Despite SD-WAN Adoption, WAN Complexity Remains a Major Challenge, Finds Survey

Forty-three percent of SD-WAN deployments are still too complex; global WAN survey highlights the importance of network simplification.

March 21, 2018

4 Min Read

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Cato Networks, provider of Cato Cloud, the world's first secure, global SD-WAN as a service, today released the findings of its enterprise WAN market study. The report, "State of WAN 2018: Too Complex to Ignore," predicts SD-WAN will grow 200% year-over-year. At the same time, the additional abstraction layer that is SD-WAN and its impact on the network security architecture significantly increases WAN complexity. Simplification for connectivity, security, and the cloud will be major themes for WAN transformation in 2018.

For too long IT agility has been constrained by the patchwork of appliances and network services comprising today's wide area network (WAN). Gartner analysts Andrew Lerner, Bill Menezes, Vivek Bhalla, and Danellie Young wrote in "Avoid These 'Bottom 10' Networking Worst Practices": "Senior leaders regularly complain to Gartner about the complexity within network infrastructures ("… it's brittle and feels like a science project")...In essence, complexity is the enemy of availability, security and agility."

The importance of simplification was one of major key findings from Cato Networks' "State of WAN 2018: Too Complex to Ignore" report:

Simplification of network and security architectures are essential for SD-WAN success.

  • Half of the respondents indicated simplifying the network or their security infrastructure will be primary use cases for SD-WAN in 2018.

  • A quarter of respondents planning to deploy SD-WAN indicated "additional complexity" as a primary barrier to further investment.

  • Respondents had complexity concerns with both SD-WAN vendors and providers. Overall, 30% say SD-WAN appliances are too complex followed by SD-WAN services (23%).

Advanced network security and cloud integration will play a significant role in the selection of SD-WAN solutions.

  • 81% of those respondents actively planning an SD-WAN deployment in the next 12 months identify "protecting locations and the site-to-site connections from malware and other threats" as a "critical" or "very important" priority in their SD-WAN decision making.

  • Overall, more than three-quarters of respondents (78%) ranked improving cloud or Internet performance as a "critical" or "very important" SD-WAN priority.

  • Cloud datacenter-WAN integration was the third most popular primary use case for the next 12 months.

  • Microsoft Office 365 was the most popular cloud application (75% of respondents) followed by (30% of respondents).

  • Microsoft Azure was the most popular cloud datacenter service (70% of respondents) followed by Amazon AWS (53%), Google Cloud (12%), and Alibaba Cloud Compute Services (1%).

The drive for simplification is pushing enterprises to leverage service providers for SD-WAN and security.

  • Last year, 30% of respondents identified their SD-WAN supplier as a "service provider" or "carrier." This year that number grew to 49% of respondents.

  • Enterprises are shifting to a service model for more than just networking. Security is a case point. Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) showed the greatest potential for growth of any security solution for the cloud with 60% of respondents expecting to adopt the technology in 12 months.

  • More broadly, security investment will remain high with 73% of respondents expecting security budgets to increase over the next 12-24 months. Nearly half of respondents (48%) expect networking budgets to increase during the same period.

Management models play a significant role in selecting SD-WAN services.

  • 49% of respondents preferred co-managing their SD-WAN, the kind of management model seen with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and other cloud services.

  • 32% of respondents indicated replacing their MPLS service with an affordable alternative to be a primary focus in 2018.

  • Only 17% of respondents wanted a fully-managed service.

"While our survey shows strong positive momentum for SD-WAN as a category, it also uncovers major shortcomings," said Shlomo Kramer, founder and CEO of Cato Networks. "When organizations invest in SD-WAN point solutions they may carry forward the legacy baggage of the traditional WAN — expensive MPLS services, appliance sprawl, and the overhead of maintaining and updating branch security solutions — limiting the business impact of WAN transformation. Our future networks must holistically address global connectivity, network security, cloud integration and mobile access to truly drive the business forward."

The global report, "State of WAN 2018: Too Complex to Ignore," surveyed more than 700 networking and security professionals from around the world who enterprises ran MPLS backbones. Results were gathered from January 8, 2018 until January 22, 2018. The complete report can be found here.

*Gartner, "Avoid These 'Bottom 10' Networking Worst Practices," Andrew Lerner et al, 4 December 2017.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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