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Survey Says: SD-WAN No Panacea

Carol Wilson

A global study of IT professionals shows the SD-WAN market is poised for major growth, but it's not about to wipe out MPLS anytime soon, and it is raising some concerns around security.

The survey of 350 IT professionals was conducted by Cato Networks and projects 200% growth in the SD-WAN market -- although that only means that 20% of respondents plan to deploy in the next year on top of the 10% that say they have already done so.

Perhaps as importantly, 63% of those questioned are concerned about the cost of new SD-WAN equipment or services, and just over half say they are investing in network security appliances alongside SD-WAN gear.

One surprising note: 62% of those implementing SD-WANs say their investment in MPLS -- the private networking connections that are generally more expensive -- is staying the same or increasing. A very similar number -- 56% -- of those planning to use SD-WAN have similar expectations for their MPLS spend.

Those numbers paint a more complex and nuanced picture of how enterprises are using SD-WAN technology and the impact it has on other critical issues, such as security and managing the ongoing operational costs of supporting hybrid network connections.

That's one of the reasons why the Light Reading SD-WAN Strategies for Success event next week seems so well timed. In addition to having five service provider executives on hand to share real-world experiences in this fast-moving market, the half-day event in Dallas will highlight the diversity of the SD-WAN market and look carefully at integration strategies. (Even more shameless plug: You can still register to attend here, and service provider executives can attend at no charge.)

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There are other positive results from the Cato Networks report, titled, "The Future of SD-WAN: Peril or Promise?" It found that half of respondents report increasing their networking budgets over the next one to two years, and other than SD-WANs, their priorities for that spending include WAN agility, site-to-site security and elimination of traffic backhaul.

Cato Networks, which is heavily focused on cloud-based networking that incorporates security, stressed the survey's security results in its announcement for good reason: It found 72% of respondents want next-generation firewalls built into their SD-WAN offering, and 61% want anti-malware technology built in as well. Sadly, the survey found that between one-third to half of global IT professionals thought those capabilities were already included in SD-WAN offerings, a clear indication the industry has a job ahead in market education.

The other thing we will be discussing next week, and with good reason, is where SD-WANs fit in the broader NFV-SDN transformation. This is one service that burst on the scene quickly and has sucked up a lot of the oxygen in the room where new services are concerned. But as the Cato Networks survey shows, there is still a lot work ahead and no easy fix in site when it comes to delivering the kind of flexible networking options enterprises want, with the cost, operational ease and security they also expect.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
6/1/2017 | 1:50:20 PM
Re: Good observations
Very good (and accurate) observation that many SD-WAN vendors amp up the security message, when in fact it is only encryption (and maybe a basic stateful firewall) that's included in the solution.

However, some SD-WAN vendors actually include exactly what you mention -- NGFW/IPS/full UTM/malware protection, etc.  Versa Networks has offered all these layers of security functions as components of its multi-function VNF-based SD-WAN platform for over a year.  See here for detail: http://www.versa-networks.com/service-provider/managed-security/ 

You're also exactly right wrt "advertising your branch to everyone on the Internet", which is why at least a subset of these capabilities are mandatory at every SD-WAN enabled branch...!
User Rank: Light Beer
5/31/2017 | 10:52:58 PM
Good observations
Yep, love the comment that many respondents thought that NGFW/IDS/IPS was already baked in to the SDWAN solution. I can understand why such assumptions would be made given the focus within the SDWAN vendor community on selling the security aspects of the solution but generally the story here is limited to OTT tunneling/encryption somewhat overlooking the fact you have just advertised your branch onto the public Internet. The market is however quickly waking up to this with a commercial "single function/VNF" advantage perhaps to those SDWAN providers who are offering SDWAN as a clip on service to a security appliance/function (eg Meraki MX, Juniper SRX) as opposed to other providers where you will need to add a second appliance/function for this distinct purpose.  
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