The SD-WAN market is expected to reach $30.9 billion by 2030[1]

Digital transformation is all about the use and integration of new technologies as part of a company’s processes, allowing it to respond to changes and adapt to new customer demands as well as to a digitally skilled workforce, while generating new business models and corporate structures. 

Among these transformative technologies are the software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), which have grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Proof of this is that this market is expected to reach $30.9 billion by 2030.  The software-based overlay network improves management, functionality, and security.  However, several misleading myths have distorted the SD-WAN‘s capabilities and its role within a robust and flexible network strategy, preventing companies from leveraging its full potential.  Thus, it is important to clear up these myths and grant SD-WAN its due place. 

Let’s start by pointing out that while SD-WAN adds value in many ways, you can’t simply ignore the underlying network.  Think of the latter as the road on which your data traffic travels, while the SD-WAN is the traffic management system.  Regardless of the number of dedicated lanes, detours, traffic analysis, and real-time routing offered by SD-WAN, a congested and potholed road will continue to cause a slow and jolting journey.  This example will help explain the ideas set out below. 

Focus on the basics 

Simply put, SD-WAN can utilize its links in the most efficient way possible by defining directives per application and choosing the WAN that best suits it.  However, it cannot resolve bad internet connections; as an overlay it relies on the underlying network – MPLS, broadband, internet, or a combination of these – to manage routing rules, handle failure scenarios and prioritize traffic.  Given that the end-user experience depends on the quality of the underlying network, no “smart” traffic management solution can fix a bad route. 

Not all internet connections are the same 

There is a fundamental difference between broadband delivered over cable and a dedicated internet access service delivered over fiber.  Tapping into the traffic analogy, imagine cable broadband as a public highway: it is a shared service where users compete for available bandwidth on the same local infrastructure.  Furthermore, cable-delivered Internet and former broadband services are generally asymmetric, meaning there is less bandwidth upstream than downstream. In times of VoIP, UCaaS, and other hosted SaaS offerings which rely on reliable internet bandwidth (in both directions), this becomes more important than ever. 

It’s all in the backbone network 

In addition to the differences in access, such as cable versus dedicated fiber, your ISP’s backbone network and the extent of its interconnections with other networks (also known as peering) will affect the end-user experience. 

Security as an Imperative 

It is very important to consider security when it comes to implementing an SD-WAN solution. As we add equipment to a network, it becomes more difficult to control, visibility is lost, and the attack surface is expanded. Secure SD-WAN allows us to add to and enhance SD-WAN’s network features, such as: 

  • Integration of authentication and authorization to control network access.
  • Use of encrypted tunnels to secure network traffic travelling through the Internet.
  • Next-generation firewall (NG-FW) functionalities in CPEs.
  • Network segmentation to limit the scope of potential security breaches.
  • Integration of endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions to protect endpoint devices, in addition to zero-trust network access (ZTNA).
  • LAN security: enables integration of LAN visibility (Switches, APs) to control equipment and user access and turn a Secure SD-WAN into a Secure SD-BRANCH.

Room to scale 

SD-WAN implementations carried out by system integrators (i.e., DIY), often combine several types of Internet, provided by different service providers. However, as the number of network sites increases, problems can arise due to varying Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and performance fluctuations across the locations. 

Businesses are turning to managed SD-WAN solutions for a variety of reasons and a Frost & Sullivan survey showed that organizations rely on service providers to:  

  • Combine and manage multiple network providers (75%)
  • Centralize communications for all providers (73%)
  • Manage all aspects of the network, including voice, data, access, and security (71%)
  • Leverage the flexibility of buying and paying for the service through a subscription billing model (71%)
  • Speed up decision making, since managed vendors have previously validated the SD-WAN providers (67%)

As companies roll out new business-critical applications across all their affiliates, – from Internet of Things to cloud analytics – they need access to flexible, secure, and cost-effective network options.  Increasingly, enterprises choose SD-WAN managed services to help them optimize deployments, make decisions that are best suited to their specific needs, and accelerate time to value. 

In short, SD-WAN allows traffic to be sent automatically over the most adequate WAN route while respecting security conditions, circuit costs, and quality of service requirements.  Its benefits enable companies to adapt to meet the growing demands of an increasingly digital world.

[1] PS Market Research

Javier Colucci,
Regional Manager, SD-WAN and Cloud Connectivity Products
Cirion Technologies


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