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Nuage Networks 2021 Predictions: SD-WAN is the networking key to the new normal

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

SD-WAN is the networking key to the new normal

By Lindsay Newell, Head of Marketing, Nuage Networks from Nokia

A year ago, it wasn't difficult to predict that SD-WAN would continue to be a strategic component in the digital transformation of enterprises across most vertical markets. The drivers were obvious: moving corporate applications to public or hybrid cloud; the shift from branch-centric to cloud-centric networking; the need to support ‘any-to-any' traffic patterns, both inside and outside the enterprise perimeter; and supporting continued rapid growth in traffic with restricted budgets.

Throughout 2020, SD-WAN has continued its rapid growth in adoption as enterprises have realized the importance of a software-defined infrastructure for all the reasons mentioned, but also the unforeseen impact of most employees being forced to work from home for health and safety reasons. As the year draws to a close, many companies are continuing to adapt to this ‘new normal' and many are preparing for an extended or even permanent large-scale remote workforce.

Three key trends that emerged in 2020 are expected to continue to drive SD-WAN in 2021 and beyond, amplified by the global pandemic and the realities of the new business environment:

  1. The rise of ‘branch at home' - beyond occasional VPN access with massive over-subscription, a semi-permanent home-based workforce requires a more elegant, integrated network solution that scales seamlessly.
  2. The strategic imperative to integrate mobile users into the corporate network - the office needs to be wherever the user is, and at some point in 2021, many of those users will be traveling again.
  3. The evolution of network security from a branch/perimeter focus to a user/application focus - if enterprise applications and data are in the cloud and users can be anywhere, network connectivity and security need to be there with them.

Branch at home

An SD-WAN-powered ‘branch at home' differs from traditional remote VPN client-based solutions by providing an isolated business networking environment that is shielded from the consumer-grade network deployed in the household for personal entertainment.

This isolated environment can support multiple business devices (desktops, laptops, printers, etc.) and appears identical on the enterprise WAN to a traditional physical branch office; it can be thought of as a micro-branch. As the business devices are connected to the SD-WAN gateway, all decisions on where traffic can go and what applications can be accessed are managed centrally under control of the enterprise IT/networking team.

An SD-WAN-based ‘branch at home' solution gives business leaders confidence that any critical staff are working in an environment at home that is as secure as they have in the office, providing reassurance that business sensitive workflows are being securely completed, such as when:

  • Working with sensitive customer information
  • Working on business or product strategy, research and development or intellectual property
  • Engaging with customers in call center and customer care functions

The use cases for ‘branch at home' are as varied as the industry verticals and market segments that need home-based business network access and with the future business environment having a strong teleworking culture the need for robust, secure and scalable home-based teleworking will continue to grow in 2021 and beyond.

Mobile users and IoT devices

An expanding market for SD-WAN is starting to emerge with the opportunity to bring cellular-connected mobile device users under the same security and application policy framework already being provided to branch, cloud and teleworking environments.

Traditionally any ‘on-the-move' corporate assets, such as mobile phones and tablets, have been managed using a different set of IT tools, oriented around Mobile Device Management (MDM). This results in a separate domain with different IT policies from devices connected to the network in the branch, even when being used by the same employee.

By extending the SD-WAN policy enforcement framework used for branch and cloud IT assets to corporate mobile devices as well as to BYOD users, enterprises can standardize their IT policies and manage all these devices holistically, resulting in a more seamless user experience and a more robust and secure perimeter.

A similar approach can be taken with cellular attached IoT devices or sensors, allowing the consolidation of both IT and Operational Technology (OT) assets into a single management domain with consistent policy enforcement, network security and application visibility.

Network security

The third SD-WAN trend for 2021 is a rethink of how and where security is implemented across these SD-WAN attached devices in the cloud, in employees' homes, in the corporate office or on the move via cellular connection.

Traditionally enterprise security has been implemented with a perimeter-based architecture. WAN traffic is funneled to central security appliances using a hub-and-spoke network topology which worked well for applications hosted in corporate data centers and limited external traffic. Today's cloud-centric IT environment works best with direct to cloud network topologies, providing the most efficient path between the employee device and the business application, regardless of location. This results in a more mesh-oriented architecture with security policies embedded in the SD-WAN service and enabled wherever required for an individual user accessing a specific application rather than being tied to a firewall deployed at a specific physical location.

The industry term being adopted for this evolution is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) which works in concert with the SD-WAN fabric to provide a unified security framework for any user, any device and any application, independent of location.


While many early SD-WAN decisions were driven by tactical requirements such as reducing cost or replacing legacy equipment, most forward-thinking enterprises are now evaluating SD-WAN against their strategic IT goals that underpin the digital transformation of the business. SD-WAN solutions are now expanding to encompass ‘branch at home', mobile users and IoT devices, and the SASE framework. In 2021 and beyond, this will provide enterprise network architects further opportunities to implement a flexible and scalable network fabric that can serve the business needs of all functions and employees across all device types for many years to come.


About the Author

Lindsay Newell, Head of Marketing, Nuage Networks from Nokia

Lindsay Newell 

Lindsay currently leads the global marketing team for Nuage Networks from Nokia. He is responsible for all marketing and communications activities, including strategy, campaigns and content as well as co-marketing with Service Providers delivering SD-WAN solutions using Nuage Networks products and technology. Lindsay has been based in Silicon Valley for the past 20 years, leading product marketing for Nortel's Enterprise Switching business, marketing at start-up TiMetra Networks, marketing at Alcatel's IP Division, and product marketing for the Fixed, Wireless, IP/Optical and Software/Services businesses of Alcatel-Lucent. He began his career in the UK in various roles spanning network support, technical consulting and pre-sales and holds an HND in Electronics from City of Bath Technical College in England.

Published Thursday, December 17, 2020 7:36 AM by David Marshall
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