ROME -- Executive Summit -- SD-WAN technology is either critical or important for telecom operators looking to automate their operations and reduce service costs, according to 84% of telco respondents to a new Heavy Reading survey.
Of the 121 survey participants, 62% rated SD-WANs as "important, but not critical," with another 22% saying the technology was a "critical" need.
The results -- unveiled at Light Reading's Executive Summit in Rome -- come amid a flurry of activity in the SD-WAN market, with a number of major telcos launching or announcing plans for SD-WAN services.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of vendors targeting the SD-WAN opportunity has triggered speculation that a wave of supplier consolidation may be just around the corner.
Despite the market momentum, wide-scale deployments of SD-WANs are still relatively limited, judging by Heavy Reading's survey results. Just 31% of respondents expect to achieve wide-scale deployments this year or next, with the remainder expecting these to happen from 2017 onwards.
Some two-thirds of survey participants reckon wide-scale rollouts will occur over the next 24 months.
Simplifying the introduction of new services and lowering service expenses emerged as the two most important business drivers of SD-WAN deployments. They were cited as "critical" factors by 52% and 48% of respondents, respectively.
By contrast, relatively few respondents expect SD-WAN technology to lead to improvements in application performance, with just 16% saying this was a critical factor.
About 43% of respondents "strongly agreed" there would have to be closer integration with policy control and integration if SD-WAN is to deliver the maximum benefits. And 51% of respondents "strongly agreed" that architecture would have to be purely software-based for companies to realize those benefits.
One concern that surfaced during the survey is that SD-WAN will have an impact on existing MPLS services. Although 32% of respondents reckon it could provide a spur to MPLS, and 28% believe it will have a "neutral impact," another 39% of survey participants are worried it will cannibalize MPLS business to at least some extent.
But the chief business barriers to SD-WAN deployment are the high cost of products and the lack of a solid business case, the research indicates.
Nearly a third of respondents see high costs as a "major barrier" and about 30% believe the lack of a solid business case is similarly problematic.
"Operators are committed to SD-WAN but there are clearly some challenges when it comes to motivating suppliers to give them the best prices," said Jim Hodges, a senior analyst for Heavy Reading , during a presentation earlier today.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading