Analytics have moved from a nice-to-have feature to a must-have, particularly in the growing land of SD-WAN where it\u2019s increasingly important to digest large volumes of data quickly in order to respond to threats and changing network conditions.\n\u201cNow, for SD-WAN to do its \u2018thing\u2019, and deliver on its automation and intelligence attributes, it needs insights in real time, and these are typically delivered by the visibility and analytics tools that many solutions now offer \u2013 either as integrated options or via third-party or eco-system partners,\u201d said Rohit Mehra, vice president, Network Infrastructure for IDC.\n\nTech Spotlight: Analytics\n\nHow to choose a data analytics platform (InfoWorld)\n6 best practices for business data visualization (Computerworld)\nHealthcare analytics: 4 success stories (CIO)\nHow to protect algorithms as intellectual property (CSO)\n\n\nThat\u2019s even more critical now as SD-WAN deployments serve an ever increasing remote workforce. Recent IDC surveys say that 95% of businesses will be using SD-WAN technology within two years, and that 42% have already deployed it. IDC also says the SD-WAN infrastructure market will hit $4.5 billion by 2022, growing at a more than 40% yearly clip between now and then.\n\u201cWith the rapid increase in use of cloud services including video and IoT applications, which have only been accelerated with the ongoing global pandemic, wide area networking and remote connectivity stays a mission critical need for enterprise IT,\u201d said Mehra.\u00a0\n\u201cSpecifically, SD-WAN emerged as an evolution from enterprise routing and WAN optimization to address the needs of a more dynamic, intelligent architecture around these evolving application needs,\u201d Mehra said.\nProbes or agents in vendors\u2019 SD-WAN packages gather network, performance, security and other telemetry and combine it with historic customer and vendor-gathered data. Analysis of this data generates recommendations, policy changes or other actions to help IT keep the overall WAN environment humming.\nAnalytics programs can also reduce the number of overall alerts IT teams deal with because the programs can focus on those things enterprises consider most important.\nVendors such as Cisco, VMware, Versa, Silver Peak, Citrix, Cato and others have varying degrees of analytic sophistication in their SD-WAN packages, but all of them are marching toward supporting cloud-connected customers.\u00a0\n\u201cMany, if not most, SD-WAN vendors do have some core analytics and visibility capabilities built into their solutions which helps deliver on the dynamic aspects of the SD-WAN architecture,\u201d Mehra said. \u201cHowever, the needs for increased visibility and analytic, and hence insights, from the endpoint all way to the cloud, is driving the roadmap for solution providers, and in many cases, increasing M&A-related conversations across the industry.\u201d\nOne of those companies, Versa, whose Secure SD-WAN package includes analytics features, says increase in work-from-home users has driven analytics use as IT customers need to understand what\u2019s going in on their increasingly distributed environments.\n\u201cWhether your traffic going to public cloud or a SaaS, customers want a full understanding of performance and security issues that analytics can help with,\u201d said Kumar Mehta, co-founder and chief development officer of Versa.\u00a0 \u201cWith our SD-WAN analytics IT can gain visibility from wherever the user is located from the cloud or to a data center and get a full understanding of where network or application problems are and fix them quickly.\u201d\nAs many employees work from home, analyzing those links and finding problems with them is already an issue. That sort of capability will become more important going forward and analytics can do that, Mehta said.\n\u201cThe enterprise is currently going through one of its biggest transformations, and the largest driver behind that is cloud and multi-cloud access combined with the new normal of the distributed workforce,\u201d said Cisco\u2019s Rohan Grover, senior director of product management, Enterprise Routing and SD-WAN group.\nOne of the challenges facing enterprise IT is getting the visibility from the SD-WAN into the multiple clouds many customers have. Some have over 20 SaaS providers, which is complicated enough, but in addition, cloud connectivity has always been a blind spot, Grover said.\u00a0\nAnalytics in Cisco\u2019s SD-WAN vManage package and in its Meraki-based SD-WAN offering exchange telemetry information between the SD-WAN platforms and cloud vendors \u2013 Amazon and Google in particular \u2013 and help customers make sure everything is working correctly.\nGrover said analytics help customers determine which connections such as MPLS circuits or direct internet links would be better to use for a particular application, Grover said.\nOther analytics use cases gaining ground are figuring out the optimal use of bandwidth and capacity planning for branch networks, which has never been more important, Grover said\n\u201cWhile the case for increased visibility and analytics is successfully being made today across several IT domains, the case for incremental SD-WAN intelligence and automation in a post-COVID-19 phase will only get stronger, as various digital transformation initiatives get accelerated, which in turn requires the network to transform,\u201d IDC\u2019s Mehra said.\nSD-WAN analytics tools can help enterprises monitor end-user behavior and send alerts about issues including dropped connections, outages with the ISP, and QoS problems, said Craig Connors, vice president and CTO of SD-WAN at VMware. \u201cBased upon real-time data, network operators are able to not only detect these issues but remediate the problem remotely.\u201d\nImproving enterprise security is another developing use case for SD-WAN analytics, which can track what users are doing no matter where they are located.\u00a0And that analytics-base security can fit into the larger secure-access services edge (SASE) architecture that protects critical network junctures with cloud-based security services.\n\u201cThreats are obviously evolving, and now we have IoT and all manner of other mobile devices joining the network, and it becomes harder for IT to manage and secure all those pieces,\u201d Connors said. \u201cTraditional security systems might not notice trends, but an analytics engine can detect and flag security problems. The idea of merging security and SD-WAN is part of what SASE architectures promise as well.\u201d\nThe analytics engine knows what network trends are and can identify when there is something happening in the network that isn\u2019t normal.\u00a0Analytics can flag anomalies and threats then help customers understand what the issues are and help with remediation said Versa\u2019s director of engineering Roopa Bayar. \u00a0\u201cAnalytics can establish security patterns and behaviors,\u201d Bayar said.\nIn the future customers can expect to see more AI and machine learning added to analytics packages to improve network performance and application management, but also to improve intelligence and reduce response-time to issues, experts said.