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Three SD-WAN Takeaways from Gartner’s 2019 Strategic Roadmap for Networking

In its 2019 Strategic Roadmap for Networking, Gartner lays out a compelling vision linking network transformation to digital transformation, with SD-WAN, or software-defined wide area networks, positioned as a strategic linchpin of both.

The desire to upgrade legacy MPLS networks to SD-WAN to keep pace with the enterprise’s massive shift towards consumption of cloud-based applications “at the edge” makes a lot of sense. That said, the path to SD-WAN adoption has created a lot of  anxiety among enterprise decision makers. In that regard, the Gartner Strategic Roadmap for Networking is a must read.

The report begins: “As enterprises continue to digitally transform, networks are at the core of delivering user experience and supporting business initiatives. To optimize the performance, agility, and cost-effectiveness of networks, I&O leaders should adopt new technologies and processes, and transform their culture.”

We know from our own discussions with large enterprise clients that transforming their current networks is laden with practical concerns – where should we begin?, which equipment should we use?, how can we minimize costs and maximize ROI? – and how can we even measure that? – and how can we keep our business running while transforming our network?

All good questions. It’s taking most enterprises some time to sort through them, and that’s where this report’s perspective is so handy:

  1. First, according to Gartner, less than 20% of enterprises have implemented SD-WAN today, but that number is expected to rise to 60% by 2024. So, if you are thinking about rolling out SD-WAN but haven’t made a lot of progress yet, you are in good company!
  2. Another key point Gartner makes is that network teams within the enterprise shouldn’t expect to find extra funding for their network transformation initiatives – at least not initially. Gartner finds networking budgets to be roughly flat, with one silver lining:
    “Network leaders who align their architectural approaches with business, application and user requirements are often more successful at tapping into external budget resources. There is a strong positive correlation between the degree of digitization and increasing IT budgets.”
    That said, enterprises looking to transform their networks with SD-WAN would be smart to start with a “doing more with less” mindset, meaning pulling off their network transformation within their existing networking budgets.
  3. Succeeding with flat network budgets puts a premium on getting the most bang for the buck, and Gartner astutely warns that when it comes to buying the components of the new network, “Enterprises often treat vendors as strategic partners rather than as suppliers, which often results in suboptimal sourcing, overly complex designs and more expensive solutions.”

This is a key insight. For enterprises managing their network transformation efforts, “playing the field” to find the best price is a must.

Sakon has an easy-to-use tool to help make that happen, a new SD-WAN sourcing application that simplifies RFP development, normalizes supplier bids, and heightens competition – piece by piece – for every enterprise’s networking business.

More on this soon. Watch this space!

All Gartner quotes and statistics are taken from its 2019 Strategic Roadmap for Networking by Jonathan Forest and Neil Rickard, published 10 April 2019.