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Application performance for remote workers becomes primary network issue for businesses

When it comes to WAN, cost diminishes in importance, while dealing with complexity increases, as more firms spread reach to more locations

In its latest yearly survey of the wide area network (WAN) industry, cloud-first WAN provider Aryaka has revealed that network complexity and its resulting impact on performance are now the top blockers to WAN implementation.

The fourth annual global State of the WAN report surveyed 1,031 global IT and network practitioners, with 238 of these respondents based across Europe. Almost half of the sample had 100-1,000 employees, a third employed 1,000-10,000 and 15% had fewer than 100.

In addition to the top-line finding of dealing with complexity and performance, the study also highlighted that cost had become less of an issue for respondents, who also cited significant investment in automation, security, cloud connectivity and the potential of 5G.

Drilling deeper into the pressing issues for firms, Aryaka found that as the number of remote workers increases across the globe, productivity and remote application performance have become more important for organisations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Some 45% of UK businesses noted that slow application performance led to a poor user experience for remote and mobile users, and that it was a significant issue faced by IT and support teams. Accessing and integrating cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications was one of the most pressing issues for UK IT departments, cited by 39%.

With a third of UK organisations regularly using in excess of 500 applications, finding a solution to application performance issues has become urgent for UK businesses. While an agile and secure WAN could address these issues, WAN management was still problematic.

The survey showed that lack of adequate WAN security and the slow performance of on-premise applications were the top issues faced by UK organisations, cited by 33%. A similar number pointed to complexity in managing and maintaining the WAN, along with a lack of visibility into the WAN, as additional challenges.

Looking at the new priorities and indeed new needs of UK businesses, Aryaka discovered that firms regarded 5G as the most significant network initiative ahead of them, with 43% declaring 5G investment a priority. At the same time, UK organisations were investing in big data and analytics (42%), IT automation (41%) and cloud/SaaS migration (40%). Organisations were also showing a strong interest in networking initiatives such as cloud and SaaS connectivity upgrades (39%) and cloud-based network management (37%).

Another interesting discovery was businesses were less worried about the cost of implementing and maintaining the WAN, something Aryaka attributed to the drive towards improved networking. In 2018, 40% of respondents across Europe cited high costs as the main concern. In 2019, this number fell to just 14% in the UK and 12% in Europe – lower than the global average of 16%. This, said Aryaka, reflected a growing market maturity and a better understanding of return on investment in SD-WAN/WAN transformation projects.

“Many organisations are at an inflection point – transform the WAN now or risk falling behind and losing to competitors”
Shashi Kiran, Aryaka

Yet the study also made clear that the adoption of SD-WAN was not without its hurdles. The report revealed fears of increased complexity when deploying SD-WAN – with 36% citing this as the top barrier to adoption. A similar percentage of UK IT managers also stated the technology was “too new”. The third barrier to SD-WAN adoption in the UK was a lack of the right skills for 33% of respondents.

That said, SD-WAN was fundamentally gaining ground in the UK especially. Two-fifths of organisations were gathering information about the technology, and 30% were already evaluating suppliers. UK organisations were also demanding more from their SD-WAN solutions. Just over two-fifths (42%) in the UK were seeking cloud/SaaS connectivity, while 41% wanted application acceleration and WAN optimisation. Should they deploy one, UK respondents stated they would choose a telco- or MSP-provided option (32%) over an SD-WAN supplier (24%).

Aryaka also warned that companies should avoid losing focus on security, with 40% stating security breaches as one of the main drains on European IT teams. Aryaka wondered whether this was why most respondents – 55% in Europe and 54% in the UK – said they would opt for a best-of-breed approach to SD-WAN security, with a managed firewall solution demanded by an overwhelming majority of 86%.

Assessing the findings of the report and what it meant for the business environment going forward, Aryaka’s chief marketing officer, Shashi Kiran, said: “We are living in a complex multicloud and multi-SaaS application world. As global enterprises continue to innovate by embracing new technologies and migrating to the cloud, they also face new challenges, and the network is increasingly a strategic asset.

“Whether it’s an increasing number of global sites through expansion, poor-performing cloud-based applications, increasing costs, or the time it takes to manage multiple vendors, many organisations are at an inflection point – transform the WAN now or risk falling behind and losing to competitors.”

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