Confusion bubbles over benefits of SD-WAN in post-COVID environment

According to a new report assessing the current UK SD WAN marketplace, organisations have changed their opinion of the technology following Covid-19, with half saying it is ‘less relevant’ to the burgeoning remote workplace that’s emerged since lockdown.

The report, ‘The Future of SD WAN in a UK economy’ from IT consultancy, Accelerate Technologies, is based on the views of 800 IT leaders including CIOs, CISOs and Heads of IT across multiple industries to uncover the opinions of SD WAN and how it has changed since Covid-19.

The data found that a third of organisations have no plans to deploy SD WAN with 55% favouring the emerging single cloud service model of SASE, which converges SD WAN features with cloud based security services for remote workers and devices. Nearly half said WAN optimisation already gave them the required performance or preferred the centralised security and single point of public entry offered by traditional MPLS WAN architectures.

Covid-19 challenges facing IT leaders

Accelerate’s report found that 58% of IT leaders say the key challenge of the Government’s ‘work from home’ directive is managing remote worker performance and support issues. Nearly half report issues with bandwidth, 40% with infrastructure capacity and 42% say the increased number of dispersed and unmanaged remote worker devices is problematic, and not having the visibility to measure and improve performance compounded the issue.

A quarter of UK IT leaders are bringing forward cloud migration projects with half prioritising projects that improve visibility and security for remote workers and cloud infrastructure due to the effects of Covid-19; improving application performance for cloud hosted apps / SaaS is imperative since the pandemic.

SD WAN – why not?

Out of those with no plans to deploy SD WAN, a quarter felt it didn’t support remote worker access yet 55% of organisations with SD WAN said it had done exactly that. A third said a lack of internal skills or difficulty finding a suitable technology partner that can fully own and manage the deployment, were also reasons for not considering SD WAN. Darran Clare, Director of Technologies at Accelerate said: “The remote worker challenges introduced by Covid-19 have naturally shifted peoples’ focus from site-to-site WANs, to the needs of a more flexible workplace, hence the increased interest in SASE architectures. We also see concrete proof that WAN optimisation is far from dead, and such services can play a key part in improving the performance of cloud hosted applications where latency is the underlying issue. Whilst most SD WAN and SASE vendors will advertise WAN Op capabilities, such claims should not be taken at face value as the scale and depth of application optimisation can vary greatly.”

Confusion over SD WAN and SASE

Accelerate’s data found that there is confusion among IT leaders around the benefits of SD WAN and SASE. 43% view SASE as a completely different use case to SD WAN, whilst one in four see SASE as an enhancement to SD WAN architectures, bringing together secure zero trust access for the new and increased remote workforce.

Clare continues: “SASE is a new and emerging technology with the phrase only being coined by Gartner in late 2019. The general consensus is that SASE is a combination of network security functions and SD WAN delivered as a cloud based service, and therefore able to extend beyond the physical limits of the network.

“There is clearly confusion concerning the capabilities of SD WAN, and how best to implement the technology. SD WAN, while delivering undeniable value, has not managed to serve the entire needs of all organisations during the work from home directive. COVID-19 presents an enormous and evolving challenge as we look to return to a ‘new normal’ way of working with many employees continuing to operate from home.”

SD WAN and the future workplace

Accelerate found that 62% of IT managers do already have, or plan to deploy SD WAN, with a vast majority (45%) improving application performance. This is further to Gartner’s industry predictions last year that 60% of enterprises worldwide will have implemented SD WAN by 2023.

Over a third said SD WAN increased agility and reduced the cost of WANs. While half said their primary objective was to simplify the management of branch office infrastructure and enable secure branch office internet break outs, which over half had achieved – potentially supporting the future ‘remote’ workplace where number and size of office locations could possibly reduce.

Clare continued: “There are SD WAN vendors that are built upon cloud architecture and have current or upcoming extensions for remote workers and devices that naturally take them into the SASE sphere. But others have been built on hardware and through bolt on acquisitions and may struggle to adapt to the SASE model.

“The additional remote worker security and connectivity capability offered by SASE presents compelling solutions to the challenges that the survey revealed. This is not a one size fits all market, however. It’s about mapping the current and future business needs of the enterprise, and picking the right platform and provider based on that criteria is crucial.”

The following two tabs change content below.

David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine