Research conducted by market research firm IHS Markit found that 74 percent of firms surveyed had SD-WAN lab trials in 2017, and many of them plan to move into production this year.\nThe report, titled \u201cThe WAN Strategies North America\u201d (pdf, registration required), found security is the number one network concern by a wide margin and the top reason to invest in new infrastructure, as companies must fend off the constant threat of cyber attacks.\nThere are other reasons, as well, such as traffic growth, company expansion, adoption of the Internet of things (IoT), the need for greater control over the WAN, and the need to put WAN costs on a sustainable path.\n\nIoT traffic, in particular, is predicted to have an impact on traffic growth. WAN bandwidth usage is expected to grow over 20 percent each year, according to respondents, while total WAN expenditures rose almost 20 percent to $300,000 per respondent in 2017.\n\u201cAs companies shift a greater portion of their IT infrastructure into the cloud and expand their physical presence to go after new markets or be closer to customers and partners, the need for reliable, secure and high-performance WAN and internet connectivity has never been greater,\u201d said Matthias Machowinski, IHS Markit enterprise networks senior research director, in a statement.\n\u201cHowever, companies don\u2019t have unlimited budgets to fund growing WAN bandwidth consumption, which is why a majority are planning to deploy software-defined WAN in the next three years, to better control how their WANs are used,\u201d he added.\nCloud services also drive SD-WAN use\nAnother driver for SD-WAN is the finding that 71 percent of respondents will use off-premises cloud service providers by 2018, which will become the top application strategy in 2018.\nThis is important because the current standard in WAN communication technology, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), is designed for use internally in your data center, and MPLS data is transmitted unencrypted. SD-WAN is made for the public internet and lets you use a VPN to encrypt traffic.\nSD-WAN also uses a combination of the public internet and private networks that the SD-WAN providers build, so you don\u2019t have to compete with Netflix and YouTube traffic. This makes for a more secure and faster network, reducing latency between public cloud providers and private data centers.\nThere\u2019s a fairly healthy market of SD-WAN competitors to choose from, including big names such as Cisco and Citrix, and startups such as FatPipe Networks, VeloCloud, CloudGenix, and Aryaka. Each has their own claim to fame and slightly different solutions.