Today, everybody is talking about SD-WAN as a major trend in networking. The concept, developed a couple of years ago, has become considerably popular these last 2 years and forecasts show that SD-WAN will skyrocket in the coming years. Gartner believes that, by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN technology in all of their branch offices and IDC predicts that the SD-WAN market will reach $8B USD by 2021.

The growth in adoption of Digital Transformation accelerates the trend for increasing internet bandwidth to get access to Cloud Service Providers with the best performance while keeping a strong level of security to protect your own private business from external threats.  Those threats are becoming more sophisticated and can come from both inside and outside of a company’s network environment. The general outline is for the enterprises to reduce complexity while adding more advanced features to their WAN.

Keeping in mind the above, this is how I see the SD-WAN market evolving during 2018:

1. SD-WAN market consolidation: today, more than 30 SD-WAN vendors are fighting to extend their market share. To survive and to maintain growth, SD-WAN vendors will need to partner up. During 2017 we saw the acquisition of Viptela by Cisco and VeloCloud by VMware and I expect to see further consolidations during 2018.

2. Managed Services Providers (MSPs) as providers of SD-WAN services: SD-WAN technology is far from being a ‘plug-and play’ service. Enterprises know this and are increasingly turning to global MSPs to overcome the challenges associated with SD-WAN implementations; to access their expertise for the delivery and management of SD-WAN. Moreover, by going through MSPs, enterprises will not be tied to a specific SD-WAN technology as the global service is under the Service Provider’s responsibility. Enterprises do not buy a technology but a service with Service Level Agreements. Therefore, they can guarantee the durability of the global solution.

3. SD-WAN vs MPLS: many people immediately think internet when they talk about SD-WAN but we know MPLS is far from being dead and buried. Specific performance sensitive applications still need private and guaranteed connectivity to ensure the optimum end-user experience. The MPLS network will still be used to build Hybrid WAN with SD-WAN overlay on top of it.

4. Incorporating mobile (4G/5G) connectivity: enterprises seek flexibility and agility when they have to connect their branches to their WAN. In this direction, wireless broadband connectivity such as mobile access will match their expectations. Adding SD-WAN overlay with performance routing mechanisms will mitigate the performance issues that can occur through this kind of connectivity. I expect deployments of 4G/5G accesses to increase in 2018.

5. From SD-WAN to autonomous SD-WAN: advanced smart traffic routing can be implemented through SD-WAN overlay at application level. However, it still requires an initial manual configuration based on applications matrix flows of the enterprise. These parameters will drive how the traffic is forwarding on a daily basis but will not adapt if there is any change in applications usage or contingency in the network. I expect to see movement from Software-based to Intent-based network by developing and integrating Artificial Intelligence into devices to make the global network adaptable to any unexpected conditions that can occur in the WAN. Perhaps this will materialize during the next 12 months.

6. Security is critical to the WAN: SD-WAN already brings security features into the WAN via end-to-end visibility and encrypted traffic. Considering the rise of massive complex attacks, coupled with the need to open the WAN to the internet and CSPs, I expect SD-WAN platforms will include more advanced threat detection functionalities to protect private data. We will see more and more SD-WAN vendors partner with security players to strengthen their global service offerings.