Whether users are looking to stabilize cloud-connected resources, better manage remote networks or simply upgrade a timeworn wide area environment, software-defined-WAN (SD-WAN) technologies are what\u2019s on the purchasing menu.\nThe proof lies in the fact that this segment of the networking market will hit $4.5 billion and grow at a 40.4% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2022. In 2017 alone, SD-WAN infrastructure revenues increased 83.3% in 2017 to reach $833 million, according to IDC's recent SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast.\u00a0\u00a0\n\nA related report from researchers at the Dell\u2019Oro Group predicts revenue from SD-WAN software components, including controller and virtual network functions, will grow almost twice as fast as the hardware components.\u00a0 Over the next five years, SD-WAN software revenue will grow at a 41% compounded annual growth rate, compared to 21% for hardware.\nThe speed of SD-WAN adoption is one of the most surprising aspects of the forecast, said Brandon Butler a senior analyst with IDC. \u201cThe SD-WAN market is really in the early stages and we expect to see significant growth through 2022.\u201d\nIDC found that as enterprise customers add SaaS and IaaS services they will increasingly look to SD-WAN as a way of \u201cintelligently automating how application traffic is delivered to branch sites, moving away from traditional hub-and-spoke WAN architectures and the backhauling of internet- and cloud-bound traffic to on-premises datacenters toward the increasing use of broadband internet breakout and other network transports \u00a0\u2013 4G\/LTE and 5G \u00a0\u2013\u00a0 at the branch for cost-effective application delivery.\u201d\nUsers looking to upgrade and optimize their wide area network for MPLS, cellular and broadband will find it a lot easier to do with SD-WAN, Butler said.\n\nLowering costs by not having customers buy new hardware and by easily supporting less expensive connectivity, either via the Internet, Ethernet or LTE are important potential benefits of SD-WAN.\n\u201cUsers have diverse workload environments be they mobile or cloud, and SD-WAN helps bring those environments closer together,\u201d Kiran Ghodgaonkar, Cisco senior manager of enterprise marketing told Network World recently.\u00a0 \u201cWith the increased use of multi-cloud services especially, the WAN is really becoming the backbone of the enterprise.\u201d\n\n\n\n\n\nIDC offered up a number of other reasons SD-WAN technologies are heating up, including analytics and management.\nNetwork infrastructure vendors are increasingly introducing analytics capabilities such as performance benchmarking and user analysis that can lead to more informed deployment and security decisions. These visibility, analysis, security and optimization tools are increasingly being applied to SD-WAN products, IDC wrote.\nIncreasingly, networking vendors integrate software tools that includes centralized management of enterprise campus and remote\/branch office sites. While LAN and WAN networks are still largely managed separately, IDC expects in the coming years that some networking vendors will focus on integrating management of these environments, either through building out their own offerings or partnering with others, IDC wrote.\u00a0\u00a0\nAs customers adopt SD-WAN technologies there issues that could cause some trepidation.\n\u201cA lack of consistent pricing structures could slow SD-WAN adoption. Vendors\u2019 pricing and feature sets vary widely, and this makes it difficult to assess the economic value of solutions,\u201d Dell\u2019Oro \u2018s Umeda said.\u00a0 \u201cAlso, the large software component of SD-WAN shifts spending to a long-term recurring operating expense from a one-time capital expense.\u201d\nAnother issue is security. Users need to make sure what\u2019s being offered by specific vendors and evaluate their requirements.\nResearchers at Ovum wrote \u201cmany SD-WAN vendors are offering foundational security options versus listing them as roadmap items. Customers can easily service chain more robust security features by location, session, user, and application. This capability is just one example of the improved security that can be provided with advanced SD-WAN implementations.\u201d\nUmeda said that as he definition of SD-WAN is evolving, security is becoming a requirement. \u201cBecause many SD-WAN users rely on unsecure Internet connectivity, integrated security is needed to ensure traffic protection," he said.\nIDC\u2019s Butler said that security features will be a large component of SD-WAN offerings and that vendors will rapidly add security features and enter into partnerships to bolster security packages.\n\u201cBy including security tools natively in networking platforms, networking vendors are shaking up buyer dynamics by essentially forcing network decision makers and security decision makers to be on the same page from early in the network infrastructure procurement process. While only a portion of vendors offer these solutions today, IDC expects this number to grow steadily in the coming years,\u201d IDC wrote.\nAmong the key vendors driving SD-WAN growth include Cisco, VMware, Silver Peak, Riverbed, Versa and Aryaka.\nAccording to IDC, Cisco holds the largest share in the SD-WAN market. Cisco's market share stood at 49.3% in 2017, down from 63.1% in 2016. In August 2017 Cisco purchased Viptela, which was one of the leading SD-WAN startups.\nCisco recently took a giant step in its SD-WAN development by adding Viptela's SD-WAN technology to Cisco IOS XE software that runs its core ISR\/ASR routers.\u00a0Over a million of ISR\/ASR edge routers, such as the ISR models 1000, 4000 and ASR 5000 are in use by organizations worldwide.\nVMware, meanwhile, comes in second with a 10.4% SD-WAN marketshare in 2017, up from 7.8% in 2016, according to IDC, which noted that the company purchased\u00a0 VeloCloud in December 2017 when it was one of the larger pure-play SD-WAN startups.\n"With VeloCloud now rolled into VMware, the company is working toward offering an integrated multi-cloud networking platform that spans NSX network virtualization in the data center(s) and extends out to VeloCloud in the branch and remote office, which the company has rebranded VMware NSX SD-WAN,\u201d IDC said.