Software-defined architectures are all about decoupling the software from the underlying hardware, i.e., you don’t have to buy a proprietary box to take advantage of the features of the software. This was the traditional model.
As time went on, though, being locked into one vendor lost its appeal. A great many software companies began providing many of those same bells and whistles that could run on any hardware. The software-defined movement is a further step in that direction. One of the earliest forms was software-defined storage. The software could run on a multitude of vendor hardware or cloud platforms. Following the success of software-defined storage, other similar forms emerged including software-defined networking.
Here are some of the top trends in software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN):
SD-WANs vs VPN
SD-WANS decouple the networking software from the underlying hardware. This adds flexibility, can lower costs, and improve scalability, deployment and maintenance simplicity. Users often report better performance compared to a traditional WAN architecture. Not surprisingly, SD-WANs have eaten significantly into the Virtual Private Network (VPN) market in recent years.
“Old-fashioned remote access VPNs are being replaced by more advanced SD-WAN services,” said Edward Qin, Chief Product Officer of Algoblu.
“SD-WANs provide secure access to corporate resources and can more easily integrate with advanced security and networking features.”
But VPNs aren’t disappearing completely. Organizations, these days, are taking a multilayered approach to networking which might incorporate SDN, zero trust, SD-WAN and traditional VPNs.
“Newer types of VPN technologies such as WireGuard VPN can end up being part of a zero trust-solution,” said Heather Paunet, Senior Vice President at Untangle.
“It is important to have a multilayered security solution and to ensure that if one layer is breached, there are multiple more layers to protect.”
Networking Gear Surge
Networking gear sales have had a rough year or two. But Dell’Oro Group reports that sales of enterprise network equipment have rebounded with sales rising 12% in 2021 to return to previous highs. SD-WANs sales were among the best performers, growing by 35% in 2021 with record revenues of more than $2 billion. Cisco led the market share rankings for the full year 2021, and Fortinet climbed into the number two position. VMware, Versa, and HPE rounded out the top five vendors.
“Demand for SD-WAN solutions picked up in 2021 as enterprises continued to optimize their branch network architectures for the cloud services and workloads they are implementing,” said Shin Umeda, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group.
Strong numbers were also posted for campus switches, enterprise data center switches, IP telephony switches, enterprise routers, network security tools, and Wireless LANs.
Software-defined networking (SDN) gear as a general category that includes SD-WANs were particularly strong. Analysts estimate that SDN will account for more than half of $33 billion in total network security and services market revenues by 2026.
“Between enterprises embracing cloud applications and hybrid work as the new normal, we see preference for SaaS- and virtual-based network security solutions,” said Mauricio Sanchez, Research Director, Network Security at Dell’Oro Group.
Firewall as a Service
But SD-WANs as a discrete item of sale may longer be for this world. A general trend is for the technology to be absorbed by broader categories. SDN tools, for example, that include SD-WAN, are one manifestation of this trend. But perhaps a more major one is Firewall as a Service (FWaaS).
FWaaS is a service that combines products such as traditional firewalls, as well as next generation firewall suites, SD-WAN and other tools, all delivered as a service. The point of it all is to have IT simply order and forget. The service provider takes care of deployment, maintenance, monitoring, and management of the firewalls and associated services.
“Firewall as a Service combine firewalls with SD-WAN and security services such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA),” said Michael Wood, CMO, Versa Networks.
Secure Access Service Edge
WAN enterprise networking and SD-WAN technologies are also being integrated into Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) packages and tools. The SASE market grew 40% year-over-year to achieve sales of $800 million in 1Q 2022.
“Rather than thinking of networking and security as separate problems to solve, enterprises are now being thought of as a continuum and driving together cloud-friendly networking and security technologies into SASE,” said Sanchez.
“In the age of distributed apps and hybrid work, enterprises increasingly prefer cloud-delivered security over traditional on-premises solutions.”
Network traffic is higher than ever. And there is no sign that this trend is going to abate any time soon. Enter network virtualization as the best way to maintain system efficiency via technologies such as SD-WAN as well as Network Element Virtualization and Network Function Virtualization.
“Network virtualization enables organizations to build an agile and elastic network with cloud-based security features,” said Qin.