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How to Gain a Competitive Advantage in the Fast Growing SD-WAN Market

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SD-WAN: the promise of explosive growth

Rohit Mehra, Vice President, Network Infrastructure, IDC, recently commented that “the emergence of SD-WAN technology has been one of the fastest industry transformations we have seen in years. Organizations of all sizes are modernizing their Wide Area Networks to provide improved user experience for a range of cloud-enabled applications (1).” He was commenting on figures released in an IDC report stating that Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) infrastructure revenues had increased 83.3% in 2017 to reach $833 million and forecasting that the market would reach $4.5 billion in 2022, a 40.4% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017 to 20221. Another report from the Dell’Oro Group, while more reserved, none-the-less stated that sales of SD-WAN technology would reach $2.2 billion by 2022, representing a 35% percent CAGR (2).


Driving forces behind SD-WAN adoption

The recent acquisition of SD-WAN specialists Viptela by Cisco and Velocloud by VMWare seems to confirm the acceptance of SD-WAN among enterprise users and the growing demand for solutions and services. Rohit Mehra and his IDC colleague, Brad Casemore, are not surprised by the growing interest in the technology, stating that it offers “compelling value for its ability to defray MPLS costs, simplify and automate WAN operations, improve application traffic management, and dynamically deliver on the cost and efficiency benefits associated with intelligent path selection (3)”.

A study published by Cato Networks in March 2018 (4), based on the results of a survey among 700 network professionals, confirms these trends. Over half the respondents saw the main driver for SD-WAN adoption as the need to simplify network or security architectures. Other factors included the need to provide secure internet access from any location, to integrate cloud datacenter(s) into the WAN, to replace MPLS with a more affordable alternative and to improve visibility into and control over mobile access to cloud applications.


Solution provider strategies: gaining a competitive advantage

In response to these requirements, solution providers have taken advantage of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technologies to develop value-added features that can easily be delivered on top of basic WAN connectivity. These features are not necessarily new, but by bundling them into wider SD-WAN offerings, they can create solutions that are much richer than their traditional counterparts and allow a higher level of differentiation. Examples of these features include:

  • Performance and cost-based traffic management
  • Policy control and enforcement
  • Security functions such as firewall and intrusion detection/prevention
  • Centralized, web-based, detailed reporting
  • Support for Service Function Chaining (SFC)


Traffic visibility: the key enabler

In order to support these features and deliver on the promises of SD-WAN, solutions need a detailed understanding of network traffic, with application-level and user-level visibility. The only technology capable of delivering such a granular view is Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). By providing detailed information about IP flows and their content in real-time, a DPI engine creates visibility that is essential to deliver more responsive and precise SD-WAN functions:

  • Traffic can be managed between various link types or locations depending on the application performance in order to optimize user experience
  • Security can be bolstered by detecting anomalous traffic or application behavior
  • Reporting can be enhanced by showing performance per application, per session, per site, per link, per user, etc.
  • Application-level visibility is required for SFC, which can bring significant operational benefits to enterprises and managed service providers


To find out more, download the whitepaper Adding Value to SD-WAN with DPI.


This is Part 1 of the full article on “Gaining a Competitive Advantage in SD-WAN – The Role of DPI“.

You can read Part 2 here: “How to Choose DPI Technology that Will Raise the Performance of Your SD-WAN Solution“.


Article first published on December 11th 2018 in The Fast Mode


About the Author
Erik Larsson is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Enea, where he drives product marketing, demand generation, branding and communication. Erik’s views on high-tech trends are regularly featured in articles, blog posts, webcasts, video interviews, and industry events.


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