SD-WAN or SASE? New research shows “widespread confusion”


New research has concluded that confusion exists regarding the benefits of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN).

In fact, IT leaders said SD-WAN is “less relevant” to the burgeoning remote workplace that has emerged since lockdown, and half said they would consider SASE instead.

As a result, a third of organisations have no plans to deploy SD WAN and 55% said they favour the emerging single cloud service model of SASE, which converges SD WAN features with cloud based security services for remote workers and devices.

Nearly half said WAN optimisation already gave them the required performance or preferred the centralised security and single point of public entry offered by traditional MPLS WAN architectures.

The research, published in The Future of SD WAN in a UK Economy, was conducted by Accelerate Technology and involved 800 IT leaders in large organisations in the UK, who were asked how their opinions had changed since Covid-19.

Darran Clare, director of technologies at Accelerate said: “The remote worker challenges have naturally shifted peoples’ focus from site-to-site WANs, to the needs of a more flexible workplace, hence the increased interest in SASE architectures.

“We also see concrete proof that WAN optimisation is far from dead, and such services can play a key part in improving the performance of cloud hosted applications where latency is the underlying issue. Whilst most SD WAN and SASE vendors will advertise WAN Op capabilities, such claims should not be taken at face value as the scale and depth of application optimisation can vary greatly.”

When it comes to the benefits of SD-WAN and SASE, there is confusion among IT leaders as 43% said they viewed SASE as a completely different use case to SD WAN, whilst one in four saw SASE as an enhancement to SD WAN architectures, bringing together secure zero trust access for the new and increased remote workforce.

Clare continued: “SASE is a new and emerging technology with the phrase only being coined by Gartner in late 2019. The general consensus is that SASE is a combination of network security functions and SD WAN delivered as a cloud-based service, and therefore able to extend beyond the physical limits of the network.

The report also uncovered confusion around the capabilities of SD WAN, and how best to implement the technology.

Clare said: “SD WAN, while delivering undeniable value, has not managed to serve the entire needs of all organisations during the work from home directive. Covid-19 presents an enormous and evolving challenge as we look to return to a ‘new normal’ way of working with many employees continuing to operate from home.”

Of those who said they plan to deploy SD-WAN, almost half want to improve application performance, while 45% of those discounting the benefits of SD WAN said WAN optimisation delivered the required performance. Out of those with no plans to deploy SD WAN, a quarter felt it didn’t support remote worker access yet 55% of organisations with SD WAN said it had done exactly that.