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SD-WAN still too complex, survey shows

Despite SD-WAN adoption, WAN complexity remains a major challenge, a survey has revealed, driving firms to managed services, mainly because of security concerns

More than four in 10 software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) deployments still too complex, a global survey of 700 IT buyers has revealeds, highlighting the importance of network simplification.

The survey report, by network security firm Cato Networks, predicts that SD-WAN will grow by 200% year on year and that its impact on the network security architecture will significantly increase WAN complexity.

The report predicts that simplification for connectivity, security and the cloud will be major themes for WAN transformation this year.

According to Gartner analysts, senior business leaders regularly complain about the complexity within network infrastructures, which is the enemy of availability, security and agility.

The importance of simplification is one of major key findings of the survey, with half of the respondents saying that simplifying the network or their security infrastructure will be the main reason for deploying SD-WAN in 2018, followed by providing secure internet access from any location (46%).

Other reasons for deploying SD-WAN include integrating cloud datacentres into the WAN (36%), replacing MPLS with a more affordable alternative (32%), and improving visibility into, and control over, mobile access to cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365 (31%).

But a quarter of respondents planning to deploy SD-WAN indicated “additional complexity” as a primary barrier to further investment.

Respondents had concerns over complexity with both SD-WAN suppliers and providers. Overall, 30% said SD-WAN appliances are too complexx, followed by SD-WAN services (23%).

The survey revealed that advanced network security and cloud integration will play a significant role in the selection of SD-WAN technology, with 81% of respondents that are actively planning an SD-WAN deployment in the next 12 months saying that protecting locations and the site-to-site connections from malware and other threats is 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 datacentre-WAN integration was the third most popular primary use case for the next 12 months, with Microsoft Office 365 emerging as the most popular cloud application (75%) followed by (30%). Microsoft Azure was the most popular cloud datacentre service (70%), followed by Amazon AWS (53%), Google Cloud (12%) and Alibaba Cloud Compute Services (1%).

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Threat protection will be integral to SD-WAN adoption, the survey showed, with 81% of respondents describing it as “critical” or “very important”, 13% saying it is “somewhat important” and only 3% rating it as “not important”.

The drive for simplification is pushing enterprises to use service providers for SD-WAN and security, the report said, with 49% of respondents identifying their SD-WAN supplier as a “service provider” or “carrier”, up from 30% the year before.

The survey also showed that enterprises are shifting to a service model for more than just networking. Firewall as a service (FWaaS) shows the greatest potential for growth of any security system for the cloud, the report said, with 60% of respondents expecting to adopt the technology in 12 months. 

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

Finally, the survey showed that management models play a significant role in selecting SD-WAN services, with 49% of respondents preferring co-managing their SD-WAN, which is the kind of management model seen with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and other cloud services.

Only 17% of respondents wanted a fully-managed service, and 33% said they manage their SD-WANs themselves.

“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 organisations 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. 

“Future networks must holistically address global connectivity, network security, cloud integration and mobile access to truly drive the business forward.” ............................................................................... ................................................................................................................

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