SD-WAN Benefits: Rising Expectations Create New Action Items for IT Leaders

Avatar for Ray WatsonBy Ray Watson|Jul 23, 2019|7:30 am CDT

New IDG research indicates that the majority of enterprises are investing in SD-WAN, but adoption rates aren’t the only thing on the upswing. Expectations regarding the benefits of an SD-WAN deployment are accelerating too. What does this mean for investors? See how rising anticipations are creating new action items for IT leaders looking to champion an SD-WAN solution.

2019 SD-WAN Market Trends Report summarizes recent survey results from IDG Research, showing the three most anticipated business benefits of SD-WAN are:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Increased security
  • Cost savings

If you’re familiar with SD-WAN, this list may come as no big surprise, but here’s what is most notable about the new findings. Expectations are steadily rising across all three of these benefit areas. Over the past two years, IT leaders showed increasing levels of anticipation. Security expectations saw the biggest jump at 15 percentage points (45% to 60%) and cost savings wasn’t far behind at 14 percentage points (36% to 50%). Efficiency also jumped 10 points.

What does this mean for IT leaders? It signifies market readiness, but it also raises the bar on SD-WAN and acts as a call to action. Here are three tasks every IT leader should be taking in order to champion an SD-WAN project.

Action Item: Prepare Your Case—Buyers are Confident and Ready

The new research indicates a sign of SD-WAN readiness and maturity both with the technology and the market. As adoption rises, IT professionals have a better understanding of the benefits SD-WAN delivers, how it fits in their organization, and the best use cases for it. Investors have gained confidence over the past two years, which is a sign that the SD-WAN pitch is more likely to be well received.

Action Item: Exemplify Your Returns with Proactive Solution Modeling

With higher expectations, those trying to champion an SD-WAN investment may be asked to demonstrate return on investment in the way of security, cost savings, as well as productivity gains. SD-WAN is new, and few organizations have deep experience with the technology. Therefore, a cost-benefit analysis or a proof of concept will likely be a wise investment.

Clearly modeling your connectivity strategy and management plan can help identify where your upsides will come from. This is an important step particularly because efficiency gains and cost savings may be better in theory than in practice. Providers typically offer a free design consultation to guide investors in how to create a connectivity plan that will best balance price, performance, and resiliency. Here’s the SD-WAN connectivity guide and three-step approach that Masergy uses.

The Realities of Efficiency Gains and Cost Benefits

  • SD-WAN makes it possible to freely mix network links of differing types and capacities. With SD-WAN private access can be complemented by or even replaced by cost-effective public/broadband access. But private-for-public connectivity trade-offs can result in a longer list of service providers to manage, and this provider sprawl can kill productivity gains. Broadband service requires last-mile providers to be added for each region/location, which can result in more services, contracts, invoices, and partners to oversee. Consider this if you’re a global enterprise using a do-it-yourself approach or if your provider doesn’t manage the last-mile service for you. Some providers limit the options customers have in selecting internet service providers and manage the last-mile service only as an add-on charge.
  • With rising anticipation around cost cuts, it’s also critical for SD-WAN investors to map how private-for-public trade-offs will realistically apply to their IT architecture without creating consequences in the form of reliability issues with critical business applications. Many industry analysts level-set buyers with advice like: “Businesses should never do an IT project with the sole goal of saving money. There’s so much more to SD-WAN than saving a few shekels on network costs,” said Zeus Kerravala in a Network World article, where he explores more fully the cost savings of SD-WAN.

Action Item: Earn Approval by Aligning Benefits to Management Tiers

Another interesting finding is this: The most important IT benefits of SD-WAN differ across the ranks of management. Director/Manager-level employees categorize management simplification as the most important benefit, while executives and vice presidents most appreciate the ability to customize the WAN, orienting it with the needs of each location and application in order to “right-size” the network according to business priorities. After all, SD-WAN is highly efficient at maintaining a precise fit between services needed and services used–particularly when SD-WAN is tightly integrated with the provider’s own software-defined network. Since agility advantages align differently with each type of decision maker, these insights are critical in helping SD-WAN champions earn internal buy-in.

  • Director/Managers: Care most about management simplification and automation capabilities
  • Executives and VPs: Appreciate most the ability to make better usage of connectivity, increasing bandwidth availability and customizing service to their list of sites, priorities, and needs

Whether you’re acting on a case of FOMO or simply preparing your enterprise for IT agility, SD-WAN is increasingly foundational in the digital age.

Get all the IDG research insights in the full report: 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends.

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