YOU ARE AT:Network InfrastructureHow does IT feel about SD-WAN? It's complicated.

How does IT feel about SD-WAN? It’s complicated.

In a new survey of more than 1,300 IT professionals, Cato Networks found that SD-WAN adoption continues to be popular as enterprises make inroads on digital transformation — but that it doesn’t necessarily increase confidence in enterprise networks.

The survey is Cato’s fourth annual WAN survey and included responses from more than 1,300 IT professionals.

Cato cited three overarching trends in what it was hearing from IT pros:

-It’s hard to predict the network impact of digital transformation, and enterprises “consistently underestimate the network implications of digital transformation.” But overall, digital transformation appears to be shaking IT professionals’ confidence in their networks.

“Consistently, respondents before digital transformation were more confident in their networks than those post-digital transformation. Not only was this true for those respondents with MPLS backbones but, more surprising, it was even true for those with SD-WAN,” Cato said.

“At first, those results seem counter intuitive,” the company went on in the report. “Shouldn’t respondents be more confident after completing their digital initiatives? After all, they had a chance to experience the breadth of the ‘digital transformation capabilities’ of their network. But that’s exactly the point. The results suggest that only as organizations roll out digital initiatives, they uncover the weaknesses in their networks.”

-SD-WAN adoption may be the “it” IT project these days (Cato said that SD-WAN was the third most-popular primary use case in last year’s and became the most common use case in this year’s survey), but the shift to SD-WAN doesn’t necessarily end up making IT pros feel more better about their enterprise networks — particularly if SD-WAN was mostly undertaken as a means to find a cheaper networking alternative.

“Respondents with SD-WANs were consistently let down by their networks post-digital transformation. Yes, SD-WAN provides an affordable, agile replacement for MPLS, but SD-WAN fails to deliver the security, cloud readiness, or mobility often required by digital transformation projects. As a result, those who transitioned to SD-WAN appliances were, on average, less confident in their networks post-digital transformation,” Cato Networks said.

-Enterprises need to “think beyond site-to-site connectivity to futureproof their networks,” the company said. “Networking professionals who for so long have specialized in establishing reliable, predictable site-to-site connections, need to broaden their considerations when replacing MPLS to other areas, such as cloud, mobility, and especially security. … Failure to factor advanced security into any SD-WAN forces the deployment of additional solutions, which can impede visibility and complicate the deployment experience,” Cato Networks said, going on to add that “making a tactical decision to only address MPLS limitations, ultimately leads to long-term dissatisfaction in one’s network.”

Among the survey’s other findings:

-More than half of surveyed IT professionals expect their networking budgets to grow this year, with 73% expecting to see growth in their budgets for network security.

-The top three identified primary networking challenges for 2020 were bandwidth costs (cited by 46% of respondents), performance between site locations (46%) and managing the network (44%).

-Mobile access is becoming more important. Nearly 40% of IT executives said that “providing and managing secure mobile/remote access will be one of their primary networking challenges this year.

-The top three network security challenges for this year were identified by IT professionals as defending against emerging threats such malware and/or ransomware (66%), enforcing corporate security policies on mobile users (52%), and the cost of buying and managing security appliance and software (51%).

Read the full report here.




Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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