There are several key trends driving the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) market. Most recently, the primary driver was the move of more applications to the Cloud. The work-from-home shift caused by COVID-19 is accelerating that trend. This means that network and IT managers must now look for more efficient ways to manage their networking resources, specifically connectivity, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and security. They can no longer rely on legacy circuits, edge devices, and boxes. Instead, they must turn to cloud-based deployments for their networking resources and functions.
Another trend is maintaining sites or branches with multiple ways to connect to the Internet. With the adoption of 5G, accessing applications via the Internet will only continue to become more common. This is underscored by many analysts who see work-from-home patterns continuing long after the pandemic ends. This will have a significant impact on corporate networks. Networking through the Cloud with many different endpoints that need to access applications—be it from corporate headquarters, a branch site, the employee’s home, or an IoT device—creates a system of parallel networks. Unlike Multi‑Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) or other legacy networks, SD-WAN is the more efficient way to get people (and devices) to their applications using any number of connections and transports. SD-WAN enables multiple network access points to function seamlessly and securely as a single, streamlined networking operation.
For example, employees working from home need to access their corporate applications with the same high-quality experience as they would from their office. This is critical for organizations to be able to empower employees to carry out business activities and ensure operational continuity. Yet many employees working from home are using their Internet and sharing their bandwidth with family members. This is extra challenging when kids are learning remotely through video applications like Zoom; watching movies on Netflix; or playing bandwidth-intensive video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and others. Often, tech-savvy households also have several IoT devices and smart appliances around the house vying for bandwidth all day long.
Of course, most companies did not prepare for these types of networking challenges or even consider such wide-scale work-from-home arrangements as part of their enterprise networks. Consequently, they are rethinking their remote networking strategies to better handle their security needs, Software as a Service (SaaS) access, and options for implementing cloud-based VPNs.
Connectivity and the Cloud can ensure business continuity; so, SD-WAN is a natural solution here. It solves branch office routing; addresses security issues, VPN, and built-in encryption; and delivers better cloud app performance and WAN optimization. Many SD-WAN vendors have also started considering residential Internet and cable providers as partners to package a lightweight SD-WAN solution with broadband links to enhance the user experience for streaming videos or online games. But SD-WAN for home-based workers isn’t just for corporate enterprises, it can benefit public service workers like those in healthcare and education.
With the rapid spread of the pandemic earlier in the year, there has been a surge in demand for both telehealth and COVID-19 testing services. With SD-WAN, patients at home can consult with doctors, nurses, and caregivers with optimized and predictable performance on broadband or other forms of connectivity. The healthcare industry can also take advantage of SD-WAN to get mobile testing centers up and running in a matter of hours by utilizing 4G/LTE or satellite links. Teachers, who are leading virtual learning or hybrid teaching methods, can do their work from home by uploading large amounts of content to the Cloud or streaming videos—all while SD-WAN is optimizing their broadband links for better connectivity and an improved user experience. All of these scenarios demonstrate why SD-WAN can support continuity of service under a range of different settings.
In the end, that may be the greatest driving force behind the accelerated adoption of SD-WAN: its ability to offer flexible, secure solutions to meet today’s unprecedented networking needs and to fortify organizations against tomorrow’s many unknowns. Due to the increasingly complex nature of these networks, it’s also likely that Managed SD-WAN offerings—where experts can tailor solutions and actively manage and optimize network performance—offer organizations a clearer and easier path to better realize the full benefits of an SD-WAN solution.