IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

The Promise of SD-WAN

SD-WAN offers considerable savings, improved management, and increased security—but specific types of companies will see the most benefit. By James E. Gaskin
Reader ROI: 
The sweet spot for SD-WAN is companies with lots of branch offices such as retail stores and real estate offices.
Since SD-WAN products started appearing two years ago, integrators have seen a good increase in revenues.

The acronym SD-WAN stands for software-defined networking in a wide-area network. As with other software-defined technologies, such as storage and local networking, SD-WAN applies virtualization to increase reliability and reduce management overhead.

Definitions vary, but “a virtual WAN with automated load balancing of application traffic across multiple physical WAN links that includes a centralized management and control plane” works for Clifford Grossner, Ph.D., senior research director for data center, cloud, and SDN at IHS Markit Ltd., a London-based analyst firm. “SD-WAN provides very rapid failover so users don’t see any dropped links. That’s a very important byproduct function.” Add in the ability for the control plane to centralize policies and security so that admins can define them in one spot and run them everywhere consistently, and the value appears enticing.

By the Numbers
Depending on how you define SD-WAN, the market in 2020 should be between $1.3 billion (IHS Markit) and $6 billion (IDC). Compare that, says Grossner, with the market total of $40 million in 2014. In an IHS Markit survey, 63 percent of respondents are planning at least a lab trial for SD-WAN by the end of 2016; 13 percent report using the new technology in production. Further, 37 percent of respondents say they expect to have some SD-WAN in production by the end of 2017, and that is expected to grow to 82 percent by 2018.

One company that has already deployed SD-WAN is Faction Inc., a Denver-based, enterprise-class IaaS cloud provider that offers hybrid and multicloud solutions. According to Luke Norris, founder and CEO, “It has allowed us to logically connect all of our cloud nodes, and customers within the cloud nodes, in a seamless network. The legacy networks and associated configuration complexity [are] gone.”

Based on his customers, Norris believes “enterprises with multiple sites will outsource the WAN to SD-WAN providers. Companies that adopt cloud and multicloud workloads will need SD-WAN to make the promise of cloud agility a reality.”

Does every company with a WAN link need SD-WAN? No, says Grossner. “Mostly companies with lots of branch offices, like retail stores, medical clients, real estate offices, and the like. Companies with two or three large sites have much less to gain from SD-WAN at this point.”

Resellers can take advantage of vendors, such as Faction, that make it easy to turn up a service for testing and even offer white-label products, says Grossner. “Resellers can offer their own proof-of-concept trials for their customers,” he adds. “Turn-up for SD-WAN is very nondisruptive.”

By adding new controls and redundancy to existing WAN links, SD-WAN offers considerable savings, improved management, and increased security. Since the first products appeared two years ago, the benefits of SD-WAN’s growing market mean vendors and integrators have seen a good ramp-up in revenue.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin is a freelance writer and former reseller based in Mesquite, Texas. He writes frequently for The ChannelPro Network.