SD-WAN, or software-defined WAN, is exploding at the rate of knots, and is the hottest topic within the networking space right now. Estimated to be worth just $225m back in 2015, IDC predicts that sales of SD-WAN technology will reach $1.19bn by the end of this year, and mushroom to $8.05bn by 2021.1 The reason for such explosion is self-explanatory. Increasingly, businesses are moving to a cloud-based environment and setting themselves up as being mobile-first, and SD-WAN is simply better-suited to this evolving landscape than other alternatives on the market.

As we near 2018, any business with a substantial number of branch locations or a large volume of mobile workers utilising myriad devices to access the network, should be thinking seriously about transitioning to SD-WAN if they aren’t already. I’ve heard some industry experts refer to SD-WAN as self-driving, and it’s a comparison I’ve warmed to. Much like the Tesla car, for example, the technology can auto-correct based on deep application analytics and data. There are so many benefits to be had from this and above all SD-WAN eases the increasing strain today’s applications are placing on company networks.

Beyond this, the solution is extremely competitive in terms of pricing, can be hugely profitable, and is already proving itself to deliver impressive ROI within an incredibly short timeframe. Here are the main reasons why SD-WAN uptake is anticipated to explode…

Speed to market

In our proof of concepts to date, time to market with SD-WAN deployment is just one week (or less in many cases).

The technology has been built on the premise that as organisations undergo digital transformation, they need a networking solution that can adapt quickly. SD-WAN allows for changes to be made to an entire system or network at one time with great ease. Historically, upgrading network infrastructure within branch offices would have required manual IT support, while predefined bandwidth allocations would have to be re-architected, programmed in and installed at each location. This would often result in downtime due to human error. But with SD-WAN, network control happens immediately and centrally, all through a single interface.

Cost savings

Connecting geographically dispersed offices or branches can hit IT budgets hard, and be inordinately expensive to maintain. SD-WAN allows a business to expand its network more easily, circumventing its reliance on traditional providers. Standard telco lines can also be extremely expensive to maintain and to increase bandwidth, this generally comes at an additional cost. According to Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner, for example, a 250-branch over three years is estimated to cost $1,285,000 in a traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) architecture, but only $452,500 with an SD-WAN deployment.

Furthermore, once a business has transitioned to SD-WAN, proven ROI can be extremely quick to demonstrate. For example, within a 50-plus branch environment we have recently seen costs be completely absorbed within the first year.

A higher quality experience

A particularly appealing characteristic of SD-WAN is its policy-controlled environment, which enables businesses to customise the network characteristics they need. SD-WAN can manage multiple types of connections and so, for example, it could ensure that an MPLS virtual private network (VPN) always has first priority for network connectivity, while giving secondary priority for high-bandwidth traffic such as video. An SD-WAN solution also allows for dynamic path selection, so that the most appropriate path can be selected for specific application traffic. This can help with the early detection of congestion points, so that traffic can be diverted when necessary along alternative routes. The result is optimised load balancing so that high-quality data transfer is maintained.

Ultimately, we need to think of the network as a chain, which is only as strong as its weakest link. The superior functionality of SD-WAN means it has the capacity to galvanise the weakest link of the network, ensuring that it will always be strong enough to keep business data flowing, without interruption and at a much lower cost. The days of manually architecting a new link are over. With SD-WAN there will always be another galvanised link ready and waiting to take over. For businesses with a large number of branch offices in particular, this is easily the future of networking technology – and it won’t be long before it goes mainstream.

[1] “IDC Forecasts SD-WAN Market to Reach $8 Billion in 2021 As Enterprise Branch Network Requirements Accelerate” July, 2017