State of the WAN: 50% of WAN traffic is in the cloud

Aryaka’s 2017 State of the WAN report shows the cloud era has arrived in a big way, making SD-WANs business-critical. Companies must adopt this technology or risk falling behind and hurting business performance.

State of the WAN: 50% of WAN traffic is in the cloud
Credit: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

This week, SD-WAN vendor Aryaka released its “2017 State of the WAN Report,” which summarizes a global study conducted by the vendor that looks at WAN trends across a number of verticals and across every region of the globe for 2016.

The study was conducted by aggregating data from Aryaka’s customer base. The global SD-WAN vendor has analyzed connectivity to and from over 5,000 locations around the world across more than 550 enterprise organizations. The network data was rolled up and analyzed to see what’s happening on the enterprise WAN.

Aryaka also provided a comparison with last year’s data set, which provides insight into how things have changed over the past 12 months.

Data points that I found most interesting:

  • WAN traffic grew 205 percent in 2016, which follows the 236 percent jump seen in 2015. Given the rise of video, continued momentum of BYOD, new IoT devices being added and the rise of cloud, this data point should be no surprise. At the same time, MPLS pricing for increased bandwidth has remained fairly consistent, so this explains why so many organization have turned to SD-WANs. Purchasing lower cost broadband is a great way to handle the rise in overall WAN traffic without breaking the bank.
  •  The APAC region saw the largest spike in growth at almost 250 percent, although every region saw a significant spike in volume. The Americas actually were the laggard with “only” 155 percent growth. I believe this is because the Americas, and primarily North America, led the charge to the cloud early on, so much of the increase in traffic has already happened here. Juxtapose this with APAC, where many countries have lagged in cloud adoption and are ramping up now.
  • HTTPS is the application type that generates the most traffic today (27.8 percent of traffic), followed by HTTP (18.5 percent). The growth of HTTPS and HTTP compared to last year is an indicator of how reliant organizations now are on the cloud.  
  • CIFS (common internet file system) held the top spot last year (and I suspect would have in all previous years had the study been run) but dropped precipitously to third place in the most current study. For those unfamiliar with application protocols, CIFS is a file sharing protocol used by Microsoft. The decline of CIFS, from generating almost 25 percent of traffic in 2015 to only 16.3 percent in 2016, makes sense given the rise of cloud traffic.
  • On-premises SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) was more than halved as it declined from 4.7 percent of traffic to 2.1 percent. Microsoft has been pushing hard for its customers to embrace Office 365, and the strategy appears to be working.
  • Other data points that support the thesis that the cloud is taking over enterprise WANs is the sharp decline seen in protocols such as MS Remote Desktop (12 percent to 3 percent) and MSSQL (4 percent to 1.8 percent).
aryaka state of the wan 2017 Aryaka

What do all these numbers tell us? If anyone has doubted the rise of the cloud era, the report from Aryaka spells out the fact that it has arrived and in a big way. This underscores the importance of evolving the WAN away from something that was designed for client server to a software-defined WAN that is optimized for the cloud.

Historically, business leaders and even many CIOs haven’t paid much attention to the WAN, as the network has largely been positioned as “plumbing.” But given the fact that organizations are aggressively moving applications and data to the cloud, a legacy WAN will impact performance, which means SD-WANs are now business-critical.

A warning to lagging businesses

One final note on this study: It was conducted by an SD-WAN vendor whose customers have made the decision to migrate to this type of network presumably because the current WAN wasn’t meeting their requirements. The data will certainly be skewed towards next-generation technologies, such as the cloud, but this still stands as a warning to lagging organizations. In the cloud era, things move much faster than ever before, and businesses that don’t leverage the power of the cloud and SD-WANs will quickly fall behind—maybe too far to catch up. 

There’s no question that businesses will continue to move applications and workloads to the cloud, which will in turn continue to drive WAN traffic upward. Businesses must stay out in front of this transition and make the evolution to a global software-defined WAN a priority now before the legacy network starts to impact business performance.

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