Iricent attended the recent SD-WAN & SASE conference and exhibition in Paris (Nov 8/9th.). It was great to attend a F2F event and network again with industry colleagues old and new. The well attended gathering featured thought provoking presentations and discussions exploring the current status of SD-WAN and SASE as well related network infrastructure developments. Our main takeouts are covered in this and the next post.

Digital Transformation and the State of Networking

Many contributions described the impact of digital transformation on network developments with as expected references to the COVID pandemic and how it had either radically changed the course of networking or just accelerated pre-existing trends. In particular many large vendors either referenced their own research or that of analysts to both describe the current environment and predict things to come. 

Digital transformation has changed the WAN whilst distributed workforces and applications are driving the need for anytime / anywhere secure access to applications and services.

Why do organizations need infrastructure transformation today? 

  • Future of work
    • One vendor stated that 75% of workers will be working from home 2-3 days per week or more with another asserting 91% of companies plan to use a hybrid work model
  • Cloud adoption 
    • Diverse multi-cloud environment growing more complex over time
    • Depends on connections across IaaS, SaaS, PaaS
  • Sharp increase in cyber-attacks driving security demands as well as a wider security perimeter to consider
  • Growing scalability and resilience requirements resulting in networks that are highly distributed and more complex driving need to
    • Automate network operations and provide actionable insights
  • Need to provide appropriate QoE for a productive and distributed workforce
  • When work is an activity and no longer a place, secure access and connectivity required for
    • Any User : Employee, Contractor, Guest
    • Any Device : Managed, Unmanaged
    • Anywhere : Office, Home, Travel

to applications anywhere in a multi-cloud hybrid work environment

  • Hybrid workforce needs for high quality user experience:
    • Consistent Performance
      • Optimised based on the application 
    • Consistent Connectivity
      • Independent of user or app location 
    • Consistent Security 
      • Minimise the risk to organisations through Zero Trust principles

SD-WAN and SASE Maturity

An interesting presentation from EANTC pointed out, in relation to the Gartner Hype Cycle, that SD-WAN is well up “The Slope of Enlightenment” as the market matures and continues to grow. This SD-WAN market maturity illustrated by many vendors not alone presenting multi-sector diverse use cases (Manufacturing, Retail, Healthcare, Finance, Software Development, Media, Gaming, Public Sector, etc.) but also detailed real world deployment references.

According to one Service Provider more than 45% of all enterprises have adopted SD-WAN, whilst a vendor predicted that 65% of enterprises will have implemented SD – WAN by 2025.

SD-WAN adoption and maturation  trends include:

  • MPLS losing ground to broadband
  • Managed SD-WAN on the rise
  • Further SD-WAN supplier consolidation likely 
  • Standardization ongoing and suppliers will increasingly distinguish themselves by adding intelligence to the technology

On the other hand,  SASE  (Secure Access Service Edge) was described as getting to the “disillusionment” area with many complex SASE and SSE solution variants being presented with difficult to compare features resulting in significant challenges implementing multi-vendor solutions or to migrate from one to another.

From this attendee’s perspective it was, therefore, refreshing to hear from many follow-on presenters essentially restating the originator’s (Gartner) SASE definition, i.e. 

SASE provides converged network and security as-a-service by combining SD-WAN with secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), network firewalling and zero trust network access (ZTNA) delivered using  a cloud-centric architecture.

Or more simply as described by one vendor: 

SASE unifies networking and security services into a cloud-delivered service by combining Connectivity (SD-WAN) and Control (Cloud security with ZTNA).

Or even more simply as described by another vendor: 

SASE :- The convergence of cloud-delivered networking and security services providing policy-based ”software-defined” secure access focus on user identity, context and application data

SASE adoption is driven by increased requirement to flexibly secure the hybrid workforce and branch locations. The key role of SD-WAN as the critical underlying technology and starting point for SASE deployments was emphasised in many of the contributions with one leading vendor declaring:

“SD-WAN is a foundational component of SASE…a complete SASE offering requires SD-WAN” 

The next post will provide a summary of the main conference messages relating to underlying network infrastructure developments required to support SD-WAN deployments as well as renewed interest in NFV based uCPE for SD-WAN service delivery.