5 Managed SD-WAN Trends to Watch in 2023

July, 2023
Author: ConnX Marketing

Originally published on MSP Today.

Digital transformation has introduced an abundance of innovative technology into the modern business environment. Among the current digital movements, some of the most popular are multi-cloud architectures, zero-trust security protocols, and the adoption of advanced AI capabilities. However, to adequately leverage all these new devices and applications, enterprises need reliable network architecture, with the most notable choice amongst organizations nowadays being software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs).

An SD-WAN is a virtual WAN architecture that allows enterprises to leverage any combination of transport services, including MPLS, LTE, and broadband internet services, to connect users to applications securely. An SD-WAN uses a centralized control function to securely and intelligently direct traffic across the WAN and directly to a trusted source, increasing application performance and delivering a high-quality user experience, which increases business productivity and agility and reduces IT costs.

The demand for the technology is growing quite rapidly, as the SD-WAN market value reached $2.7 billion at the end of 2022.

“Cloud-based services, applications, and platforms also make it difficult, as employee networks may struggle to match the flexibility, scalability, and speed of implementation needed for daily operations,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, VP of Research at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). “SD-WAN brings intelligence to the network while giving immediate visibility and control of network traffic and can provide a lower-cost alternative to traditional networking. It helps a business respond quickly to environmental shifts and external threats.”

As McGillicuddy stated, SD-WAN technology can offer a vast array of advantages to enterprises, especially when paired with AI, but the main benefits businesses are prioritizing relate to connectivity and cyber security. Currently, 34 percent of enterprises are interested in AI SD-WAN hybrid connectivity capabilities, with 30 percent stating interest in integrated network security.

For instance, AI SD-WAN is designed to enable maximum agility and flexibility. By abstracting away the underlying complexities of multiple transport methods and enabling PbR, AI SD-WAN allows enterprises to meet the varying demands of cloud workloads and scale up or down with ease. On top of this, AI SD-WAN enables policy-based routing (PbR) and allows enterprises to leverage the best transport method (e.g., xDSL, cable, 5G, etc.) for the job. This means no more trombone effect and improved performance for mobile users and cloud services.

As for cyber security, an AI SD-WAN solution can help centralize and stabilize security measures with the use of zero trust protocols. Zero trust provides improved visibility and management for network teams, with constant monitoring to determine whether anomalies are occurring in terms of resource utilization. This allows businesses to create and distribute security policies across the business, which can then be enforced and maintained centrally.

“In addition to supporting a stateful zone-based firewall, the SD-WAN platform should orchestrate and enforce zero trust end-to-end micro-segmentation spanning. This provides a significant increase in operational efficiency while reducing the overall attack surface and avoiding any security breaches,” said McGillicuddy. “As for the zero-trust capabilities, the key with combining the technology is that it supports both the quality of experience and optimal security, adding in visibility that benefits network teams monitoring devices, applications, and users.”

However, while AI SD-WAN technology can provide myriad benefits, McGillicuddy states that the implementation of the solution can be quite complex and taxing. Roughly 30 percent of companies that are adopting SD-WAN are attempting a DIY approach and are considering the solo transition to be either “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult.” To ease this transition, McGillicuddy believes a third-party provider, such as an MSP, can help turn the situation from “very difficult” to “very easy.”

From an enterprise’s point of view, MSPs can greatly accelerate the adoption, implementation, and transition process. MSPs can more confidently offer advantages such as network assurance, integration with other managed services (cloud), filling in network team skill gaps and, most importantly, cost reduction and savings. So far, the trend of managed AI SD-WAN solutions has gained a foothold with smaller companies, with 76 percent of companies between 500 and 999 employees with an AI SD-WAN using an MSP partner.

AI SD-WAN solutions can also be a boon to the MSPs themselves, as the autonomous tools brought about by AI can give MSPs a powerful resource.

“With an AI SD-WAN solution, MSPs benefit from simplified network operations and can reduce network trouble tickets to manage across multiple customers. The solution should also enable DevOps approaches for one-click deployment by leveraging APIs to simplify network operations,” said McGillicuddy. “As a result, MSPs can rapidly onboard new customers, reduce the time to market with new services, and the impact on customer’s business operations is minimal.”

Overall, as the world continues to become more digitally reliant with each passing day, the adoption and implementation of an AI SD-WAN solution will only become more critical for enterprises in all industries. Although the process of finding the right solution and the right MSPs partner may sound daunting at the start, McGillicuddy is here to help calm these worries and help businesses get started along the right path.

He will pose questions during a July 11 webinar, including “How can an IT organization know if it is choosing the right managed service?” Joined by top SD-WAN vendor Juniper Networks and systems integrator and MSP, ConnX, McGillicuddy will help organizations discover the five things they need to know about the power of a managed SD-WAN solution and how to correctly leverage one for the benefit of the entire enterprise.

Jeff Li, Senior Director at ConnX, and Spencer Rolfs, Product Marketing Manager at Juniper Networks, will also weigh on the future of AI-driven SD-WAN networks and the edge-to-edge visibility intelligent and highly integrated networks enable.

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