Software-Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN): the Super-Duper WAN!

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Image: Courtesy NASA

ReportBuyer’s press release dated April 24, 2017, “SD-WAN Market Size Forecasts to grow from USD 738.9 million in 2016 to reach USD 9,066.2 million by 2021,” estimates a 65.11% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for SD-WAN over the next five years with the managed services segment “expected to have the largest market share during the forecast period.”

Mike Wood, VP of marketing at VeloCloud, in an interview with RCR Wireless News published April 25, 2017 says, “Adoption of SD-WAN has reached an inflection point.” Mr. Wood claims that deployments between the telecom space and the enterprise space is “is approximately 60% enterprise and 40% service provider/telecom, but this is shifting to 50/50.”

So the race is on and SD-WAN has become the hottest new thing in the IT networking space. Everyone in telecom, networking, cloud services, managed services and what have you is getting on board. Even Hughes Network Systems, the global leader in satellite broadband for home and office, jumped on the SD-WAN bandwagon with its January 19, 2017 press release, “Hughes Launches Fully Managed SD-WAN Solution for Distributed Organizations.” It appeared to be a managed services overlay, but it’s one that gets you in the game.

Even before the arrival of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s, Sun Microsystems’ prescient tagline was “The network is the computer.” But it was only couple decades later after the public Internet penetrated the enterprise WAN with an assortment of must-have XaaS services and applications via the cloud that private corporate networks were forced to reckon with the ubiquity of the public Internet as part of their overall infrastructure for anyplace, anytime computing.

Since then there has been a growing recognition that private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure is not optimum for cloud-based services. In fact, notwithstanding the intrusion of cloud-based services, it’s an accepted fact that the weakest link in the underlying network is usually the static, fragile hardware layer regardless of the transport protocol it deploys. But now a software-defined overlay has revolutionized WANs over the past few years and the increasing impact of SD-WAN is being felt in the enterprise and telecom space making SD-WAN an imperative need.

To help us better understand this rapidly growing phenomenon, Aryaka released a whitepaper, “Top 5 SD-WAN Myths—Busted,” which is a must read. Nonetheless, these myths are listed here for the benefit of readers and they can dig deeper into the “why” for each myth by downloading the whitepaper:

  • Myth #1: All SD-WAN vendors are WAN providers.
  • Myth #2: SD-WAN is synonymous with Hybrid WAN.
  • Myth #3: SD-WAN is similar to WAN Optimization.
  • Myth #4: All SD-WAN providers reduce network costs.
  • Myth #5: All SD-WAN solutions enable global enterprise expansion and cloud migration.

These myths deserve to be debunked, even as a bigger myth proliferates – the one that pits MPLS vs. SD-WAN, as if the latter is all set to replace the former. Now unless an enterprise has no private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure, leased or owned, and has moved everything to the cloud – this is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

However, as more and more businesses, especially organizations with multiple locations and remote branches, start using cloud services such as, Salesforce, Microsoft Office365, Box, Google Apps and Amazon Web Services, as part of their daily business modus operandi, SD-WAN becomes more and more relevant. But customers have to be careful, as not all SD-WAN providers are created equal, as the Aryaka whitepaper points out.

Also, in its April 17, 2017 article, “Tips and tricks for a successful SD-WAN,” Network World notes:

“SD-WAN adopters can turn to any transport protocol — 3G, 4G LTE, MPLS, Internet or Wi-Fi — to provide the best cost and performance benefits for specific applications.”

The article goes on to cite a few successful deployments, including Borrego Health, whose CIO notes, “IT management tends to assume that implementing SD-WAN has to be either a rip-and-replace project or significantly disruptive to deploy. We found it to be quite the opposite of that.”

Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research in his March 29, 2017 NoJitter post, “SD-WAN Value: More Than Cost Savings,” points out that SD-WAN offers a lot more value beyond cost savings. These are listed here for quick reference but are explained in more detail in his post:

  • Ability to handle “brown outs.”
  • Centralized configuration.
  • Networkers become orchestrateable.
  • Zero touch provisioning.
  • Direct cloud connectivity.
  • Operationally simpler.

The SD-WAN debate has shifted from its indispensability in enterprise WANs to its ability to handle security at the enterprise grade level, especially at the network edge and at remote branches served by disparate ISPs. As if on cue, the aforementioned Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN™ company made this announcement on April 11, 2017: “VeloCloud Introduces Comprehensive SD-WAN Security Ecosystem to Protect SD-WAN Users’ Branch, Data Center and Cloud Networks.”

VeloCloud’s SD-WAN Security Technology Partner Program includes security industry leaders, such as, IBM Security, Check Point Software Technologies, Fortinet, and Zscaler, blending its flexible enterprise SD-WAN architecture with some of the world’s premier security solutions. So a marker has been laid for security in the burgeoning SD-WAN market.

Back in May 2014, The Marketing Id had defined the E = MC6 ecosystem and the evolution of the social Enterprise – one that supports Mobile, Customer-centric, Cyber-secure, Cloud-based, Communications, Collaboration & Content. The evolution of SD-WAN further ensures that the social Enterprise is now a more secure, rapidly scalable, and surprisingly flexible WAN environment than it has ever been. With a potential $9 billion market looming over the horizon, it is no wonder marketers have a nickname for SD-WAN: the Super-Duper WAN. Let’s hope SD-WAN turns out to be all that it is cracked up to be!

 

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About Jack Nargundkar

High-tech marketing is always a constant compromise between logical left-brain analytics and creative right-brain activities. Jack has been living this struggle his entire working career, which he began as a software geek after graduating with a BSEE degree from Bombay University. To hone his marketing skills, Jack went on to pursue an MBA degree from Columbia Business School in New York City. Jack has since gained wide-ranging marketing experience from working at start-ups to Fortune 500 companies in the global IT, Defense & Space, and Telecommunications industries. In the past few years, Jack has focused on developing integrated marketing strategies and plans that incorporate a judicious mix of inbound and outbound marketing techniques. In addition to being a self-published author, Jack has been recognized for outstanding analytical and communications skills, authoring technical articles (self and ghosted) in numerous trade publications and editorial opinions in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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