Networking trends includingSD-WAN, edge and 5G technology dominate the plans of IT executives and management as they look to develop efficient, bulletproof enterprise communications strategies for the future.
Those trends and others such as network security, server consolidation and WAN optimisation were cited as primary IT drivers of future investment, according to Network World's 2020 State of the Network report.
The survey tapped 268 IT executives and management personnel with primary networking responsibilities for their organisation, to find out what initiatives are motivating the move to a more digital business environment.
SD-WAN and WAN optimisation
The survey found that 58 per cent of respondents said SD-WAN can improve bandwidth efficiency, and 55 per cent said it will expand connectivity options. 48 per cent said it will encourage hybrid cloud and 41 per cent said it would encourage multi-cloud adoption.
The Network World survey found that the increased use of containers and cloud-based applications that need access from the edge is also driving the use of SD-WAN technologies.
There are a few differences by company size: 63 per cent of enterprises say SD-WAN will improve the bandwidth efficiency for its cloud resources compared to 55 per cent of SMBs. Close to half (46 per cent) of enterprises expect SD-WAN to encourage multi-cloud while only 26 per cent of SMBs agree, perhaps because multi-cloud is less prevalent in smaller organisations, the survey stated.
The State of the Network survey found that 44 per cent of organisations are currently piloting or using SD-WAN, and another 28 per cent have it on their radar. Organisations expect SD-WAN to improve management and monitoring (52 per cent), increase resiliency (51 per cent), improve network security (50 per cent) and prioritise business-critical traffic (46 per cent), the survey stated.
It will probably come as little surprise that the technologies around SD-WAN are hot. In separate recent survey reports, analyst firm IDC says that 95 per cent of enterprises will be using SD-WAN technology within two years, and that 42 per cent have already deployed it.
IDC also says the SD-WAN infrastructure market will hit $4.5 billion by 2022, growing at a more than 40 per cent yearly clip between now and then.
“The growth of SD-WAN is a broad-based trend that is driven largely by the enterprise desire to optimise cloud connectivity for remote sites,” said Rohit Mehra, vice president, network infrastructure at IDC said recently.
Going forward, the addition of features such as cloud-based application insights and performance monitoring will be a key part of SD-WAN rollouts, Mehra said.
Cisco has talked about the growth of multi-cloud networking motivating many businesses to re-tool their networks in favour of SD-WAN technology, Cisco wrote recently. SD-WAN is critical for businesses adopting cloud services, acting as a connective fabric between the campus, branch, IoT, data centre and cloud.
While SD-WAN is popular, its predecessor, WAN optimisation, is still in heavy use. The IDG survey found that more than half of organisations (53 per cent) are currently piloting or using WAN optimisation, which was traditionally centred around a single centralised hub or data centre where an organisation’s applications and data are hosted.
With widely disparate user communities, many enterprises are now viewing new application-centric or regionally distributed architecture as a way to replace MPLS sprawl with purpose-built regional hubs, the survey stated.
Edge is big
Often associated with SD-WAN, edge computing is also a high priority for customers in the Network World study, which found that more than one-third of organisations surveyed (36 per cent) already have edge computing tools in production or are piloting initiatives, and another 25 per cent are actively researching the technology.
Edge computing is driven by a number of factors. Gartner research says that by 2023, more than 50 per cent of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data centre or cloud, up from less than 10 per cent in 2019.
Hand-in-hand with that change is a shift in what technologies are supported at the edge of the network, and that means information processing, content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources, repositories and consumers of this information.
Edge networking tries to keep the traffic and processing local to reduce latency, exploit the capabilities of the edge and enable greater autonomy at the edge, Gartner says.
The Network World survey stated that edge computing adopters expect the technologies to reduce network latency and operational expenses, allow real-time data processing and save bandwidth. It is also expected to preserve uptime and resilience by reducing the number of network failures, providing an IoT security framework and reducing the impact of data centre outages.
Despite all of the virtues of edge computing, security concerns are still on the minds of the vast majority of respondents (77 per cent).
More than half of those surveyed believe that edge devices were not built with security in mind (55 per cent), that the need for middleware creates an additional attack surface (51 per cent) and that there are many other potential attack vectors due to the heterogeneous computing environment (51 per cent).
The survey stated that 69 per cent of respondents implementing edge computing said network security has already been or will be affected, and 55 per cent said their network management will be affected. Additionally, 49 per cent said their cloud will be affected, perhaps because edge computing has the ability to reduce the amount of data that needs to be processed in the cloud.
Security is a hot spot
The State of the Network survey found there are a variety of data centre security concerns. Topping the list are DDoS attacks, which are aimed at disrupting and disabling internet services, and web application attacks where attackers target vulnerable web servers and install malicious code.
Organisations are taking a variety of actions when it comes to mitigating these security risks, according to the study. For example the survey found that for 88 per cent of respondents, firewalls are still the front-line defence.
Access-control technologies are being used by about 81 per cent of respondents and anti-malware is being used by 70 per cent of enterprise customers with intrusion prevention being used by 66 per cent.
With the increasing number and complexity of cyber threats, it’s not surprising that almost three-quarters of respondents (71 per cent) are either piloting, currently using or upgrading network security-monitoring technology. Network security monitoring helps to identify slowdowns and problem areas as well as allows administrators to attack problems as they happen and help prevent future attacks, the survey stated.
5G is on the radar
In addition, 51 per cent of respondents say their organisation is actively researching 5G, but just 11 per cent are piloting or using it in any capacity.
Uses interested organisations are considering include broadband mobile (51 per cent), IoT connectivity (43 per cent), branch or remote site connectivity (41 per cent) and low-latency communications and fixed wireless access (40 per cent each), the survey stated.