2018 Networking Survey: The Curse of Complexity Continues

The patchwork of appliances and network services comprising our wide area networks (WAN) have been with us for so long it’s easy to overlook their impact on IT. High capital costs, hours spent maintaining and updating appliances, protracted troubleshooting times —  so many of the networking challenges facing IT can be attributed to isolated factors whose only commonality is network complexity.

It’s this “curse of complexity that became a major theme in our new report,  State of WAN 2018: Too Complex to Ignore.” The report canvassed 712 IT professionals about the factors driving, supporting, or inhibiting WAN transformation projects. All respondents came from organizations with MPLS backbones. They represented a cross-section of the IT market with telecommunications, computers & electronics, and manufacturing being the most popular sectors. More three-quarters were from organizations with more than 10 locations, and more than half (57 percent) indicated their organizations had 2-4 physical datacenters.

Key issues covered in our research included:

  • The major drivers for networking transformation
  • The benefits expected and realized by SD-WAN adopters
  • Insight into how SD-WAN adopters view SD-WAN appliances and services
  • Which cloud datacenter services and applications are most prevalent among enterprises
  • The types of security architectures enterprises are evaluating for protecting cloud resources and mobile users

But it was the problems stemming from complexity and it’s answer — simplification — that emerged from respondents’ answers. The most blatant indicator of which came in how  respondents expected to use SD-WAN in 2018. Simplifying the network or security infrastructure was the primary use case for SD-WAN in 2018, drawing half of all respondents (50 percent).

Network & security simplification is the primary use case for SD-WAN in 2018

Complexity also emerged as respondents pointed to their primary networking and security challenges. “Equipment maintenance updates” was the number two challenge while “managing the network” was number four. Anyone who’s spent time maintaining the appliances of our networks knows all too well about the challenges. Enormous efforts are spent staging, testing, deploying, installing and new patches and upgrading the numerous appliances in their networks. All of which makes network management far more difficult and time-consuming than necessary.

And while SD-WAN helps simplify the network in many ways, alone it’s insufficient, requiring other appliances that collectively increase complexity. More specifically, protecting the branch from Internet-borne threats is critical if businesses are to use broadband to improve cloud performance and reduce WAN costs. The majority (81 percent) of respondents deploying SD-WAN in the next 12 months, identify “protecting locations and the site-to-site connections from malware and other threats” as a “critical” or “very important” priority in their SD-WAN decision making.

Threat protection will  be integral to SD-WAN adoption

Yet most SD-WAN solutions do not natively provide threat protection or, for that matter, or native cloud service (datacenters and applications) connectivity. Integration projects are needed to tie external security appliances into the SD-WAN or to stretch the SD-WAN overlay to cloud resources if it can be done at all.

No surprise then to find that nearly a third of respondents say SD-WAN appliances are still too complex. Even SD-WAN services whose express intent is to simplify network deployment are still too challenging with a quarter of respondents labeling SD-WAN services as too complex.

To learn more about the challenges enterprises are facing with network, security, mobile, and cloud infrastructure, read our analysis and see the full results for yourself in published report.

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