92% of IT decision-makers polled by Masergy and Altman Solon say they plan to adopt SD-WAN by 2026, and more than half plan to use a hybrid public/private model.
A study of IT decision-makers suggests that SD-WAN technology is quickly becoming the new standard for businesses, especially in light of the massive shift to work from home caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SD-WAN, or software-defined wide-area networking, allows businesses to extend the reach of their internal networks to remote offices or home workers. This can be done in two ways: Privately via a leased line that directly connects one location to another using routers, or publicly by transmitting data over ISP circuits in conjunction with circuit or packet switching.
The study, performed for software-defined networking company Masergy by Altman Solon, found that 79% of businesses are currently using some form of SD-WAN, and by 2026 that number will rise to 92%. Of those, 58% plan to use a hybrid access model to strike a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of public and private SD-WANs.
Private SD-WANs, the report notes, can be prohibitively expensive, but are more reliable and secure, while public SD-WAN is the opposite: It's far more affordable, but with a compromise on safety and stability.
Only 17% of IT decision-makers said their organizations currently use fully private SD-WANs, and 16% said they'll still be fully private in five years. Public numbers are similar, with 16% being completely public now, and 27% planning to be in five years.
Hybrid, on the other hand, currently stands at 67% of the SD-WAN market, but it will cede a few percentage points to fully public access in five years before landing at the 58% number mentioned above. 55% of public access users said they're willing to move to a hybrid model because application performance is insufficient and savings are outweighed by quality issues. 65% of private access users said they're willing to go hybrid because of the growth of remote work and the desire to get a better cost benefit.
In short, return on investment is the common ground between both public and private organizations willing to switch to a hybrid model, which would utilize private or public connections based on the needs of a particular employee or remote site.
"This study affirms that IT leaders understand the value of SD-WAN connectivity and are leaning into hybrid access models that strike the right balance between price and performance for a ROI 'sweet spot'," said Masergy CTO Terry Traina.
On the other hand, secure access service edge (SASE), an alternative to SD-WAN, is a blind spot for many IT leaders. While 82% of respondents said they were familiar with it, only 32% said they have a deep understanding of what it is and how it can affect their organizations.
SASE, as opposed to SD-WAN, takes a cloud-native, edge-computing approach to enlarging the office network, and may prove to be the superior choice in the long run, with Gartner predicting that 40% of organizations will use SASE by 2024, as opposed to just 1% using it in 2018.
"The survey confirms what everyone is noticing anecdotally. There's still a lot of confusion about SASE," said Traina. SD-WAN's wide acceptance marks it as a mature technology, but whether or not it's quickly supplanted by SASE remains to be seen.
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