioning legacy hardware or circuits.
#9: Majority of SD-WAN Growth Derived from DIY or MSP (the ‘un’-carrier market)
While the hype of carrier-provided SD-WAN and private circuit NaaS offerings continues to inflate, most of the SD-WAN market growth and implementations will come from Do-it-Yourself methods by which the enterprise administrator deploys direct from the vendor or it will come in the form of a managed network service provided by a domain-expert specialty VAR or SI that have expanded their expertise into the cloud.
#10: Zero-Hands Perimeter means Minimal Touch Configuration
The power of SD-WAN lies in the extensibility of the controller software platform – that is, the ability to manage policies of all sites from a single pane of glass … from initial configuration of every node to QoS delivery policies to one logical interface to all nodes in the dynamic mesh – so that SD-WAN reliability scales rapidly without the need for network-certified personnel in every physical location.
If any or all of these trends materialize in 2018, organizations that adopt SD-WAN are likely to benefit from greater operational agility, business resiliency and higher quality of experience for all end-users.
About The Author:
Atchison Frazer brings over 20 years of IT strategic marketing expertise to Talari, most recently as CMO of Xangati, a hybrid-cloud IT infrastructure performance management software provider acquired by Virtual Instruments. Prior to Xangati, Atchison was global marketing leader for ADC-vendor KEMP Technologies and also Gnodal Ltd (now part of Cray), an innovator of High Performance Computing data-fabric technology and High Frequency Trading fintech infrastructure. Previously, Atchison was responsible for services strategy, global marketing and sales enablement to support Cisco’s global enterprise theatre and enterprise transformation market segments, including enterprise security software, network optimization services and application visibility management solutions. Atchison also has held senior marketing management roles with Fortinet and HP Enterprise. Atchison earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Louisville.