Enterprises are more than ready for virtual private networks (VPNs) that connect offices, employees and cloud data centers to finally match their needs in terms of fast provisioning, cost-effective local access, better management of network performance and bandwidth -- and importantly, the ability to add extra security at certain sites.
Sounds ideal, but is it actually happening in reality? We are starting to see enterprise service providers roll out software-defined networking (SDN) overlays in their networks, using SDN controllers to manage the underlying hardware and transport and enabling commercial launches of SD-WAN services for enterprise customers.
Commercial services are gaining momentum, particularly among market challengers that see an opportunity to gain market share in the enterprise space from entrenched MPLS competitors. The market for SD-WANs is expected to rise rapidly in the next few years, as enterprise customers begin piloting the services at smaller sites before rolling out across more critical sites.
SD-WAN services can be centrally managed either by the service provider as a managed service, or by an enterprise customer. The central software platform can remotely configure and monitor physical and virtual customer premises equipment (CPE) to ensure fast provisioning of new sites and performance monitoring. Application-level policies select traffic paths based on the application or the connection and real-time analytics that can measure packet loss, latency and jitter to determine the best route possible.
This is appealing to enterprises that now rely on a mix of public cloud, private cloud and on-premises servers to deliver a range of internal and external applications, including software as a service (SaaS), to a growing mix of mobile workers, branch offices and critical locations. SD-WAN services should make it easier to provision and manage hybrid enterprise networks that typically include a mix of MPLS, Ethernet, mobile, cable and DSL from different local access providers.
It's still early days, and there will be valuable lessons learned for service providers that can get an early start in this space, as enterprises run pilot tests on SD-WAN promises on security and performance. Service providers see initial demand coming from enterprises with multiple branch offices -- retailers, restaurant chains, retail banks and so on. These customers need an easier way to manage hundreds of small sites as well as more cost-effective bandwidth to access cloud applications, and ensure security and performance. There is also likely to be demand from the enterprise mid-market that previously could not afford MPLS VPN services, but could now afford SD-WAN services to connect their sites.
SD-WAN services better align networks with the changing cloud and hybrid IT needs of enterprises. It's now a matter of educating customers and ensuring that performance, provisioning, security and ease of use live up to expectations.
This blog is sponsored by Huawei. For more information, please visit Huawei Connect 2016.
— Sandra O'Boyle, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading