SD-WAN Said Key to 'New Normal' of Coronavirus-Driven Digital Transformation and Remote Work

New research indicates software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is a key component of enterprise digital transformation initiatives accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic that have resulted in a "new normal" of remote work.

While the research was sponsored by an SD-WAN vendor, it serves to indicate changing business practices and attitudes of enterprise leaders, who are now emphasizing network security and efficiency for remote work.

Although remote work has long been lauded by employees and was increasingly being accepted by organizations, the pandemic "accomplished in a matter of months what digital transformation has been trying to do for years," said the new report sponsored by Masergy, based on a survey conducted by IDG Communications that polled IT leaders at U.S.-based multinationals.

"In particular, with more workers at home (a trend nearly certain to continue even after pandemic lockdowns ease), companies are revisiting their network modernization plans," the report said. "They're turning to software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) to help ensure that employees stay connected and cloud applications work as expected -- all while keeping data safe."

Finding more investments in areas such business continuity and global workforce enablement, the report notes an emphasis on infrastructure initiatives. Findings that reflect that include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the respondents reported investing more in network infrastructure in Q2 than they did in Q1 (when lockdowns hadn't yet sent employees home en masse).
  • Survey respondents reported giving top priority to building out technology that enables remote work and collaboration tools, by a wide margin (44 percent of the respondents) compared to other initiatives.
  • Enabling AI-based analytics and automation was the second-most-cited top infrastructure priority, named most important by 21 percent of the respondents, followed closely by service reliability for business continuity (20 percent).

Unsurprisingly, the Masergy-sponsored research found a key role for SD-WAN tech in such infrastructure initiatives, exemplified by findings such as:

  • More than half (56 percent) of the survey respondents are piloting, installing, or upgrading SD-WAN installations, continuing an upswing from last year (54 percent).
  • Types of SD-WAN solutions installed include:

    • Fully managed service maintained by the provider, reported by 46 percent of respondents
    • Co-managed solution, where service is managed by both you and the provider, 29 percent
    • Standalone device that requires a do-it-yourself approach, 25 percent
  • Respondents place the greatest importance on SD-WAN capabilities such as multicloud connectivity (cited as very important by 66 percent of the respondents) and support for a variety of data transport and access options for the network (very important to 64 percent of the respondents).
    Importance of SD-WAN Solution Capabilities
    [Click on image for larger view.] Importance of SD-WAN Solution Capabilities (source: IDG).

"IT leaders now look to SD-WAN as their go-to tool for addressing many of the challenges of communications continuity, multicloud operations, and -- their top priorities -- cloud and network security," the report said.

Security considerations, always top-of-mind, are receiving even more attention now as organizations face more risks from increased attack surfaces resulting from remote workers who might use untrusted personal devices or networks for work purposes.

"Reflecting their concerns about large numbers of employees having suddenly been forced to work at home, respondents cited security as the top consideration when purchasing SD-WAN solutions, by a wide margin (70 percent of the respondents)," the report said. "Concern about security is not new: It was also the leading concern for the IT leaders polled in 2019."

Following security, other SD-WAN purchasing considerations include staffing, solution flexibility and several others, as illustrated here:

Importance of Factors in Making SD-WAN Purchase Decisions
[Click on image for larger view.] Importance of Factors in Making SD-WAN Purchase Decisions (source: IDG).

"The work-from-home IT environment has made the network an investment imperative, with SD-WAN solutions providing answers across vast areas, including remote connectivity; multicloud performance management; efficiency; automation; and, most importantly, security," the report concluded.

The poll of IT leaders at U.S.-based multinationals was conducted by IDG in May and June of this year. The report is available at the link above upon providing registration information.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


Subscribe on YouTube