Wide-area networks (WAN) have been a mainstay of IT environments. WANs facilitate communication and information sharing between devices. Some might even consider the internet to be the world’s largest WAN.
But there are plenty of other providers who offer WANs too. These telecommunication networks connect devices from multiple locations and across the globe. They are often leased to businesses. They are accessed via virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless networks, cellular networks, and also through a web browser.
But over the last few years, software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) have emerged. They take a software-defined approach to networking to decouple the software from hardware dependencies as a means of providing more flexible networking services and cloud access to businesses and edge locations. Further benefits include cost, scalability, improved user experiences, and simplicity of deployment compared to a traditional WAN.
Here are some of the top trends companies and IT pros are seeing in the SD-WAN market:
1. Cloud adoption drives SD-WAN uptake
While SD-WANs have enough features and benefits to create interest and drive adoption, there is no doubt that they have benefitted from the dramatic rise of the cloud. Some would even say that SD-WANs have been able to ride along on the coattails of cloud adoption.
“Since the introduction of SD-WAN, users have been demanding WANs that go beyond the initial low-cost, connectivity-delivering alternative to traditional MPLS,” said Edward Qin, chief product officer, Algoblu.
“With the dual impact of digital transformation and the global pandemic, more and more enterprises are migrating their workloads to the cloud. To meet the demand of employees to access the corporate network anytime and anywhere, SD-WAN integration with cloud-native advanced security services — including zero-trust network access (ZTNA), next-generation firewall (NGFW), intrusion protection devices (IPD), and data loss protection (DLP) — becomes critical.”
2. Consumer market growth
SD-WANs and WANs in general are a fundamental part of enterprise networking. Yet, the arrival of SD-WANs on to the market has spurred interest and innovation in the consumer sector.
“We noticed a trend of using SD-WAN technologies to serve the consumer market,” said Qin with Algoblu.
“With 4K/8K UHD video, online education, VR gaming and VR live streaming, metaverse, and other applications exploding, SD-WAN is now meeting these large bandwidth, ultra-low latency, application-oriented end-to-end network quality assurance needs.”
3. VPN alternative
Virtual private networks (VPNs) have been something of a corporate standard for quite some time. But VPNs are losing their dominance as a way for remote users to connect securely to enterprise networks. SD-WAN services are grabbing some market share from the VPN sector.
“The pandemic significantly accelerated the digital transformation of many enterprises and organizations,” said Qin with Algoblu.
“While employees chose to work from home, the old-fashioned remote access VPN starts to be replaced by more advanced SD-WAN services, which not only provide secure access to corporate resources, but also integrate many superior features, including DDoS and intelligent traffic steering for SaaS applications.”
4. Secure access service edge
The convergence of WAN enterprise networking and security is fueling strong growth in secure access service edge (SASE)-related networking and security technologies, according to Dell’Oro Group.
“The pandemic made remote work and cloud-based applications necessary and by doing so, accelerated the obsolescence of the classic hub-and-spoke networking model,” said Mauricio Sanchez, research director, network security and SASE and SD-WAN, Dell’Oro Group.
“Rather than thinking of networking and security as separate problems to solve, they are now being thought of as a continuum and driving together cloud-friendly networking and security technologies into SASE.”
According to Gartner, “Vendors that lack the broad suite of capabilities required for SASE will be unable to compete long-term in this market and will be regarded as primarily fitting the tactical needs of only a smaller number of end-user organizations. IT vendor goals of maximizing revenue and account control by delivering a single, end-to-end solution are enabled with a SASE offering.”
5. Rosy SD-WAN future
All of these trends are combining to make the SD-WAN market one of the hottest around in networking.
Revenue for SASE networking consisting of SD-WAN technologies exceeded $2 billion in 2021, up 35% from the previous year. There are few markets around IT or security that come close to that level of growth. The major SD-WAN vendors — such as Cisco, Fortinet, VMware, Versa, and HPE — are all releasing products packed with the latest features.
“Demand for SD-WAN solutions picked up in 2021, as enterprises continued to optimize their branch network architectures for the cloud services and workloads they are implementing,” said Sanchez with Dell’Oro Group.