SD-WAN in 2019: The New De Facto Standard

by Mike Frane
January 09, 2019

With its sweeping improvements in agility, reliability, security, performance, and cost, SD-WAN has moved into the networking mainstream in a remarkably short period of time. While MPLS will continue to serve in hybrid networks and as legacy infrastructure, it’s clear now that SD-WAN is becoming the new de facto standard – and I expect 2019 to be the year it leads in new network build-outs by a long shot.

SD-WAN is becoming the new de facto standard

The speed with which SD-WAN took hold can be contributed to a couple of factors, and it’s having a tremendous impact on solution providers as 2019 gets into full swing.

Two main reasons why SD-WAN adoption will continue to explode

  • Digital transformations and cloud initiatives. Major enterprises are uniformly transitioning to digital technologies and the cloud. On the way, many are realizing that router-centric WANs have inherent performance issues that stand in the way of realizing full value from digital and cloud initiatives. Aligning the network to these larger needs has become an imperative – and SD-WAN stands alone in suitability.
  • Pairing with UCaaS solutions. For enterprises of all sizes, including SMBs, the continuing trend toward unified communications as a service drives demand for network quality, availability, and reliability that legacy networks can’t provide. This is causing an increasing number of UCaaS solution providers to pair their offerings with SD-WAN, which can deliver the added benefit of single-vendor ease of implementation and ongoing support.

Additional impact on solution providers

From a solution provider perspective, the rapid rise of SD-WAN has serious implications going forward including:

  • Continuing consolidation. Many smaller start-up vendors hopped on the SD-WAN bandwagon with solutions that weren’t fully baked and traditional CPE vendors added (or marketed) SD-WAN in their legacy portfolio which led to marketplace noise and confusion. Consolidation to a smaller number of established providers will clear some of the confusion and bolster adopter confidence.
  • Managed service providers will increase dominance. While the largest enterprises will continue to prefer to manage their own networks, their mid-enterprise and SMB counterparts will partner with vendors who will manage or co-manage the solution and handle the day-to-day operations of the network while they re-focus their IT teams on driving value.
  • Security, security, security. As more of the network operates over the Internet, SD-WAN adopters are understandably highly concerned with protecting network assets. Solution providers will have to build in and integrate far richer security options than have historically been available.
  • Universal CPE is coming, I swear. I’ve predicted in the past that “white box” or universal CPE will move into the SD-WAN mainstream as it becomes more economical to deploy multiple network functions on commodity hardware. That process has been slowed by everyone in that value chain wanting the same bite of the apple that they have historically enjoyed, but I remain convinced that over time, economics and sourcing options will bring the cost of uCPE and VNFs in line with the value it can produce for end users.

I’m happy to say that SD-WAN’s rapid rise has helped my previous projections prove accurate overall – and there is no longer any doubt that SD-WAN is solidifying its position as a key element in all kinds of contemporary enterprise initiatives.