Survey: Enterprises want end-to-end management of SD-WAN

Enterprise Management Associates found that 90% of enterprises want platforms that support more comprehensive management of software-defined-WAN environments.

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(Editor’s note: Recent research by Enterprise Management Associates takes a look at how enterprises view currently available SD-WAN products. This article by Shamus McGillicuddy, EMA’s research director for network management, details highlights of  “Wide-Area Network Transformation: How Enterprises Succeed with Software-Defined WAN,” a report based on EMA’s survey of 305 WAN decision-makers at distributed enterprises. EMA has posted a free webinar  about the report.)

SD-WAN products solve some very immediate and pressing business requirements today. They secure and optimize internet connectivity, giving enterprises immediate access to vast amounts of bandwidth. They provide centralized, programmatic management of the WAN, allowing enterprises to close the skills gaps they are struggling with in the network team. Increasingly, SD-WAN products enable direct access to cloud applications from remote sites, which is essential. EMA’s newly published report, “Wide-Area Network Transformation: How Enterprises Succeed with Software-Defined WAN,” found that 55% of enterprises now prefer to connect branch offices directly to the cloud, rather than route cloud traffic though a data center or hub. The research is based on a survey of 305 WAN decision-makers at distributed enterprises.

End-to-end management from data center to user

Unfortunately, EMA’s research also uncovered some emerging requirements that most SD-WAN vendors are neglecting. First of all, 90% of enterprise network teams indicated that they need an end-to-end management environment that covers WAN networking. On the surface, SD-WAN solves this requirement, but SD-WAN’s scope is too narrow. EMA asked enterprises to identify the places in the network that they want this end-to-end management environment to cover. Branch site WAN infrastructure (routers, WAN optimization, SD-WAN gateways) was the top response (48%). SD-WAN vendors generally cover this today, although some of them ignore third-party routers and WAN optimization controllers.

SD-WAN and branch security

Next came branch site security and remote user VPN (tied at 43%). Most SD-WAN solutions offer security management, either through native security functions or third-party integrations with security vendors. However, very few SD-WAN products address remote-user VPN management.

Remote user VPN solutions are becoming increasingly software-defined, so it would make sense to consolidate SD-WAN and remote VPN at least in the management layer. At least a couple SD-WAN vendors today use the same controller to manage branch SD-WAN and remote VPN. This integrated approach simplifies policy management and allows enterprises to consolidate vendors.

SD-WAN and branch LAN management

Forty-one percent of enterprises want their WAN management environment to cover branch LAN infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi and switching. Again, only a few SD-WAN products offer this management integration. Some Wi-Fi vendors have added SD-WAN solutions recently. This is especially valuable to enterprises that have sites unstaffed by network personnel.

Some SD-WAN vendors that offer branch LAN products typically integrate management to an extent that a low-level technician or even a line-of-business employee can plug in and power up local switches and access points. Then the central network team can provision and configure the LAN remotely through the SD-WAN controller.

Finally, 39% of enterprises want management integration with the data center network. Specifically, they are seeking ways to implement integrated policy frameworks for security and segmentation from the data center out branch office. Very few vendors do this today, even vendors that sell both data-center networking and SD-WAN products. However, they will tell you this integration is on their product roadmap.

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