SD-WAN users’ issues laid bare in digital transformation

Network weaknesses are uncovered as organizations roll out digital initiatives.
22 January 2020

The majority of SD-WAN users claim to have lost faith in their networks having undertaken digital transformation initiatives, a new study finds. 

In research by Cato Networks, which sought to uncover the budgets, challenges and readiness of more than 1,300 IT professionals around the world, it was revealed that 74 percent lacked confidence in their networking solutions during the transformation process. 

SD-WAN, or software-defined wide-area networks, is an application of SDN technology applied to WAN connections such as broadband, 4G, LTE or MLPS. It connects enterprise networks, including branch offices and data centers, over large geographic distances. 

The IDC said the emergence of SD-WAN has been “one of the most fastest industry transformations we have seen in years,” predicting the segment of the networking market will be worth US$4.5 billion by 2022, with incumbent networking vendors swiftly reimagining their portfolios to take on a “growing cadre” of startups. 

Despite the positive growth forecast, researchers at Cato believe the issues highlighted are likely linked to SD-WAN flaws being laid bare: “The results suggest that only as organizations roll out digital initiatives, they uncover the weaknesses in their networks.” 

While the high costs of MPLS are driving many to adopt SD-WAN, network limitations are revealed once organizations require cloud or mobile access. The study argues, therefore, that SD-WAN is not sufficient in serving as merely a cost-saver or MPLS replacement. 

That’s despite 48 percent of those in the study showing their intent to invest in SD-WAN as a “cost-effective alternative” in the coming year.

“Enterprises need to anticipate their future requirements if they’re to remain confident in their WAN transformation,” Cato Networks CEO Shlomo Kramer said. “Thinking only about MPLS replacement leads to incremental, point-solution acquisitions when confronted by digital initiatives, making their networks more complex and costly to run.”

Those concerns we mentioned circle chiefly around connectivity and security. While the majority said cloud will overtake the data center in importance for app hosting, more than two-thirds said they lacked confidence in the ability of their network to acquire cloud connectivity. 

On security, just 37 percent were confident in their network’s ability to defend their locations from cyberthreats. In terms of network types– which included MPLS, MPLS and internet-based VPN, SD-WAN and a secure access service edge (SASE)– SASE was the only category which grew in confidence after digital transformation.

“SD-WAN fails to restrict access to specific applications or provide the advanced security tools needed to protect all edges — mobile devices, sites, and cloud resources,” Cato said in the study.

“By contrast, SASE confidence grew post-digital transformation. Converging a complete security stack into the network allows SASE to bring granular control to sites, mobile and cloud resources.”