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When you have a distributed branch office network, which is the case for most organisations, the need of the hour is flexibility in the network infrastructure. As the number of business critical applications, virtual desktops, video conferencing platforms and VoIP increase across the remote locations for organisations so the organisations can no longer just rely on the traditional WAN infrastructure. It requires you to upgrade network bandwidth, but this is not cost efficient and CIOs are unable to prioritize mission-critical applications. In fact, traditional WAN does not let you manage the changing nature of applications and data, which are now mostly in hybrid cloud infrastructure. “With applications and data now residing everywhere, companies can no longer rely solely on a hardware-based network deployed inside their data centre to run their business. This new reality requires thinking of networking in a fundamentally different way,” explains Rajiv Ramaswami, VMware COO for products and cloud services. So how does a CIO manage this? CIOs now should look at SD WAN or Software-Defined WAN as an option to get more flexibility out of the WAN infrastructure and optimise every application running for best business practices.

Benefit of deploying SD WAN

According to Citrix, which has developed the Citrix SD WAN solutions, “SD-WAN technology allows you to create a hybrid WAN architecture. It binds multiple MPLS, mobile, and broadband paths together to provide a single, logical, virtualized path that can dynamically adapt to network conditions.” SD WAN is being seen as the next generation alternative to WAN optimization. SD WAN is also called a WAN Virtualisation, lowers cost while adding flexibility to your traditional WAN infrastructure. It also enables prioritization decisions for each application using very granular application classification to ensure that the highest-priority applications always perform extremely well. As the next-generation alternative to WAN optimization, SD-WAN technology addresses evolving application and branch infrastructure requirements. VMWare’s Ramaswami adds, “Today, networking is less about connecting boxes and more focused on meeting the needs of applications. That means the ability to securely connect people to applications, and to connect each application to the resources it needs, regardless of where they are located.” According to IDC, SD WAN is a rapidly growing market – the market is expected to grow at a 40.4% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2022 to reach $4.5 billion. “The emergence of SD-WAN technology has been one of the fastest industry transformations we have seen in years. Organizations of all sizes are modernizing their Wide Area Networks to provide improved user experience for a range of cloud-enabled applications,” said Rohit Mehra, vice president, Network Infrastructure, IDC.

SD WAN allows better user experience

The reason why CIOs need to look at SD WAN is not just the lower cost of running the networks. SD WAN, which is a flavour of virtual network, automates network infrastructure functions such as maintenance, patching, and updating. It also increases uptime, improves service, and reduces costs. Anand Oswal, Senior Vice President, Engineering Enterprise Networking Group, Cisco explains, “With traditional rigid MPLS WAN implementations, workers at remote branches are constrained by performance and bandwidth issues that affect how they can interact with customers, patients, and co-workers. Applying SD-WAN technology to existing ISR/ASR infrastructure enables higher bandwidth at lower cost, better reliability, and improved Quality of Service (QoS) for superior application experiences. The technology enables organizations to maximize the value of their existing network hardware while creating new innovation and business opportunities.

Major SD WAN players in the market

According to IDC’s SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast, the revenues increased 83.3% in 2017 to reach $833 million. “The market has also become increasingly competitive, with traditional networking vendors looking to M&A strategies to complement their existing offerings or gain a foothold in this rapidly-expanding market. Incumbent networking vendors have quickly realigned their routing and WAN optimization portfolios to take on the growing cadre of startups in this market,” adds Mehra. Currently, Cisco holds the largest share of the SD-WAN infrastructure market, due to its extensive routing portfolio that is used in SD-WAN deployments, as well as its Meraki offering and its August 2017 acquisition of Viptela. VMware, which in December 2017 purchased VeloCloud, holds the second largest market share in the SD-WAN infrastructure market, followed by Silver Peak, Riverbed, Aryaka, Nokia and Versa. “Enabled by a rapid uptake across the service provider domain, SD-WAN infrastructure will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years, providing a beachhead for other software-defined networking and security functions in the enterprise branch,” says Mehra talking about the market scenario.

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