2018 SD-WAN Survey: What Enterprises Want From Their SD-WAN Vendor

May 16, 2018

SD-WAN adoption is seeing rapid growth as companies look to streamline their WAN infrastructure and move toward more cloud-based applications. Much of the growth in SD-WAN adoption is from companies looking for ways to reduce the number of physical devices required to support applications as well as lower the cost of maintaining technology deployed in remote locations. The list of vendors offering SD-WAN services is growing, and we felt the time was ripe to go out and ask the tough questions about what it is these companies are looking for when selecting a vendor and what other factors are on their mind.

Our 2018 survey included over 700 respondents from IT enterprises that currently run MPLS backbones. Of those respondents, 72 percent of them are from organizations with 10 or more locations, and 57 percent indicated their organizations had 2-4 physical datacenters. Six areas were covered in the survey.

1. Complexity of Security Networks is Driving Change

In June 2017, the world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator Maersk was infected with the Petya ransomware and lost revenue of approximately $300m. The company maintains offices in 130 countries with 90,000 employees. Maintaining security on a network with hundreds of locations is a challenge, and a security breach could mean lost revenue and compromised client or intellectual data. Organizations with far fewer locations and employees than Maersk are equally challenged with the complexity of securing the WAN that requires a plethora of costly hardware devices along with having staff with the skill sets to manage them all.

As cyberattacks increase and evolve, effective network security is critical. Results from the survey reveal problems stemming from complexity are driving organizations to find solutions that simplify security and the underlying infrastructure. Streamlining the network security infrastructure and providing secure Internet access from any location were the top 2 reasons for moving to SD-WAN in 2018.

2. Cost Reduction Remains a Driving Force for Enterprises

Which priorities did you achieve after SD-WAN deployment? Forty-two percent said it reduced the cost of MPLS service. Anyone managing an MPLS network knows what a costly endeavor it is, and many are looking to SD-WAN to reduce the high monthly overhead MPLS presents.

Fisher & Co, a global manufacturing firm, was running an MPLS network that was costing them $27,000 per month. Their MPLS configuration also required a stack of appliances – firewalls, routers, and WAN optimization – at each site that added costs and complexity. Looking to reduce costs, they moved their network to Cato Cloud, which cut their monthly expenses by two-thirds. Ancillary benefits from the move include creating a single network with built-in security, elimination of appliance stacks at each site, and increased WAN capacity.

3. The Importance of Branch Security for Enterprises Moving to an SD-WAN Network

The spread of massive ransomware outbreaks has heightened the awareness of the need to secure not just the datacenter, but branch offices as well. Participants in the survey reflect this when asked about how threat protection plays a critical role in SD-WAN decision making. Eighty-seven percent said it is critical or very important in their decision making.

Pet Lovers Centre, a pet supply retailer based in Singapore, realized they needed to take action to improve the security of their 105 sites which include 65 locations in Singapore and 40 franchises. They had IPsec VPN from each store to the datacenter. Other than the datacenter and four stores, none of the locations had firewalls to protect them against malware and other attacks. Protection was particularly important as employees accessed the Internet directly. Considering his options, CEO David Whye Tye Ng, felt neither MPLS nor deploying security appliances could meet his needs for low-cost, rapid deployment, and ongoing management. He found that deploying an SD-WAN solution with a fully integrated security stack, which included next-generation firewall (NGFW), secure web gateway (SWG), Advanced Threat Prevention, and network forensics, met his budget and security requirements. As a result, they now have significantly improved their security posture and have tight controls on their security at each branch location.

4. Support For Cloud Applications Is Now a Requirement, Not a Luxury

It’s no surprise that the use of cloud datacenters and cloud applications has grown exponentially, especially for global enterprises. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents have at least one cloud datacenter, while nearly half (45%) have two or more cloud datacenters. An overwhelming 78 percent said they use at least one cloud application such as Office 365.

MPLS is not inherently well suited for the cloud because most often traffic from users is backhauled to reach the cloud causing bottlenecks and latency. This is a driving factor for enterprises to look to SD-WAN to improve WAN and mobile access performance to cloud providers like Amazon AWS. The Internet is the shortest path to the cloud, and because SD-WAN uses Internet connections, users see less latency than first backhauling across an MPLS network.

5. SD-WAN and the Rise of Co-Management

When choosing to implement SD-WAN, there’s the option of going with an appliance-based solution or SD-WAN as a service. It’s interesting to note, respondents from the survey in 2017 – 30 percent were using SD-WAN as a service, and in 2018 that number rose to 49 percent. Appliance-based solutions have their problems such as erratic Internet, limited security, and integration complications. In contrast, service-based solutions have private backbones, built-in security, and are fully managed. Of the services-based solutions, respondents prefer the co-managed approach whereby the customer has some control to make changes such as security policy updates.

6. The Evolution of What ‘SD-WAN’ Means – The Rise of SD-WAN 3.0

Technology shifts and business drivers are exerting pressure on the WAN, shifting from a resource that simply connected offices to a resource that connects offices, cloud datacenters, SaaS applications, and mobile users. The technology of SD-WAN itself has transformed over time to meet these pressures, and has undergone 3 major developments:

SD-WAN 1.0: Starting out, SD-WAN didn’t provide any network virtualization. The problem it addressed was the issue of last mile bandwidth and availability. It solved that challenge by providing link bonding at the edge.

SD-WAN 2.0: Over time, businesses required increased WAN performance and agility. So SD-WAN vendors began to provide a virtualized network with the ability to optimize traffic with application-aware routing.

SD-WAN 3.0: Today, many organizations have a mix of offices, cloud, mobile, and SaaS applications that all need to connect simply and securely. By providing a single, unified platform to connect all devices, SD-WAN meets the requirements of a secure, universal network that reduces MPLS cost, eliminates appliances, and streamlines operations.

To learn more about our survey and the future of SD-WAN, watch the full survey webinar “State of the WAN 2018”  here.

Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield is a veteran of IT industry. He’s spent more than 20 years as an award-winning journalist and independent technology consultant. Today, he serves as a secure networking evangelist for Cato Networks.