Covid-19 Accelerates Shift to New Normal: SD-WAN and Cloud Networking

Covid-19 Accelerates Shift to New Normal: SD-WAN and Cloud Networking

Our brand-spanking-new (independent, unsponsored) network research study, Next Generation Networks 2020-2021, documented a few just-pre-Covid facts about the network that surprised us.

Why SD-WAN and Cloud Networking

First, less than 40% of WAN traffic (on average) fits into the paradigmatic WAN traffic pattern of starting from an inside source and going to an inside destination. Inside-inside traffic was the whole reason for a WAN in the first place! (Not coincidentally, our Cloud and Cybersecurity 2019-2020 Research Study from Q3 2019 found just 40% of the average organization’s workloads still live in company data centers.)

Second, 17% of WAN traffic is now “outside-outside” — it is connecting a source outside the enterprise proper to a resource also outside. The current tsunami of work-from-home will swell that volume enormously.

Thirdly, more than half of the folks deploying SD-WAN are using it (already) to connect clouds to each other (outside-outside traffic again) and also data centers to clouds. Just under a third of organizations use direct cloud connects (DCC) and just over a third use WAN-cloud exchanges (WAN-CX). We saw more than 60% of enterprises evaluating secure cloud access and policy enforcement (SCAPE) solutions such as Palo Alto Prisma and Cisco Umbrella.

SD-WAN, DCC, WAN-CX: Succeeding in Normal Times

These technologies (SD-WAN, DCC, WAN-CX) constitute a new normal for enterprise networking. Organizations roll them out with the twin goals of improving application performance (especially for those applications still in data centers) and improving WAN availability while also simplifying WAN management. Our research finds these organizations are, indeed, significantly more likely to be successful in delivering WAN services.

COVID-19, SD-WAN, Cloud: Help in a Troubled Time

We have seen some SD-WAN vendors, such as VMware, and some SCAPE vendors, such as Palo Alto and Cisco, try to address the needs of the Covid-19 moment. They may offer temporary, free expansions of capacity or free extensions of licensing to help organizations weather the surge of additional outside-inside and outside-outside traffic. As the year progresses, absent a vaccine, we can expect more periods of social distancing (possibly not so widespread). Enterprises can’t expect the same kinds of free offers next time around, since there is ample time to plan to address the need in the mean time. Those using cloud-based solutions will have the easiest time expanding capacity, of course, since they have no hardware to deploy or update.

Prior to the February, we were already seeing a decisive shift towards this new outside-faced WAN powered by SD-WAN and cloud networking solutions, driven by ongoing shifts from internal solutions to external, and internal (on premises) users to external.  The pandemic is throwing a spotlight on the need to accommodate these shifts and will accelerate adoption in the coming year.


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