The Impact of COVID-19 on SD-WAN

Posted on November 9, 2020

This article was originally published on TheFastMode.com.

Even before the pandemic, the cloud, internet connectivity, and secure remote network access were central topics for the IT team, but these days they are dominating challenges. And as these issues become more long lasting, SD-WAN is only getting hotter. Here’s how COVID-19 is impacting SD-WAN and accelerating the need for expanded security and next-generation secure access service edge (SASE) solutions.

Shifting IT priorities increase the value of the network & SD-WAN

In 2020, IT priorities are being reshuffled again with executives elevating the importance of business continuity, digital transformation, and remote work. And all three of these initiatives share one thing in common–the corporate network. The network underpins the success of each, with any failures creating highly visible impacts and negative experiences for the organization. Video conferencing turns to digital mush without perfect bandwidth and network performance. Remote employees require cloud applications and secure VPN connections to access the information they need to get the job done. Moreover, multi-cloud environments, internet access, and more connected endpoints demand tighter security strategies for data protection.

With the network (and its deficiencies) now in the spotlight, executives are revisiting their IT modernization plans with more appreciation and more seriousness. For example:

  • 64.8% of companies say the pandemic has accelerated their move to the cloud. Among those planning to increase spending specifically because of COVID-19, 82% plan to direct that increased spending toward video. Closely aligned with video is network connectivity; 74.8% of those increasing budget because of COVID say they’re directing the increased spending to connectivity, which includes both Internet and WAN services. Source: Nemertes Research: The Transformed Workplace
  • 58% of IT professionals reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the value of the WAN. Source: ZK Research: Working from Anywhere Study
  • 64% of IT professionals are investing more in network infrastructure now than they did before COVID-19. Source: IDG: 2020 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey

What does this mean for SD-WAN? It means a brighter outlook, for starters. Adoption is rising, because IT leaders are evolving from just doing remote work fast to now doing it right. The quick-fixes of moving applications to the cloud and adding more Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams licenses is largely behind us. Today, the focus is on making those rapidly deployed solutions sustainable and reliable for the long haul. For most, that means addressing the bandwidth demands of video conferencing, evaluating VPNs versus other options, and reevaluating security for internet connectivity, untrusted devices, and more cloud applications. This is where SD-WAN comes in hand. Recognized as a solution that addresses network reliability, internet connectivity, agility, and remote access security, IT leaders and industry analysts alike are getting more bullish about SD-WAN:

ZK Research 2020 Global SD-WAN Forecast

 

COVID-19 calls for more expansive security coverage and SASE solutions

With every remote user now acting as the WAN edge, security must move in sync with the network. Before the pandemic, cloud firewalls were the primary security tool used with any SD-WAN deployment, but today they are not enough. While firewalls are still necessary for securely connecting to the internet, additional security functions are also critical when data must be protected in the cloud and everywhere. Take for instance, Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), endpoint security, identity-based WAN analytics, and 24/7 security threat monitoring and response services. Typically these security functions fall outside the traditional scope of SD-WAN services, which explains why a new generation of solutions are resonating with those struggling in 2020.

Gartner’s new secure access service edge (SASE) model is putting pressure on SD-WAN providers to bring security and network services together in one cloud platform. This way, businesses can more easily deploy SD-WAN and manage a work-from-home environment with a constellation of security tools and services from one SD-WAN provider. SASE is still considered an emerging market, but the interest is strong. According to IDG’s 2020 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey, 91% of IT professionals are interested in SASE. Key benefits include:

  • IT speed and control: SASE allows the enterprise to respond faster with greater control in response to COVID-19 and the expansive growth of work-from-home users.
  • Stronger security posture: SASE improves sensitive data awareness, secures the data, and provides threat protection especially for at-home users.
  • Network and security everywhere: One cloud-based SASE service can be applied anywhere and is not data center focused.

COVID-19 morphs SD-WAN into SD-Home

The pandemic is also driving the need for SD-WAN specifically designed for at-home users. As such, SD-Branch strategies and solutions are being transitioned into “SD-Home” or “SD-Remote” solutions. The benefits here are similar in that SD-Home is a single platform addressing all remote network access and security needs.

Employees connect an SD-WAN appliance to their home network router, and built-in secure gigabit routing and WiFi 5 are turned on by default. This allows remote employees to have their work laptop, cell phone, and personal devices all seamlessly connected to the corporate WAN via their home internet, while their spouse and children are segmented and use only their home internet service. Other benefits include:

  • Provide a seamless connectivity experience for users needing secure remote network access
  • Improve cloud application performance for those using home internet, public WiFi or mobile cellular services to connect
  • Apply all the same security protections used in the office to the remote workforce

As the pandemic continues, SD-Home and SASE solutions will only become more critical business enablers for working from anywhere and protecting data everywhere.

Learn more about Masergy’s work-from-anywhere SD-WAN solutions.

Ajay Pandya

Ajay Pandya is Director of Product Management and leads the team for Network Solutions team at Masergy. He has over 20 years of telecom experience in product development, engineering, consulting, and sales and has helped global service providers, utilities, transportation companies, public sector entities, and enterprises for their networking and IT needs. He has an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Manitoba, and an MBA from the University of Ottawa. He is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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