Enterprise network management teams are shifting their focus toward software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined data centers (SDDC), and SD-WAN, according to a new report from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). Shamus McGillicuddy, author of EMA’s bi-annual Network Management Megatrends 2018 research report, said this is the first time this focus has shifted in more than a decade.
The report is based on an online survey of 251 individuals who work in enterprise IT organizations. 75 percent of them are based in North America, with the remaining 25 percent from Europe. In order to participate, each person had to answer a qualifying question that identified them as working in network management.
Prior to the 2018 report, enterprise network teams were preoccupied with the impact of workload consolidation and server virtualization, said McGillicuddy. “This year we saw a change. Server virtualization is still really important to them, but we saw all these next-generation architectures that were equally, if not more, important.”
In particularly, enterprises are making SD-WAN a priority. Previously, enterprises were focused on network security and WAN optimization. However, as SD-WAN became a higher priority, WAN optimization fell off the list.
The EMA report found that enterprises are increasingly adopting SD-WAN and subsequently dumping MPLS. This trend can be attributed to enterprises shifting their focus to automation, collaboration amongst IT groups and organizations (particularly within security), and the continued value of cloud services.
SD-WAN and Automation
The report found that 92 percent of respondents were looking to expand their use of network automation, and 70 percent saw this as a “major priority.” When asked what tools they were using to automate, number three was SD-WAN following general SDN/SDDC and network change and configuration management tools.
The reason for this McGillicuddy said is that SD-WAN helps make network management teams “more efficient in terms of workflow and personnel overhead.”
Some SD-WANs are already beginning to integrate a degree of automation, typically through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Joel Christner, the senior director of marketing at CloudGenix, said that automation in SD-WAN will allow customers to take the data and make smart decisions. “You need an adaptive and flexible infrastructure that can also scale and perform to be able to handle those types of [autonomous] workflows, so I think those are three of the big things that I see happening over the course of the next five years.”
SD-WAN and Security
Another trend that the EMA research uncovered surrounded cybersecurity. It found that network management teams were collaborating with their internal security groups to encourage the integration of network management tools and security tools. McGillicuddy said that 40 percent of respondents said their enterprise network groups were collaborating with their security group.
“When we asked these guys, ‘What’s the most critical part of collaboration between the two of you?’” said McGillicuddy.”The number one response was infrastructure design and deployment. So when they’re designing the network, they want to be collaborating with the security group so they can write security into the DNA of the network.”
One such tool that enterprises were using in this collaboration is SD-WAN because it gives the IT department centralized control of security policies and tools like the firewall. Additionally, SD-WAN offers enhanced visibility into the network which can help the IT organization identify the root cause of network infrastructure problems, including security incidences.
SD-WAN and Cloud
While the amount of traffic coming from external cloud services to enterprises’ networks has remained steady over the past years — around 45 percent of enterprises that say all traffic on the corporate network is from the cloud — SD-WAN can help these enterprises, particularly distributed ones, to gain direct cloud access. The report found that “the proliferation of cloud and what that means for distributed enterprises” was a trend leading to the increased focus on SD-WAN.