The following IDC White Paper by Brad Casemore was first released in June 2017
What's Driving the Need for SD-WAN? Digital transformation remains an urgent imperative for enterprises and organizations worldwide. Consequently, infrastructure investments are increasingly made for strategic rather than tactical reasons. Indeed, nearly 72% of respondents to a recent IDC cloud study indicated that they were investing in IT to support digital transformation and growth. IDC also has found that organizations with digital-ready networks are realizing two to three times the revenue growth of organizations that lack such a network and that companies digitally connecting their distributed enterprises have boosted their profit margins by 30–50%.
Cloud computing is foundational to digital transformation and integral to its realization. According to IDC's 2016 CloudView Survey data, about 37% of U.S. businesses are now using public cloud for production workloads, with many more using cloud for dev/test purposes. Furthermore, about 31% of enterprise IT expenditure is allocated to externally provided cloud infrastructure services. In addition, more than half of the CloudView Survey respondents are using multiple off-premises cloud providers, and about 65% of organizations report having a hybrid cloud strategy in place. These trends are expected to accelerate and intensify, with hybrid cloud strategies and multicloud adoption expected to reach broad enterprise adoption in the next few years.
Network Resources That Support Digital Initiatives Are Under Intense Scrutiny In this context, network resources that support digital initiatives are coming under intense scrutiny. Increasingly, the focus has shifted to the wide area network (WAN), which provides essential connectivity and valuable network services for branch offices and remote sites — where organizations transact business and engage directly with customers daily. On the WAN, however, operational complexity has become intractable, driven by factors such as increased bandwidth usage, diverse requirements in WAN connectivity, and a growing number of cloud-based applications. Enterprises are seeking cost efficiencies amid rapidly evolving application delivery requirements, especially as they adopt SaaS and IaaS cloud offerings.
Traditional WAN Not Architected for the Cloud The traditional WAN came of age in the client/server era, when applications resided exclusively behind the firewall in enterprise datacenters. As such, the traditional WAN was not architected for the cloud, nor was it intended to enable and support digital transformation. Instead, legacy WANs were designed and constructed to support branch-to-datacenter and branch-to-branch traffic, not to support increasingly critical branch-to-cloud application traffic. Furthermore, the traditional WAN is poorly suited to the security requirements associated with distributed and cloud-based applications. An additional complication is that legacy WANs are complex to manage and inherently incapable of supporting the business agility that is prized in the context of digital transformation. Part of the problem is derived from the fact that the legacy WAN was architected to encompass disparate technologies and products — such as routers, firewalls, and WAN optimization appliances — that were neither designed nor intended to work together. As a result, they are onerous to configure, deploy, and manage. Indeed, on the legacy WAN, configuration occurs at the device level and is manual and time consuming. What's more, it isn't directly related to the objective of connecting users to applications according to business intent. Instead of focusing on the realization of business policy, operational procedures on the legacy WAN are narrowly focused on manual, device-centric management. Consequently, bringing new sites online with a traditional approach based on MPLS and complex command-line configuration of legacy routers consumes significant IT resource cycles. Similarly, such an approach means that moves, adds, and changes — also done manually on a device-by-device basis — take too long to affect and are operationally suboptimal.
Finally, traditional hub-and-spoke WAN architectures typically necessitate backhauling internet-bound traffic from branch offices to the datacenter, then out to where applications reside in the cloud before going back through the datacenter and on to the branch. This is inherently inefficient, ultimately compromising application performance, business agility, and employee productivity — never mind the expense associated with using MPLS for this inefficient transport of cloud applications. The role of the WAN seems simple — to connect users to applications, regardless of whether they reside in the enterprise datacenter, a colocation facility, or the cloud — but the task of configuring, deploying, and managing the legacy WAN has become anything but straightforward. In fact, the unwieldy management of the legacy WAN detracts from enterprise IT productivity and inhibits businesses from moving with agility on the cloud initiatives that directly support their digital transformation objectives. There's no doubt that cloud initiatives are driving a reassessment of WAN architectures and strategies. In its recent Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) Survey, IDC found that most enterprise respondents are currently using or planning to use a range of cloud services, with nearly 56% indicating that they are using public IaaS, about 44% reporting the use of in-house private cloud, and nearly 42% indicating that they are using SaaS. By the end of 2017, about 80% will be using IaaS and in-house private cloud to some degree and approximately 74% will be using SaaS.
Interested to read more? Download the white paper via the following link.