Enterprises Turn to SD-WANs to Improve Branch Office Connectivity - Page 4

It also offers the flexibility of working with network configurations from MPLS and Internet to hybrid, cloud and wireless. It can be deployed at the physical or virtual network edge, in the cloud or in the data center.

For their part, Riverbed officials said the move into the SD-WAN space is a natural extension of the company's deep expertise in WAN optimization. The company announced its SD-WAN ambitions in October 2015, and earlier this year bolstered its efforts by acquiring Ocedo, whose portfolio included gateways, switches, access points and an integrated cloud management system for SD-WAN and SDN environments.

This week Riverbed rolled out SteelConnect, an SD-WAN platform that enables businesses to orchestrate application delivery across hybrid WANs, remote LANs and cloud networks like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure.

It also works with such products as Riverbed's SteelCentral visibility technology to give customers the tools that will allow them to quickly design and provision networks built for an increasingly cloud-centric world.

Businesses Embracing the Idea

Many of those interviewed said interest in SD-WAN among enterprises and service providers is running high. The conversations they're having with prospective customers have changed in recent months.

"It's a very different scenario than it was a year ago," VeloCloud's Wood said. "A year ago, there was a lot less knowledge of what SD-WAN was and what the benefits are."

Talari's Dickey said that "for a while, we felt like Johnny Appleseed," planting the seeds of SD-WAN at a time when few had it on their radar. "Now everybody knows what SD-WAN is. We don't have to explain this anymore. … [The market] is more competitive, but it's easier when you don't have to explain the concept."

With that knowledge comes an understanding by business of how they want to proceed, and what they want in these early days of the market is a migration path to hybrid SD-WAN environments without disrupting what they already do now with MPLS and other technologies. "The hybrid case is one of comfort," ZK Research's Kerravala said.

"You don't have to go in all at once," Dickey said. "You can buy small and buy more over time."

Cisco's Ghodgaonkar said customers are interested in melding SD-WAN with their current investments.

"MPLS isn't going away any time soon," he said. SD-WAN "is a complement to MPLS, and it comes back to what the customer's needs are."

Rapid adoption will continue through 2016, according to analysts and company officials. The interest and knowledge are there while the benefits are hard to ignore. Vendors say they can see that interest in the number of customers coming to them.

"There are a lot of trees out there, and there's a lot of fruit on them," Talari's Dickey said. "People are coming in."

Case Studies Will Be Important

Kerravala said what he hopes to see as the year progresses are more case studies on customer deployments that businesses can look to for information on such aspects as technologies, deployment challenges and return on investment.

Devcon's Tan said he is happy to be one of those case studies. By deploying VeloCloud's technology, the company was able to reduce WAN bandwidth costs by 75 percent a month and operational costs by 50 percent by being able to take care of IT issues centrally rather than having to send IT professionals to remote sites.

Before the SD-WAN was in place, the remote sites were "difficult to manage," Tan said. "There was no unified way of doing it. We spent a lot of time troubleshooting."

Now, equipment is tested before it goes out into the field. Once there, the components can be managed from the main office.

"Troubleshooting is a lot easier," he said. "Once [the systems] are online, we can do management centrally. We can set up a new box, troubleshoot it. It's a lot easier."