Software-Defined Wide Area Network technologies have rapidly surpassed the level of technological novelty, becoming a market with solid growth potential in less than two years.
IDC estimates that the market value SD-wan continued to grow (LINK art.) in 2016, reaching $600 million. This year the amount will be more than two times higher ($ 1.4 billion), and the pace will be maintained in 2018 when it is thought to reach $ 2.8 billion(1). An optimistic estimate, confirmed partly, by Gartner’s analysis cabinet, who stated that over the next three years nearly half of functional enterprise routers will be replaced by SD-WAN solutions(2).
The rapid evolution of the SD-WAN market is “forced” by the extensive adoption of Cloud services, an increase in the number of business applications that require broadband connections, and the intensive use of mobile devices in the enterprise business. There are changes that transform WAN networks in complex architectures, difficult to manage, many organizations struggling to maintain a balance between the performance of services provided to end-users and WAN connections costs.
According to a study conducted by Ashton, Metzler & Associates(3), the main requirements that force companies to change their WAN architectures are:
- Increase in security level (42%);
- Cost reduction (37%);
- Improved support for real-time applications (33%);
- Optimizing access to Cloud services (25%);
- Prioritization of traffic for business applications (25%).
The situation is critical especially among companies with a wide geographical distribution, where IT departments are forced to find new solutions to connect branches to data centers via fast connections, secure and high availability, all at a convenient price-performance ratio.
Advantages of Software-Defined WAN technology
In this context, Software-Defined WAN technology comes with a number of immediate benefits:
- Supplements, complements and/or replaces traditional and expensive MPLS connections with broadband Internet connections, but not only. At an average monthly cost of 200-400 USD / Mbps (according to Networkworld.com) it is obvious that the possibility of using broadband Internet connections offers immediate gains.
- Simplifies and improves traffic management in WAN networks by dynamically selecting the connection type. SD-WAN ensures flexibility of choice of optimum connection, enabling selection of the path in the MPLS mix, Internet, 4G / LTE, etc. depending on performance requirements and availability of services. Dynamic selection is made according to a variety of factors: the application, the traffic profile, security requirements, the quality (Quality of Service – QoS), latency connection, etc.
- Improves the visibility of networks and increases the efficiency of traffic monitoring.
- Increases security throughout the network by integrating advanced technology capabilities SD-WAN with VPN solutions.
After so many gains, there is a justified question: If Software-Defined WAN technology is so “beneficial” why does not yet have a wider degree of adoption?
Experts say that, on the one hand, there is the novelty of the technology itself – the same study Ashton, Metzler & Associates (3) nominates as the main inhibitor of SD-WAN adoption, the fear of immaturity regarding current products and services. On an equal scale with those related to the fact that the adoption of SD-WAN increases the complexity of the network. On the other hand, Gartner justifies the delay by the fact that many organizations use custom ASICs that manage their WAN and LAN networks with a qualifying upgrade/refresh, and network engineers are traditionally reluctant to change.
Despite these reservations, justified in part, the pressure carried by the extensive adoption of SaaS delivery model – that will become the predominant pattern of business consumer applications(4) starting next year – and the widespread use of mobile devices in the environment business, will force organizations to discover new ways to optimize WAN architectures. And the Software-Defined WAN solutions are already a backup answer for more and more companies. Two years ago, at VMworld 2015, the analysts already estimated that the main “early adopters” in the Software-Defined-WAN domain will be retailers and financial and banking institutions, organizations with a large number of subsidiaries. Those were quickly added telecom operators – a Heavy Reading survey conducted last year shows that 84% of operators believe SD-WAN technology of critical importance in automating operations and reducing service costs. As proof, British Telecom, Verizon, Orange Business Services, and Telstra already uses Cisco technology to provide WAN SD-business customers.
Software-Defined WAN technologies’ popularity is constantly growing among not only large companies but also to SMB’s. According to a Silver Peak recent analysis, 27% of small and medium-sized businesses have already made the transition to next-generation WAN solutions. In the Software-Defined WAN market segment, Cisco occupies a leading position in 2018, holding a 46% share according to an IDC study.
Regardless of the size of the companies and the industry, experts recommend carefully evaluating Software-Defined WAN technologies on the market. Because, beyond the immediate gains, there are other important criteria to be taken into account. As an example, the risk of “lock-in” associated with the potential development of different solutions on the market. Currently, market vendors’ SD-WAN technology is divided into three major categories:
- Suppliers of traditional network equipment, Cisco area, seconded by Dell-EMC, HPE, and Juniper;
- WAN solutions specialists that are rapidly expanding to SDN areas, such as Silver Peak and Talari Networks;
- “New pure players” zone, represented by start-ups, of which the most visible are CloudGenix, Ocedo, Viptela, and VeloCloud.
- In numbers, start-ups hold the majority. This is why experts recommend caution in evaluating solutions, to identify a vendor able to become a long term partner in the development and optimization of WAN networks.
On the SD-WAN market, Cisco occupies a privileged position ensured, on one hand, by the leader status on the WAN optimization solutions niche (5), and on the other hand, the approaching method. SD-WAN solution offered by Cisco is not created from scratch but is developed on a number of existing products with extended compatibility. The product is based on the solution traffic control Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) and Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) platform, for companies who wish to optimize their WAN and move some of the traffic hosted through MPLS connections to Low –cost connections. Overall these components, Cisco has recently added solution Infrastructure Policy Controller Enterprise Application Module (APIC-EM) IWAN functionality that automates configuration.
Long-term development of a WAN architecture requires not only a performant solution but a capable partner with optimum integration skills, capable to capitalize it best. Datanet Systems meets all these requirements, being the main Cisco Partner in Romania, with a vast experience in data networking infrastructure projects. Additionally, Datanet has developed and operates the first SDN laboratory in Romania that allows simulation, testing, and validation of new generation architectures that allow simulations of real configurations and specifications delivered by the interested organizations.
(1) – “Cloud and Drive for WAN Efficiencies Power Move to SD-WAN” – IDC Study
(2) – “SD-WAN Forecast and Opportunity: How They Will Disrupt the Router Market” – Gartner Study
(3) – “2016 State-of-the-WAN Report – What’s Driving the Interest in Software-Defined WANs?” – Ashton, Metzler & Associates
(4) – “Hybrid Will Be the New Normal for Next Generation Enterprise Wan” – Gartner Study
(5) – “Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization 2016” – Gartner Analysis