Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) has started to ride off into the sunset (which is long overdue). For some time, you might see some vendors wandering around aimlessly, hoping to sell you a SD-WAN solution, but for the most part, the networking market is moving on. It didn’t happen like I predicted. I thought the SD-WAN acronym was going to be soaked up into router and WAN optimization solutions with a new name coming along, like we saw when the application delivery controller (ADC) acronym replaced the load balancer. While SD-WAN has been integrated into routers and WAN opt controllers, the companies have just relabeled WAN opt controllers or routers as SD-WAN solutions. Confusing? Heck, yes.
Why do I say SD-WAN is dead? First, I think we all realize it was just a feature or set of features, not a standalone solution. If it was, we’d still have a big market of SD-WAN vendors. For the most part, the original vendors, such as Cloudgenix, Velocloud, and Viptela, have been gobbled up. Second, any SD-WAN discussion ultimately turns to security, whether from a vendor or customer. I would be hard pressed to look back at all my advisories and inquiries and find an SD-WAN discussion that didn’t include a security discussion that encompasses a lot of the concepts in Zero Trust. This shouldn’t be unexpected to anyone. Forrester clients often conveyed that they hadn’t realized the security ramifications of incorporating SD-WAN. In some sense, I felt SD-WAN was the killer app to the Zero Trust concept being thought about outside of the data center. If anything, we have seen a dramatic shift for the better in the way that networking and security professionals work together.
To help clients navigate the intersection of security and networking from a technology standpoint, my security counterpart, David Holmes, and I wrote Forrester’s Introducing The Zero Trust Edge Model For Security And Network Services report. This should help cut through a lot of marketing lingo and confusing acronyms in the industry. This isn’t the only issue, either. Many organizations started this journey years ago and haven’t gotten very far on their own due to the resource constraints. The pendulum has swung from the do-it-yourself attitude we saw in 2019 to augmenting internal teams with outside resources from partners such as Vodafone. They aren’t all the right fit. You’ll need to do your due diligence in finding the right one for your company. But please don’t pick them based on the “SD-WAN” solution they support, like Fortinet SD-WAN or Palo Alto’s Cloudgenix. I know you aren’t evaluating AWS’ capabilities by the routers and servers it uses. To help move away from data sheet selection, use the 14 criteria that other companies said they use as a starting point to evaluate a provider’s ability to meet the organization’s needs and not worry about the provider’s underlying hardware.