Gartner Group: SD-WAN Survey Yields Surprises

by Danellie Young | Ted Corbett | Lisa Pierce

Introduction:

A Gartner-conducted software-defined (SD)-WAN survey has identified the key drivers for SD-WAN adoption and preferences for managed services from non-carrier providers. Despite its relative immaturity, the perceived benefits create incentives for IT leaders responsible for networking to leap into SD-WAN pilots now.

Editor’s Notes:

  1.  Please refer to our report on IHS-Markit analysis of the SD-WAN market. Cisco and VMware are the top two vendors due to recent acquisitions of Viptela and Velocloud respectively. Cisco also bought Meraki which provides a SD-WAN solution as well as business WiFi networks.
  2. According survey data from Nemertes Research, enterprises are not discarding their MPLS networks as they deploy SD-WANs. “Fully 78% of organizations deploying SD-WAN have no plan to completely drop MPLS from their WAN,” Nemertes John Burke reports. “However, most intend to reduce and restrict their use of it (MPLS), if not immediately then over the next few years.”
  3. “Although it brings a lot of benefits to the table, SD-WAN still uses the public Internet to connect your sites,” points out Network World contributor Mike C. Smith. “And once your packets hit the public Internet, you will not be able to guarantee low levels of packet loss, latency and jitter: the killers of real-time applications.”

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Key Findings of Gartner Survey:

  • Enterprise clients cite increased network availability, reliability and reduced WAN costs resulting from less-expensive transport as the top benefits of software-defined WAN.
  • Enterprise clients are concerned about the large number of SD-WAN vendors and anticipate market consolidation, making some early choices risky.
  • A lack of familiarity with the technology, the instability of the vendors, and skepticism about performance and reliability are the most common concerns when deploying SD-WAN.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the organizations we surveyed prefer buying managed SD-WAN, demonstrating a preference for presales and postsales support. A preference for type of managed service provider does not align with legacy carrier MSP adoption rates.

Recommendations:

To maximize new SD-WAN opportunities, infrastructure and operations leaders planning new networking architectures should:

  • Include SD-WAN solutions on their shortlists if they’re aggressively migrating apps to the public cloud, building hybrid WANs, refreshing branch WAN equipment and/or renegotiating a managed network service contract.
  • Include a diverse range of management solutions related to SD-WAN considerations; don’t just look at carrier offers to determine the best option available to meet enterprise requirements.
  • Compare each vendor’s current features and roadmaps with enterprise requirements to develop a shortlist, and use pilots and customer references to confirm providers’ ability to deliver on the most desirable features and functionality.
  • Focus pilots on specific, critical success factors and negotiate contract terms and conditions to support service configuration changes, fast site roll-out and granular application reporting.
  • Negotiate flexible WAN or managed WAN services contract clauses to support evolution to SD-WAN when appropriate.

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Gartner has forecast SD-WAN to grow at a 59% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2021 to become a $1.3 billion market (see Figure 1 and “Forecast: SD-WAN and Its Impact on Traditional Router and MPLS Services Revenue, Worldwide, 2016-2020”). Simultaneously, the overall branch office router market is forecast to decline at a −6.3% CAGR and the legacy router segment will suffer a −28.1% CAGR through 2020.

SD-WAN equipment and services dramatically simplify the complexity associated with the management and configuration of WANs. They provide branch-office connectivity in a simplified and cost-effective manner, compared with traditional routers. These solutions enable traffic to be distributed across multiple WAN connections in an efficient and dynamic fashion, based on performance and/or application-based policies.

The survey data highlights that most of the respondent organizations are in the early stages of their SD-WAN projects. To qualify, respondents must be involved in choosing, implementing and/or managing network services and equipment for their company’s sites, while their primary role in the organization is IT-focused or IT-business-focused. We intentionally searched for companies that plan to use or are using SD-WAN. Of those surveyed, 93% plan to use SD-WAN within two years or are piloting and deploying now, with approximately 73% in pilot or deployment mode. These results do not reflect actual market adoption rates, because Gartner estimates that between 1% and 5% of enterprises have deployed SD-WAN. Although the results differ numerically, the qualitative feedback is compelling.

Related to specific number of sites, the responses are shown in Figure below:

Enlarge Image

Respondents using SD-WAN; n = 21 (small sample size; results are indicative).  Totals may not add up to 100%, due to rounding.

Source: Gartner Group (November 2017)

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SD-WAN Concerns

Enterprises cite their lack of deep technology familiarity as a key barrier to using SD-WAN. In fact, of those who plan for SD-WAN, nearly 50% have concerns about their lack of technical familiarity, followed by concerns over the stability of vendors and concerns about performance and reliability. 

Editor’s Note: Surprisingly, enterprises don’t seem to be concerned with the lack of SD-WAN standards which dictates a single vendor solution/lock-in.

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With more than 30 SD WAN vendors in the market and consolidation accelerating, this doesn’t come as a surprise.

Other key findings include:

  • Vendor stability is a major concern. Among the 51% of respondents who selected performance and reliability as key drivers (n = 44), nearly half (45%) had concerns about the stability of the vendors.
  • Many among the 50% who see agility as a key driver (n = 36) expressed concern about their lack of familiarity with the technology.
  • Among organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees (n = 53), the most common concern is lack of familiarity with the technology (51%). Organizations with 1,000 to 9,999 employees (n = 38) find the ROI of the investment to be most common challenge (50%).
  • Among the EMEA respondents (n = 48), half were most concerned about the stability of the vendors, followed closely by concerns about proven performance and reliability.

To purchase the complete Gartner SD-WAN report go to: 

https://www.gartner.com/doc/3829464/survey-analysis-early-findings-yield

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References:

https://www.sdxcentral.com/sd-wan/definitions/software-defined-sdn-wan/

https://blogs.gartner.com/andrew-lerner/2017/06/03/sd-wan-is-going-mainstream/

 Technology Insight for Software-Defined WAN [SD-WAN]

IHS-Markit: 15% Drop in Global Optical Network Equipment Sales; Cisco and VMware are SD-WAN market leaders

http://sd-wan.cloudgenix.com/Q217GartnerTechInsightforSD-WANSearch_registration.html

http://blog.ntt-sdwan.com/post/102ekiu/sd-wan-momentum-five-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2018

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3236492/techology-business/mpls-sd-wan-not-an-eitheror-scenario.html

Broadband Forum’s vBG network spec targeted at SD-WANs; led by ONUG

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