Hybrid work calls for SD-WAN with hybrid access

Avatar for Chris MacFarlandBy Chris MacFarland|May 26, 2021|7:30 am CDT

Today, we announced a new research study about hybrid work and the role SD-WAN plays in enabling the distributed workforce. The 2021 State of SD-WAN Study reveals new technologies gaining traction in the digital business environment and illustrates the approaches IT leaders use to maximize their return on investment.

As companies of all sizes lean into hybrid work models where employees can work both from the office and remotely, research shows their IT networks are also following suit by taking a hybrid approach to access. According to the new study, more IT leaders today prefer hybrid SD-WAN connectivity, using both public and private access methodologies to make connecting to the network more flexible, reliable, and secure.

This is just one key takeaway in the newly released Altman Solon survey sponsored by Masergy. Findings indicate that SD-WAN will reach a new peak in today’s work-from-anywhere environment with adoption expected to hit 92%. Moreover, 58% of IT decision makers expect to use hybrid access over the next five years.

While hybrid access has always had unique advantages, this approach to connectivity makes even more business sense now that corporate information must be available from everywhere. Thanks to the new study, we have evidence showing just how quickly hybrid models will become mainstream, who is moving to them and why.

The figure below, taken from the study, illustrates that regardless of whether companies use a private-only or public-only approach to SD-WAN, the large majority of them report an interest in diversifying their access methodologies. And with everyone going hybrid, it’s not just remote work that is driving this shift. Business continuity and the demand for reliable cloud application performance are also triggering IT leaders to pair public and private connectivity.

But the data also tells another story. Hybrid access is the newest lesson learned in SD-WAN ROI, and any IT executive evaluating solutions today should be using these findings to learn from their peers. The study illustrates how companies better accommodate fast-moving changes all while keeping costs low with public access and satisfying performance demands with private access. Go all-private and you could be paying too much. Go all-public and concerns may arise around the quality of service. Hybrid offers every company the best of both worlds — performance alongside cost efficiency.

While many SD-WAN adopters don’t seem to have the perfect public-private mix yet, that’s OK. Just like COOs are still finding the right mix of at-home and in-office workers, IT executives are still finding the right mashup for their network access. What’s more important is simply having the freedom to design your workforce and your SD-WAN connections for today and redesign them tomorrow and for whatever comes next.

IT decision makers still don’t understand SASE

While the survey highlights what IT leaders have learned, it also reveals new knowledge gaps. Findings show secure access service edge (SASE) is not yet understood. Despite the hype, 50%+ of IT decision makers don’t have a good understanding of its impact and business implications.

So, what is SASE? Gartner coined the term describing SASE as converged offerings combining SD-WAN with network security functions. These solutions consolidate a swath of network and security capabilities into a single cloud-based service.

Indeed, SASE is ripe with misconceptions around what it entails and how many technologies and providers this new category of solutions can actually consolidate. Moreover, IT leaders are confused about whether on-premise security features can work within a SASE framework. Many ask, does SASE have to be all cloud? And when every solution looks different, this emerging market makes for difficult comparisons.

My advice — find a SASE advisor and consider a fully managed or co-managed solution. In fact, the new study shows more companies are relying on service providers with only 23% using a do-it-yourself SD-WAN solution. Meanwhile 77% are using a fully managed or co-managed SD-WAN solution. As SD-WAN melds into broader SASE solutions, it’s safe to say the trend in cloud service platforms will only continue. In navigating a future where a constellation of network and security capabilities must unite and work seamlessly together, you’ll want a trusted partner to guide you with a roadmap for convergence and also help you drive meaningful business outcomes.

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