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SD-WAN 2.0: What SD-WAN trends to look for in 2018

As 2018 draws closer, analyst Lee Doyle looks into future SD-WAN trends. On the radar: The continued growth of SD-WAN managed services and support for IoT, Wi-Fi and mobility.

SD-WAN trends and technology continue to evolve, with significant improvements in terms of security, routing, multi-tenancy...

and centralized or cloud-based management. Over time, SD-WAN will improve its support for business applications for the internet of things; provide better wireless integration, like with Wi-Fi and 4G; and more easily incorporate into broader branch network functionality.

The SD-WAN market continues to experience explosive growth and widespread adoption by a range of distributed organizations across all major geographic regions. Buyers find SD-WAN products easy to deploy and experience significant improvements in WAN bandwidth as they deploy internet connectivity, in addition to their installed MPLS links. The market has highly distributed market share and continues to support several dozen suppliers, with many startups, small suppliers and large network equipment providers.

Rise of managed services

The roles of service providers and managed service providers continue to grow, as more service providers roll out a full range of managed SD-WAN product offerings. Many customers are attracted to the option of having a service provider manage their branch WAN, so service providers need to deliver SD-WAN to remain competitive in the market. SD-WAN also enables service providers to better offer managed services outside their region, or country, of service via internet links.

SD-WAN technology has advanced over the last year to improve its managed service offerings, including support for multi-tenancy and better centralized management. In the future, SD-WAN technology will include the ability to federate managed services across service providers, thereby enabling global partnerships. SD-WAN technology will also evolve to better support a virtual customer premises equipment model via better integration with other network applications and open APIs.

SD-WAN trends 2.0

SD-WAN technology continues to evolve to provide better security, routing, management and support for internet of things (IoT) and mobility. Many SD-WAN suppliers have already incorporated support for WAN optimization. Below are some SD-WAN trends where we can expect to see continued growth.

Enhanced routing. SD-WAN technology now supports enhanced routing features, including Border Gateway Protocol. Many enterprises, especially those migrating away from MPLS, are deploying SD-WAN without branch routers. Doyle Research expects significant disruption of the branch router market, with SD-WAN becoming the primary platform. SD-WAN will also be an essential component of the concept of a software-defined branch.

Over time, SD-WAN will provide enhanced support for IoT, mobility -- like Wi-Fi and 5G -- and evolve toward the concept of the software-defined branch.

Centralized management. SD-WAN providers continue to mature their platform-specific management and orchestration capabilities. Distributed enterprises require automation and centralized control to administer WAN links to distant branch locations. Over time, SD-WAN providers will improve their ability to automatically identify, prioritize and route traffic over the most appropriate WAN link. Improved centralized or cloud-based management will allow IT to quickly tune network and application performance.

Security. SD-WAN providers have enhanced the security functionality in their platforms by incorporating basic firewall functionality. Application identification can be used to whitelist certain connections, like SaaS applications, and send all other traffic to the robust security functions at the data center or cloud. SD-WAN providers will enhance their integration with security providers with features like next-generation firewall, unified threat management and antivirus functions. Enterprises will have the option to place network security functions at the branch, in the data center or in the cloud.

IoT, Wi-Fi and 5G. Enterprises with remote IoT deployments use the WAN to backhaul IoT insights to their data center. Over time, SD-WAN must enhance its ability to connect thousands of things in real time. Most branch locations support Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi controllers, and increased integration between Wi-Fi controllers and SD-WAN should yield operational benefits. Fourth-generation Long Term Evolution is a ubiquitous part of the WAN landscape and its data speeds -- 5 MB to 10 MB -- can support most branch operations. Already an ideal backup link, 4G is migrating to 5G. SD-WAN providers should incorporate native support for 4G and 5G, as they increasingly become viable primary WAN options.

Final thoughts about future SD-WAN trends

SD-WAN technology is becoming widely adopted to improve the economics of the WAN. IT leaders with distributed locations should evaluate how SD-WAN can improve their business operations -- either by in-house implementation or via a managed service. The market continues to support dozens of SD-WAN services and products, with no clear market winners yet.

Mergers and acquisitions will continue to disrupt the supplier landscape. Intense competition will drive significant innovation, with continued improvements in routing, security and management functionality. Over time, SD-WAN will provide enhanced support for IoT, mobility -- like Wi-Fi and 5G -- and evolve toward the concept of the software-defined branch.

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This was last published in October 2017

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