In your organization, the wide area network (WAN) is probably the least of an application developer's concern, but one of the most vital in terms of delivering application performance over the internet or across your private corporate network. CIOs quickly realize that a good network can either be a great enabler for digital transformation initiatives or a bottleneck.
The COVID-19 situation has further put a spotlight on the WAN as an agent of change. Organizations that were able to adapt quickly were the ones that had an agile network that was amenable to changing business and operational models. Network operators were deemed essential commodities in most nations, and I expect cloud-first architectural approaches that allow an organization to be nimbler to accelerate.
At Aryaka Networks, we recently released our fourth annual Global State of the WAN survey report. To develop this report, we polled over a thousand enterprise respondents the world over that included CIOs, network and security professionals. These were across several verticals and across multiple geographies.
I'd like to share a few insights from this report that may help enterprises that are in their planning cycles for 2020 and beyond.
1. Operational Complexity is the Biggest Hurdle to WAN Transformation
Nearly 37% of the respondents cited operational complexity as their biggest hurdle to their WAN transformation efforts. This was across both on-premises and cloud deployments. While technologies such as SD-WAN have promised agility, managing them across distributed sites, troubleshooting them and interworking with legacy technologies like Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) have all contributed to rising complexity. This has replaced costs as a top area of concern compared to previous years. WAN architectures that are simple to deploy and operate will lend themselves to better change management and transformation.
2. SaaS Adoption is Growing; Multi-cloud Networking is Becoming Table Stakes
The number of SaaS applications in an enterprise is increasing, with over 7% of enterprises consuming over 50 SaaS applications. Not surprisingly, the adoption of SaaS in the enterprise (organizations deploying 10+ SaaS applications) has more than doubled year-over-year from 23% to 51%. We also see enterprises embracing a multi-cloud strategy not just across public clouds, but across a mixture of public, SaaS and private enterprise cloud deployments. Collaboration applications are at the top of the stack here. WAN architectures that deliver multi-cloud networking should be the norm moving forward.
3. Performance, Security and User-Experience are Top of Mind. WAN Optimization is Still Popular
The convergence of the WAN and security is certainly happening across both on-premises and cloud deployments. Gartner created categories like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) are in the research phase for some enterprises. WANs also need to support high-performance for a multitude of applications, and most specifically enable voice and video, including HD video. 84% are considering a managed firewall solution. Surprisingly, WAN optimization continues to be both relevant and popular, particularly for global deployments
4. Barriers to Scaling SD-WAN Include Performance Issues, DIY Complexity and Cost Concerns
SD-WAN adoption is growing. However, application performance on SD-WANs for global deployments still appears to be a barrier causing hesitance to migrate off of legacy MPLS technologies. Despite the promise of simplicity, do-it-yourself (DIY) implementations are surprisingly complicated across distributed sites and are contributing to operational complexity. Modernizing the WAN should include consumption friendly network-as-a-service approaches that deliver both simplicity and agility. OPEX-based subscription models with flexible bandwidth pooling, licensing etc. can de-risk SD-WAN adoption.
5. Managed SD-WAN is Seeing a Significant Uptick Globally
The rise of complexity across the WAN—particularly across end-to-end deployments, global rollouts, last mile, multi-cloud environments and security convergence—is necessitating the need for greater expertise and training needs, leading to cost escalations and shortage of skilled personnel in branch locations. This is impacting time-to-market and reducing competitiveness. A key standout of the 2020 survey was a nearly 30% jump in respondents wanting a managed SD-WAN. This number shifted from 59% to 87% over the past year. Most enterprises don't enjoy their experience with the Telcos and traditional managed service providers and are constantly exploring "better-than-Telco" alternatives. Enterprises are encouraged to evaluate TCO vs. just CAPEX to determine best fit between DIY models and managed service providers. Specifically look for better integration between the SD-WAN technology, the network and service delivery for a better experience.
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