The Digital Workspace Loves SD-WAN

The Digital Workspace Loves SD-WAN

I covered VDI closely for many years, several of which were dubbed “The Year of VDI” even though that never quite seemed to gel. Our 2014-2015 Enterprise Technology Benchmark showed VDI adoption by nearly 70% of enterprises, and more importantly VDI use spreading inside those companies to steadily more users whether as their sole or a supplementary means of accessing applications.  Given that, we shifted coverage. VDI was no longer emerging, really, and between VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft the solution market was pretty well defined.

I also covered application delivery optimization, including WAN optimization, which was often a fellow-traveler with VDI – many branches needed some optimization, from the likes of Riverbed and Silver Peak, to make effective use of VDI. This was usually done by carving out protected bandwidth for VDI sessions, but sometimes also direct assistance to VDI traffic specifically, e.g. applying forward error correction techniques to reduce packet loss and retransmits. (VDI hates packet loss, even more than streaming video does.)

In the last couple years my focus has shifted to center on cloud and SD-WAN, but I still watch the VDI space (including now the Desktop as a Service, or DaaS, space) with great interest.  I was cheered by a recent briefing with Tocario, which sells a Linux-based solution that approaches the VDI space somewhat differently than the other major players. It and other new companies are helping define the successor to the VDI space: digital workspace (DW).  DW ties together VDI, DaaS, and the idea of providing a data-centric and user-centric enterprise service core connecting a loosely-coupled array of productivity and collaboration tools, provided either in-house or via SaaS, and all together defining a dynamic, personalized work-from-anywhere-on-anything workspace for enterprise users.

And DW loves SD-WAN!  SD-WAN, by bringing together ideas like pooling connectivity and transparently failing over to good links when other links go bad, improves on what traditional WANs and WAN optimizers could accomplish.  It goes even further, though. Some SD-WAN solutions can apply an even broader array of optimizations to the traffic itself, not just carving out protected bandwidth and doing error correction to prevent packet loss, but also doing things such as dynamically selecting, packet by packet, the path to the workspace service provider that provides the best performance and lowest latency at that moment. Some solutions can even send packets down multiple paths simultaneously, keeping the copy of each packet that arrives first, to guarantee that every packet arrives, and arrives with the best available speed.  Vendors like Velocloud, Viptela, and Silver Peak call out virtual desktop as a use case commonly driving deployments of their tech.

Given the potential for significant WAN savings with SD-WAN – easy to demonstrate with Nemertes’ SD-WAN Cost Model  – it’s no surprise so many enterprises are interested in the technology. It’s a new space but already 18% of organizations in Nemertes 2016-2017 Cloud and Data Center Benchmark are deploying—and make that 40% of the highly successful ones!  


The recommendation? To IT shops embroiled in the digital transformation of the user workspace: you are another natural constituency for SD-WAN. You should be closely examining the WAN’s role in empowering your users in this new paradigm, and evaluating SD-WAN’s potential for radically improving its ability to play that role even while reducing your WAN spend.