2019 predictions: the year of SD-WAN

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In 2018, despite experts estimating that up to 70 per cent of applications have moved to the cloud, the transformational promise of the cloud has fallen short of the hype and expectations. In a recent survey of IT decision makers, 85 per cent still say they are still years away from fully realising the benefits of the cloud, citing monthly cloud application disruptions and networks that can’t keep pace with demands.

The problem is that today’s router-centric WAN approaches can’t keep up because over the past few years network traffic patterns have shifted, the fundamental nature of applications has changed, and security needs are different when everything is open and connected in the cloud. Moving into 2019 and beyond, this will be amplified, driven by the everchanging needs of business, the continuous evolution of every cloud and cloud application, and the uniqueness of every cloud and application environment. Plus, all of this must be managed across thousands of locations, which are all different.

SD-WAN has gained traction among customers as a means to help enterprises better align their networks to their digital transformation and cloud initiatives. IT leaders are turning to advanced SD-WAN platforms shifting toward a business-first networking model, where network resources are priority-driven to give each application the resources it truly needs. A business-driven SD-WAN edge platform ensures that performance, security and routing are dictated by top-down business policies, not bottom-up technology constraints.

Throughout 2019, SD-WAN is set to further change the business landscape, unlocking the cloud’s potential and empowering businesses. Here are a few of the changes that we predict will happen in the market in 2019 and beyond:

  • SD-WAN market consolidation
    SD-WAN market and vendor consolidation will continue with a few vendors separating from the pack and leading the way forward. Enterprises will begin to realise that they need more than just basic SD-WAN functionality to address their evolving requirements at the WAN Edge. Consolidation will force out the vendors that have merely added a handful of rudimentary features in an effort to participate in the SD-WAN market. This will ultimately reduce market noise and confusion and accelerate enterprise SD-WAN deployments globally.
  • Basic SD-WAN solutions fall short
    The inability for basic SD-WAN offerings to address evolving customer WAN requirements will lead to disappointment for some early adopters. Enterprises that started with high expectations for their SD-WAN deployments will hit roadblocks across real-world production environments, concluding that basic SD-WAN is not good enough. They will ultimately realise that they must turn to vendors with proven WAN experience and a unified WAN edge platform.
  • Enterprises shift to a business-first networking model
    The market will move toward a business-first networking model.  Rather than constraining the business with network limitations, a business-first network model explicitly supports and accelerates new business initiatives. Instead of configuring the network one device at a time, IT will be able to describe the businesses’ needs at a high-level. A business-first networking model will be powered by a self-driving wide area network platform that uses automation and machine learning to implement high-level business intent and will continuously learn and adapt to ensure the network “just works”.
  • Adaptive local internet breakout requires advanced techniques
    Even though most enterprises want to breakout internet traffic locally, they will discover that basic SD-WAN offerings which rely on deep packet inspection (DPI) for application classification fall short of real-world requirements. Advanced classification techniques with automated updates are required to distinguish between white listed traffic for local breakout vs traffic that requires further inspection via next-gen firewall or cloud security services.
  • SD-WAN and UCaaS come together
    Real-time Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services such as cloud hosted voice and video will increasingly become a key driver in SD-WAN deployments. As enterprises transition to broadband, they will expect the quality, availability and reliability meets or exceeds their traditional telephony solutions. SD-WAN and Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) providers will partner together to deliver robust high-quality voice services over broadband.
  • WAN segmentation – key to securing the enterprise
    As the threat landscape shifts, enterprises will search for ways to improve their security architecture and will more broadly deploy WAN segmentation as part of their overall security strategy. The traditional router-centric WAN allows any application in any branch to talk to any other application or branch meaning that if there is a breach anywhere, it can spread everywhere. Advanced SD-WAN platforms will be deployed to simply and consistently segment network traffic across the wide area network to limit exposure and contain threats.
  • Cloud security services go mainstream
    Cloud security services go mainstream, becoming a simpler and more cost-effective alternative to deploying and continually maintaining complex next-gen firewalls at all branch locations. The SD-WAN edge becomes a natural on-ramp to these services. Advanced SD-WAN edge platforms enable enterprises to fully automate security service chaining and implement a mix of best-of-breed on-premise, data centre and cloud security services on an application-by-application basis.
  • A unified SD-WAN platform for multi-cloud deployments
    As more enterprises use multiple clouds, SD-WAN will provide a uniform fabric between physical locations and across cloud instances. Automation will make adding new cloud instances easy and fast, despite the inherent complexities and idiosyncrasies of each underlying cloud environment. By utilising multiple paths between physical locations and each cloud instance, an advanced SD-WAN platform will deliver a more reliable and consistent user experience.
  • 5G holds promise as an attractive SD-WAN transport option
    In 2019, we’ll see initial pockets of 5G deployment. To date, 4G access has primarily been used as a backup to higher bandwidth broadband internet connectivity because of its relatively low capacity and high cost per bit. 5G wireless access promises higher throughput rates and if priced appropriately, will become an attractive addition to the portfolio of SD-WAN transport options which today include broadband, DIA and MPLS. 5G could deliver a unique combination of fast deployment, diverse connectivity and high bandwidth that accelerates the adoption of broadband SD-WANs.

Ultimately, with cloud adoption continuing to accelerate, companies are expecting to reap the benefits of cloud applications and services, while demanding more control and higher security measures than ever before. As such, more and more organisations are shifting toward a business-first networking model to redefine their WAN and have the network performing based on business intent rather than being constrained by network capabilities.

David Hughes, CEO, Silver Peak
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock