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Enterprises embrace SD-WAN but miss benefits of integrated approach to security

Research from managed network and security services provider finds virtually all enterprises have deployed software-defined wide area networks or plan to do so within the next 24 months, but nearly half reported they either don’t have security integrated with SD-WAN or have no specific SD-WAN security at all

A study commissioned by global provider of managed network and security services GTT has revealed encouraging news for the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) industry, with over 95% of enterprises having deployed it or planning to do so within the next 24 months. However, nearly half (42%) either don’t have security integrated with SD-WAN or have no specific SD-WAN security at all.

The How to realize the full potential of SD-WAN whitepaper, constructed through research conducted by IDC to examine the SD-WAN and security challenges of 650 enterprise ICT decision-makers in 14 countries across Europe and the US, also found that enterprises experience multiple challenges when attempting to adopt SD-WAN on their own.

When asked to list the challenges they faced when taking a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to SD-WAN, respondents cited difficulties related to hiring and retaining a skilled in-house workforce, keeping up with technology developments and the ability to negotiate favourable terms with technology vendors.

“Now that SD-WAN has matured and has been widely adopted, the complexity of deployments has grown, challenging enterprises on multiple fronts and compromising their ability to realise the full benefits of the technology,” said James Eibisch, research director, European infrastructure and telecoms, at IDC, commenting on the study.

“Enterprises are increasingly reliant on the resources and expertise of a managed service provider to ensure they deploy SD-WAN in a way best suited to their meet their organisations’ objectives. Security approaches like secure access service edge (SASE) that combine the benefits of SD-WAN with zero-trust network access and content filtering features are well poised to dominate the next phase of SD-WAN enhancements as enterprises continue to enable the cloud IT model and a hybrid workforce,” he added.

“Now that SD-WAN has matured and has been widely adopted, the complexity of deployments has grown, challenging enterprises on multiple fronts and compromising their ability to realise the full benefits of the technology”
James Eibisch, IDC

The survey observed that businesses were generally aware of the security gap, with 70% of respondents planning to deploy integrated security with SD-WAN within the next year and 80% either prioritising or integrating SASE into their IT initiatives.

There were also varying findings on the security strategies across countries and industries. In the US, 45% of respondents said they either don’t have security integrated with SD-WAN or have no specific SD-WAN security at all. In some countries, such as Switzerland and France, that figure was more than 50%. This trend was found to hold across vertical industries such as manufacturing (47%), retail (46%), healthcare (47%) and transportation (49%).

More than 80% of respondents worldwide have either made SASE a priority (39%) or have recognised its benefits and are already incorporating it into company initiatives (42%). Only 19% of respondents worldwide reported they did not view SASE as a priority.

Despite this widespread recognition of the value of integrating security and SD-WAN, the survey also found that many enterprises have not been able to take advantage of these benefits. In the US, 45% of respondents said they either don’t have security integrated with SD-WAN or have no specific SD-WAN security at all. In some countries, such as Switzerland and France, that figure was more than 50%.

This trend held across vertical industries such as manufacturing (47%), retail (46%), healthcare (47%) and transportation (49%). Financial and business services were exceptions, with only 32% and 34%, respectively. That said, seven out of 10 respondents (71%) worldwide expect to use integrated security in the next 12 months.

When respondents who were adopting a managed services approach to SD-WAN were asked for their reasons, the report found that many wanted to outsource day-to-day management tasks.

The top reason cited by respondents globally for using a managed service provider (MSP) was the benefit of always-on helpdesk support in local languages, with 36% citing this as a reason. Running a close second, 35% cited visibility, insights and control without the need for technology certification as a benefit. In addition, 34% cited ease of configuration management, the ability to manage, maintain and facilitate technology upgrades, and better protection against security threats.

“This study highlights the critical role of expert managed services support for enterprises deploying SD-WAN. Experienced managed service providers can help integrate technology, connectivity and security, while also managing costs and increased complexity,” commented Don MacNeil, chief operating officer at GTT. “The research shows that a DIY approach to SD-WAN presents a number of challenges that can be addressed by teaming with a managed service provider.”

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