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SD-WAN goes mainstream in remote work surge but network visibility, security are concerns

Survey reveals effect of Covid-19 in what is said to be an age of dynamic disruption, with full sight of traffic activity across much more distributed infrastructure a key priority

Relentless technological advances and “tremendous” disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic have driven IT teams to require better visibility into the network, says research from Viavi Solutions.

The latest State of the network study from the global provider of network test, monitoring and assurance systems drew insights about network trends and challenges faced by IT teams. Results were compiled from more than 400 respondents, including network engineers, IT directors, security engineers and CIOs from around the world.

In what it said was now an age of dynamic disruption, the study highlighted the fact that IT is increasingly challenged to maintain optimal service delivery, while implementing remote working on an unprecedented scale.

For the first time in 13 years of the State of the network study, the top challenge for troubleshooting applications was the ability to understand end-user experience, indicated by 47% of respondents, while nearly 60% cited the need for greater visibility into remote user experiences.

Viavi noted that SD-WAN deployment, application troubleshooting, security monitoring and remediation all rely on comprehensive network visibility to be most effective. Among organisations of all sizes, the most used key performance indicator (KPI) for assessing end-user experience is packet-based metrics (45%), followed closely by user-satisfaction metrics (41%).

The survey also confirmed that the trend for the last year or so for increased SD-WAN adoption has gone mainstream, with the primary motivations for deployment being cost savings (58%) and business continuity (50%). Also, 45% of respondents noted visibility into end-to-end network and application performance, 38% indicated the ability to achieve improved WAN and application performance, and 37% said cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365. The next most popular motivation scored only 15%, with those respondents indicating migration to an application-centric architecture and centrally managed branch sites.

For larger enterprises, visibility into end-to-end network and application performance were the biggest motivators, while for medium to large businesses, SD-WAN adoption leapt to 85%. Also, more than half of those that have, or plan to have, SD-WANs in place use multiple suppliers to do so.

Most organisations, 58%, were found to be planning to manage SD-WAN visibility by using only their supplier’s native capabilities. Half of the sample said they would use third-party monitoring tools, while 34% indicated they would go along the road of customised and in-house-developed tools.

Another standout finding of the study was that as enterprises increased connectivity, networks were even more exposed to vulnerabilities. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents said security professionals need comprehensive visibility into network infrastructure to enhance cyber security efforts and speed remediation.

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Making the need to beef up security even more pressing was the fact that more than half of respondents (54%) have already deployed internet of things (IoT) devices, while 24% of respondents plan to do so in the next 12 months. However, only 57% of them had a mechanism in place to monitor those devices.

About three-quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that SecOps teams need better visibility into network infrastructure to enhance cyber security efforts, suggesting that effective collaboration between NetOps and SecOps leads to stronger security posture and faster incident response.

“As remote working becomes the new norm, IT teams are challenged to find and adapt technologies, such as flow-based reporting to manage bandwidth consumption, VPN [virtual private network] oversubscription and troubleshooting applications,” said Charles Thompson, senior director, enterprise and cloud at Viavi.

“To guarantee the best performance and reduce cyber security threats, increasing network visibility is now a must for all businesses. By empowering NetOps, as well as application and security teams with network visibility, IT can mitigate the impact of disruptive migrations, incidents and new technologies like SD-WAN to achieve consistent operational excellence.

“This year’s State of the network study clearly demonstrates an increasing awareness of this fact among all IT stakeholders.”

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