Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions have gained significant traction in just a few years, and been adopted increasingly by enterprises as they seek new approaches to their evolving networking requirements.
Over the next five years, global SD-WAN infrastructure and services will grow at 69.6% compound annual growth rate, hitting $8.05 billion in 2021, according to IDC’s Worldwide SD-WAN Forecast: 2017-2021.
The most significant driver of SD-WAN growth is digital transformation in which enterprises adopt what IDC calls “3rd Platform” technologies such as cloud, mobile, big data and analytics, which put increased strain on the network.
The continued rise of public cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications also drives the growth of SD-WAN. As the increase in SaaS adoption for business applications throughout the enterprise disrupts the prominence of MPLS-based WAN connectivity to the branch, SD-WAN is increasingly leveraged to provide dynamic connectivity optimization and path selection in a policy-driven, centrally manageable distributed network architecture.
The growth in SD-WAN will also benefit from the broader acceptance, and adoption, of software-defined networking (SDN) throughout the enterprise. As virtualization, cloud management, and SDN continue to gain traction throughout enterprise networks, SD-WAN will benefit from this paradigm shift and receive increasing consideration, the research firm said.
"SD-WAN is not a solution in search of a problem," said Rohit Mehra, vice president for network infrastructure at IDC. "Traditional WANs were not architected for the cloud and are also poorly suited to the security requirements associated with distributed and cloud-based applications. And, while hybrid WAN emerged to meet some of these next-generation connectivity challenges, SD-WAN builds on hybrid WAN to offer a more complete solution."
SD-WAN leverages hybrid WAN, but includes a centralized, application-based policy controller; analytics for application and network visibility; a secure software overlay that abstracts the underlying networks; and an optional SD-WAN forwarder (routing capability). Together these technologies provide intelligent path selection across WAN links, based on the application policies defined on the controller.
The benefits of SD-WAN include cost-effective delivery of business applications, meeting the evolving operational requirements of the modern branch/remote site, optimizing SaaS and cloud-based services such as unified communication and collaboration (UC&C), and improving branch-IT efficiency through automation. These benefits have resonated across the spectrum of enterprise IT and service providers alike, ensuring a broad-based uptake for this new paradigm in WAN architectures.