For any enterprise pursuing digital transformation, the concerns surrounding meeting bandwidth requirements, providing adequate security, and supporting application performance are all top of mind. The wide area network (WAN) and digital transformation are caught in a bit of a symbiotic relationship in which the development of each is dependent on the growth of the other.
Cloud solutions provide an important opportunity for agility, scalability, and flexibility to enterprises, but they generally come with requirements that place new levels of pressure on the network. In addition, and somewhat related, the perimeter of the traditional workplace network is changing and almost no longer in existence. From accessing cloud solutions to the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile technology, there’s no longer the option of simply building a strong barrier to entry and calling the network secure.
In a recent survey by Cradlepoint, among IT decision-makers surveyed, 77% cited bandwidth limitations, cost, and reliability as their top concerns. As a result, CIOs are pursuing new strategies for the WAN alongside and integrated into digital transformation plans.
Another survey conducted by IDC divided respondents into three camps, according to their infrastructure, intelligence, and operations related to the WAN. Sixteen percent were designated WAN leaders according to their maturity in the area.
Cost Isn’t Everything: One interesting finding in the IDC report shows that for WAN leaders, cost takes a backseat to other considerations. When asked about what business outcomes the WAN should support, WAN leaders identified both driving business ability and empowering innovation as key outcomes but did not select “reduce cost” as a purpose of WAN transformation.
The key technology areas driving WAN infrastructure upgrades are cloud services, the launching and broadening of IoT strategies, and artificial intelligence capabilities. Specific factors include security, traffic volume, and connecting new sites. While cost is a key factor for 34% of the non-WAN leaders, only 11% of WAN leaders cited it as a key factor.
WAN Buy-In: Companies that employ WAN leaders possess a clarity about the importance of the WAN in pursuing digital transformation and driving business initiatives. Among these organizations, 63% of respondents indicated that senior management perceives the WAN as a strategic tool that drives competitive differentiation, versus only 11% among other companies who were more likely to see the WAN as an important business asset contributing to outcomes.
The support across the enterprise is also demonstrated in terms of budget. Among WAN leaders, 42% expected a modest increase in their WAN budget and 25% anticipated a strong increase in WAN budgeting. This is compared with the wider group of respondents in which 48% expected to see no change in their WAN budgets.
Adjusting the WAN to Changing Needs: The survey by IDC identified several areas that are challenging WAN readiness:
- While 90% of WAN leaders say they have the in-house skills necessary to adapt the WAN for digital transformation, only 31% of other respondents are prepared in terms of talent.
- More than half of non-WAN leader respondents said that provisioning new network functions, updating security policies and settings, and connecting new sites were each challenging or very challenging tasks.
- Only 40% of non-WAN leader respondents said the company’s network would be ready for the growing requirements related to digital transformation, compared with 88% of WAN leaders.
New Measures to Equip the Network: Enterprises are integrating a number of new approaches to address the demands of digital transformation, including the following:
- Improving security
- Improving network monitoring
- Increasing network bandwidth
- Active-active architecture with multiple connections at each site
- Private connectivity to public cloud providers
- Bandwidth on demand
While the rates of adoption for each of these tools and tactics varied, WAN leaders outpaced the non-WAN leaders in every metric.
Employing WAN Intelligence: Enterprises are increasingly investing in ways to improve visibility and control of their WAN infrastructure. Real-time monitoring and visibility are being utilized by 88% of WAN leaders and 69% are using application performance management. 65% are employing WAN optimization.
Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is the preferred technology to address these challenges at the moment, but enterprises aren’t limiting themselves to only SD-WAN. Enterprises are also employing a software-defined perimeter and using SDN to address challenges from the data center out to edge devices.
Predictive analytics is also an important way that organizations refine their approach to WAN. 81% of WAN leaders report using predictive analytics, while just 16% of non-WAN leaders do.
The #1 WAN Challenge in Digital Transformation: Security is the topic keeping CIOs awake at night, and it’s reflected in WAN priorities. While 65% of WAN leaders rated security as their biggest concern, they were closely followed by their counterparts at 58%. Among WAN leaders, 85% are employing rapid detection/response or automatic configuration, compared to just 16% of non-WAN leaders.
WAN leaders are leading the way with SD-WAN adoption, finding that advanced security features, agility, and granular visibility into the network help address many of the challenges that stand in the way of digital transformation. Overall, 71% of WAN leaders are currently using SD-WAN.
If you’re considering how SD-WAN can equip your digital transformation, contact us at TailWind. We offer certified on-site technician support, as well as high-speed broadband connectivity to equip your network for your business objectives.