Industry Voices—Raynovich: What's next for SD-WAN? A bigger, bolder play

Among other trends, SD-WAN is headed towards more cloud application integration and into cloud providers' points-of-presence. (Pixabay)
scott Raynovich

The run in SD-WAN has been fun to watch. Just a few years ago, discussions about how SD-WAN technology could transform the enterprise edge into a more flexible cloud model brought quizzical stares. Now, everybody and their cousin in the networking market are putting together an SD-WAN strategy.

SD-WAN is successful because it solves tactical challenges that network managers have at the enterprise edge, helping them with their daily jobs. The top problems it solves include:

  • Enabling more efficient access to cloud applications;
  • Providing a software-enabled deployment of WAN access devices at the edge;
  • and introducing a flexible, software-based security architecture.

These are the most obvious benefits, but the use cases have been expanding rapidly in just the last couple of years. 

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Where is SD-WAN going in 2020? It's going to move deeper into the cloud to solve some of the larger problems encountered by enterprises and service-providers, such as cloud security, cloud applications performance, and multi-cloud connectivity.

How do you solve all of this at once? It's not easy, but you'll see many of the SD-WAN technology players pivoting to these areas to expand their addressable market behind the network manager to the cloud architect by providing deeper integrations with cloud services and platforms.

In the past few months, news announcements have highlighted these trends, which will take hold in 2020. Here are some examples of what we have seen lately, which are the beginning of trends we will see in 2020.

Cloud SD-WAN goes POP

One of the strongest trends in SD-WAN is integration with major cloud providers at points-of-presence (PoPs) so that customers can get to the cloud faster. Microsoft is building out its network for connecting WANs, called Azure Virtual WAN, which will make it easier for SD-WAN providers to connect into Azure.

RELATED: Microsoft certifies 3 SD-WAN vendors to deliver Office 365

Amazon is pushing out its cloud closer to the edge with efforts such as Amazon Regions and Amazon Outposts. As an example, Silver Peak recently announced one-click automation to public cloud workloads that are hosted in Microsoft Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) instances. All of the leading SD-WAN providers are working on better integrations with the leading public cloud platforms, with Cisco, VMware, and Citrix recently emphasizing work they are doing with either Microsoft or Amazon.

Cloud app performance integration

Another area linked to improving cloud application performance includes focusing on specific applications. As an example, Microsoft has started an Office365 certification program. So far, three SD-WAN vendors have been certified as meeting standards for enhancing delivery of Office 365 performance; Citrix, NTT, and Silver Peak. I would expect all the major SD-WAN players to jump on board this train, as Office365 is a large market and Microsoft is building a massive cloud infrastructure. Expect to see similar certification enhancement programs in areas such as Unified Communications as-a-Service (UCaaS), which Windstream says makes up to 30-40% of its SD-WAN implementations. In another example, Utah-based SD-WAN provider FatPipe has been focusing on UCaaS performance, recently reporting high performance measurements when used as an integrated platform with cloud UCaaS provider RingCentral.

RELATED: Chua: Evolution of the SD-WAN battle: What's next?

SD-WAN gets SASEy

I'm still not sure what SASE is, because when I Google it the first thing that pops up is "self addressed stamped envelope." Joking aside, this is a concept that Gartner is pushing that will have legs in 2020, primarily because of the muscle that Gartner is putting behind it. In the SASE concept, the center of gravity for security architecture is shifting from on-premises enterprise hardware to the cloud. The goal is hitting the key buzzword bingo terms of identity-based perimeter and zero trust networking, which will make your CEO happier.

SASE defines a sub-trend in SD-WAN, which is integrating SD-WAN with cloud-based security applications. Cato Networks is positioned as one of the leaders for delivering security solutions directly from the cloud, recently laying claim to being the first SD-WAN vendor to integrate SIEM (security information and event management) capabilities into its cloud-based SD-WAN platform. Versa Networks has also been very aggressive in pushing its own security apps that can run from both the cloud and on its edge SD-WAN device, which follows the SASE theme. And VMware VeloCloud has been pushing on the SASE theme with its cloud gateway approach to delivering security. It has a long list of cloud-security partners including Zscaler, Checkpoint and Netskope.

SD-WAN for multi-cloud

Put two of these trends together: More PoPs and more SASE and what you have is a cloudier SD-WAN. When SD-WAN first emerged, it was highly focused on solving enterprise endpoints and automating the connectivity at branches. But now let's imagine that a cloud architect is using SD-WAN as well as multiple cloud platforms -- there may be an opportunity for SD-WAN to reach deeper into the cloud platforms to provide multi-cloud connectivity between clouds. In an example, Versa Networks in early December announced that it now supports ingress routing in Amazon virtual private clouds, an important step toward multi-cloud networking integration. Nokia's Nuage Networks division, which has a strong position in data-center virtualization with its Virtualized Service Platform (VSP), recently announced it is using its SD-WAN 2.0 platform to deliver multi-cloud connectivity with OmniClouds, a cloud provider that will help connect multiple public clouds for customers in the Middle East and Africa. And Aryaka Networks recently announced SmartCloud, a managed multi-networking service for public clouds and software-as-a-service providers and cloud partners, such as Microsoft Azure.

The field is flush with more than 50 SD-WAN providers according to Gartner. Futuriom in 2019 outlined the case for accelerating growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33% in the 2019-2021 time frame. Futuriom focused on a pack of SD-WAN infrastructure leaders that includes: Aryaka Networks, Cisco Systems, Cato Networks, Citrix Systems, CloudGenix, Fatpipe Networks, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, Nuage Networks (Nokia), Silver Peak, Versa Networks, VMware.

All in all these powerful trends will continue to make the SD-WAN market one of the most interesting networking markets to watch in 2020.

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. Most recently, he was VP of research at SDxCentral.com, which acquired his previous technology website, Rayno Report, in 2015. Prior to that, he was the editor in chief of Light Reading, where he worked for nine years. Raynovich has also served as investment editor at Red Herring, where he started the New York bureau and helped build the original Redherring.com website. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.

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