SD-WAN provides a growing opportunity

17 October 2017 | James Pearce

More companies plan to implement SD-WAN. TeleGeography’s senior manager for enterprise research Greg Bryan discusses opportunities highlighted at the recent WAN Summit in Singapore

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While SD-WAN has dominated conversations in panel sessions and been the primary focus of many of our case studies at the past several WAN Summit events, we are always interested to see how MPLS continues to play an important role in the networks of the corporate WAN managers that attend the event. At the recent Singapore event more than 70% of audience poll respondents indicated that they (or their typical MNC customers) plan to keep MPLS in their WAN over the next year, and 62 % thought they would over the next three to five years.  Clearly while the role of MPLS is changing it is unlikely to disappear from most carrier’s product offerings or most corporate WAN solutions in the near future. 

When we first began polling WAN Summit delegates about their SD-WAN adoption in 2016 we found very few WAN managers who had already implemented SD-WAN in their networks and a majority that had not even begun the process of selecting a vendor or provider. While only about 10% of our Singapore audience had already implemented SD-WAN, a quarter said they were in the planning stages and only 6% were still deciding whether to adopt the new technology or not. One of the key purposes of the WAN Summit is to bring together these network decision makers with a wide variety of vendors and service providers so that all sides can have a conversation about what types of solutions might best fit different corporate network needs. greg bryan

WAN plans

Another slight change we found interesting in our polling was the reasoning for planning to or having already adopted SD-WAN service.  In its earliest stage we very often heard from end users that price, whether it was cutting budget or increasing office bandwidth without increasing cost, was a primary driver for considering SD-WAN. However, in Singapore only 25% of poll participants indicated that cutting WAN spend was their primary motivation, while a plurality of 42% indicated that improving WAN performance was their main concern. 

SD-WAN vendors and managed services providers alike should take note that among the key features end users look for in an SD-WAN provider deployment models were the most frequently cited with 78% of poll respondents indicating this was important. This is compared to 22% citing security features and 15% indicating both competitive service pricing and single provider’s end-to-end. Enterprise WAN managers often talk in panel sessions, case studies, and our WAN Summit round table sessions about leaving behind the days when bringing a new office online can take months, or rolling out a new security update had to be done on an office-by-office basis over a period of weeks. In addition to the ease of network security and policy changes in the SD-WAN environment, we have definitely heard from end users who are interested in the promise of zero touch deployment models when considering adopting new technology across a multinational network. 

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Finally, it is always worthwhile getting a picture of the typical end user delegate that attended our Singapore event. A plurality of enterprise delegates, 38% had networks under 200 sites, with a third in the 200-500 range.  Another third have networks larger than 500 sites with 19% over 1000. Understanding network size and reach is key to evaluating some of the lessons that come from the several case studies we present at each event. For example, logistics and delivery giant DHL’s case study emphasized that cost was a primary consideration in SD-WAN adoption given growing bandwidth needs across 10,000 sites in 200 countries.  The case study on the other hand from geosciences survey leader Fugro focused on how SD-WAN helped alleviate some of the performance issues on data intensive applications. 

Our second year bringing the WAN Summit to the Asia & Pacific region in the key hub city of Singapore touched a variety of topics of interest to the global WAN manager, but certainly SD-WAN again took a central role as vendors and end users discussed existing and future hybrid networks and how they might help answer some of the key challenges for the multinational corporate network. We had four case studies highlighting real experiences from end users on the stage, and features several enterprise WAN managers in panel sessions to round out perspectives from SD-WAN vendors, carriers, managed services providers and consultants. It has been exciting to see not only how each group has adopted to the changing landscape of smart networks, but to see how each region in which we hold a WAN Summit brings with it some of its own unique perspectives and challenges. APAC brings some special challenges in terms of a fractured geographic and political landscape which we touched on in several sessions such as the Future of Networks and how data reporting and storage laws can create technical problems for the WAN manager working across dozens of countries and laws. Beyond SD-WAN it is worth taking a look at our archive to see what vendors and end users had to say about data centre strategy, when to use direct connects for the cloud and the importance of understanding pricing and the physical geography of the network. 

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Topics: SD-WAN, WAN Summit, Capacity media