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SD-WAN is Laying the Foundation for the Future of Networking
Author: Rupesh Chokshi

No matter the industry, every company needs to rethink how they build and manage networks. The traditional networking model of increasing capacity by adding more network devices like routers, switches and custom-built physical equipment simply doesn't scale quickly enough, or provide sufficient resources. Today, businesses are adopting innovative solutions that can make their networks dynamic and programmable, which lets them be more agile with their networking.  

Every day brings new opportunities for businesses to use innovative and evolving technology to redefine how they operate. In networking, SD-WAN is one of the biggest drivers of change in decades. We've seen interest from service providers, vendors and businesses alike in SD-WAN for years, but companies are now delivering on the promise of SD-WAN and seeing their outcomes improve. And with that comes a host of new opportunities and challenges.

Here are five opportunities we think will shape the networking landscape in the future - as technology keeps evolving and technologies like 5G open even more doors.

SD-WAN will be used in tangent with 5G.

SD-WAN will intersect with 5G, and every business will be able to customize how they make the most of that intersection for their specific needs.  Earlier this year, we announced that we're working with VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud to bridge 5G and SD-WAN together, bringing in new degrees of network control. The opportunities here are nearly endless. As just one example, a consumer goods manufacturer could use SD-WAN's intelligence to divide a manufacturing facility's floor traffic to go over fixed wireless using a deployed 5G network, while general web browsing traffic will stay on wired broadband. Traffic can be prioritized down to the device or application level, keeping the separate traffic flows efficient and highly secure.

5G is the future, and SD-WAN will help businesses make the most out of it.

The edge will be bigger than ever.

The current model of having large scale centralization is starting to slowly change. The edge won't replace the centralized model - at least anytime soon - but it will augment it. New devices are creating and using more data than ever before. Machines need to talk to one another, and latency matters when that's happening. Think about autonomous vehicles, drones, traffic sensors and traffic lights. All part of the ever-expanding edge. Low latency requirements for these devices are driving compute closer to, and even into the customer edge through edge computing.

SD-WAN will help define where these edge compute processes are going, between cloud, on-premise, or in-network computing centers. Manufacturing and healthcare are two particular industries that will see these services expand rapidly. SD-WAN will enable application-aware, and device-aware networking to distinguish between critical and non-critical data flows. Currently, AT&T is testing how to bring network edge computing (NEC) abilities into the AT&T 5G network with Microsoft Azure. AT&T is developing an NEC environment at the AT&T Foundry in Plano with the goal of enabling customers to directly access many cloud options nearer to where they do business. A full-scale deployment of NEC could give businesses closer and faster access to compute power, which means lower latency and a better user experience.

Overall, the convergence of SD-WAN and edge computing can drive more efficiency by enabling traffic flows that maximize resources between compute centers in the cloud and closer to customer sites.

These next two trends are driven by one main thing we've heard from SD-WAN users: that they're looking for service providers to be a "one stop shop." And expectations will keep increasing for service providers. Because of that:

Service providers will become, and be seen as, more than just service providers.

To compete successfully, service providers must adjust their portfolio to become a multi access connectivity and intelligent networking provider. The appetite in the market is for everything from connectivity to smart networking capabilities to come as a package deal. Much of this redefinition could happen through acquisitions, integrations and collaborations. We've already been working with a suite of other companies through our integrated network solutions like AT&T FlexWareSM, which lets SD-WAN work with other software-centric functions, like security and routing.

Fewer players, but more options.

This big possibility for more acquisitions, integrations and collaborations in the future means that the specialty SD-WAN companies will have a lot to offer the players that offer integrated networking. For the next two to three years, as larger companies continue adding to their SD-WAN capabilities, companies will join forces. In fact, this trend is already appearing. In November, Oracle purchased SD-WAN company Talari Networks. And the previous year Cisco purchased SD-WAN company, Viptela, while VMware acquired VeloCloud.

Ultimately, that could mean that there are a few clusters of companies that offer myriad options for SD-WAN and networking capabilities through partnerships, joint offering, and co-branded services.

As enterprises adopt SD-WAN into their existing portfolio, the barriers to enter the market with competitive solutions could should drive the quality of these services higher and higher.

SD-WAN adoption is a cycle, and we're about 1/3  through it.

For the next five to seven years, SD-WAN adoption will keep growing...then repeat the growth cycle because of new innovations. Businesses are still "kicking the tires" right now. They're testing new capabilities, recognizing how valuable SD-WAN is, and we're seeing a sharp growth rate. That will continue for the next few years. And once the initial growth cycle that we are in now slows, it will be time for another growth period because of the suite of new capabilities...and new options like 5G.

New capabilities are coming in so fast, so growth is going to continue. Market saturation is years - even decades - away. Networking is cool again!

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About the Author

Rupesh Chokshi 

Rupesh Chokshi, Assistant Vice President, Edge Solutions Product Marketing Management, AT&T Business

Rupesh Chokshi is a dynamic leader in technology with a strategic focus for growth in global technology and telecommunications. He currently leads the product marketing team within Edge Solutions for AT&T Business which focuses on product management, strategy and business development. Rupesh manages a significant global portfolio of market-leading, innovative technology solutions for global business customers. The Edge Solutions team is transforming services and networks using software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV) and SD-WAN technologies.

Published Monday, June 24, 2019 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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