Still on the Fence about SD-WAN? Gartner Says to Include It in WAN Architecture Discussions

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SD-WAN solutions have become mainstream in the enterprise, but some organizations are still looking at the technology from afar and wondering if it could be right for them. If your organization is among those fence-sitters, there’s a new guide from Gartner (“Technology Insight for SD-WAN,” 14 September 2018 ID: G00369080) that could be helpful in your decision-making process.

Most notable about the report is the Gartner analysts’ recommendation that “SD-WAN should be included in future WAN architecture discussions.” The analysts have concluded that the reasons to implement SD-WAN technology far outweigh the risks, identified in this report as market confusion, market fragmentation, feature limitations, and vendor lock-in.

What’s important to note is that the risks do not include any concerns about the technology itself. In fact, SD-WAN technology has been around for several years and has reached a stage of maturity and stability that can support the formidable requirements of most enterprises. According to Gartner, “North American-based retail and financial service organizations have been the most aggressively early adopters of the technology.”

As to why companies should consider SD-WAN for their WAN architecture, the Gartner analysts note that “the benefits of an SD-WAN approach are substantial compared to traditional approaches, including simplified management and operation, reduced costs, and increased visibility and security.” Gartner considers a traditional WAN approach as combining “fully featured, on-premises physical or virtual devices, including routers Although it is complex to deploy and manage, this complexity can be somewhat mitigated by using reference design templates and/or managed services from MNS providers or system integrators. Though this solution is proven and mature, it is less agile and flexible than an SD-WAN approach.”

The report cites specific benefits, including:

  •         Agility via Improved Management
  •         Cost Reduction
  •         Improved Branch Availability

According to Gartner estimates, as of June 2018 “there are over 6,000 paying SD-WAN customers, with more than 80% of those in production, including more than 200,000 total branches.” The analyst firm forecasts that “spending on SD-WAN technology will grow at a 30.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2022.” But just as spending on SD-WAN is on the rise, spending on traditional WAN technologies is on the wane; by 2020, global spend on SD-WAN is expected to overtake the global spend on traditional router equipment.

Do Your Research

It’s clear to see that a lot of companies are now on the SD-WAN bandwagon. How should you make your own assessment as to whether this technology is right for your organization? The report outlines several evaluation factors to consider in light of your own organization’s needs. The Gartner analysts caution, “At a casual glance, it can be very difficult to differentiate between SD-WAN solutions, as they all provide branch connectivity in a simplified and cost-effective manner. In addition, this is a fast-moving market that will continue to undergo substantial change within the next 12 months. When evaluating and selecting solutions, organizations should ask prospective SD-WAN vendors specific questions to determine which solution best meets their branch connectivity requirements.”

Gartner suggests talking about several high-level assessment criteria with your prospect SD-WAN vendors/providers. These criteria include:

  •         Scale and Architecture
  •         Management and Orchestration
  •         Visibility and Security

Of course, these questions are just a starting point for your vendor conversations. You’ll want to tailor your questions to your own specific needs. Here is a guideline you can use for re-evaluating your MPLS service provider