Blog · 20 Oct 2020

New research: how the pandemic has impacted plans for SD-WAN

The first SD-WAN survey conducted during the pandemic reveals what businesses are looking for from software-defined services right now.

Director, software defined networks

The current pace of digital transformation is staggering.

A McKinsey survey from June reveals that companies have accelerated their digitisation by three to four years, seeing it as their ticket to thriving or surviving through the pandemic. More and more businesses are choosing software defined services as their route to transformation: 95% identified going digital as the most important/essential driver for their move to SD-WAN. Our latest research — the first conducted during the pandemic — uncovers what’s happening with SD-WAN adoption.

This important snapshot of SD-WAN in global enterprises focused on the opinions of senior leadership and decision-makers across North America, Europe and Asia. It covers how organisations were adopting SD-WAN and why, and explores how the challenges around SD-WAN go beyond the technology itself. It also examines the critical importance of network reliability and security, the help organisations need and who they’re looking to get it from. It’s packed with insight, but a few things really stood out for me.

First up, SD-WAN has shot up the business agenda and is now seen as a key to the success of an organisation. The research backs up what I’ve been finding when I talk to c-suite customers; SD-WAN and network transformation is a focus of the boardroom. CIOs, CTOs, CSOs, CEOs and chief digital officers all understand that SD-WAN is fundamentally important to improving how their business functions, particularly as they navigate the pandemic. The research backs this up: only 3% of respondents have no plans to implement software defined network services.

What jumped out at me was the continuing focus on a secure network as the beating heart of the business. New technologies and services such as cloud, the internet of things, mobile, and machine learning are exciting, but can’t happen without a network that’s reliable, secure and capable of supporting whatever the business needs it to do. The top four attributes on the shopping list when looking for a partner were reliability, security, expertise and network performance.

The research backs up what I’m hearing from customers. Enterprises are looking to third parties to provide the skills and management they need. At the moment, only 6% of respondents are taking a DIY approach, with the majority in a co-management relationship. When choosing a partner, ‘expertise’ was identified by 94% of people as important or essential. Other factors were not nearly as highly ranked. In fact, twice as many people thought ‘expertise’ was essential compared to ‘local presence’. Analyst reports, which are typically considered a reliable source of opinion on expertise, were also ranked as one of the least important factors, suggesting that organisations would rather make their own assessment of a potential partner’s expertise.

As you’d expect, identifying the budget for the transformation to software defined services came out as the top non-technical implementation challenge. Talking to customers, I know that moving to SD-WAN to push digital transformation forward needs to deliver a fast return on investment. They want short-term flexibility to help them manage the cost stress of the pandemic. My c-suite conversations make it clear that organisations are looking for flexible commercial offers that smooth investment and cut the chances they’ll regret making an upfront investment in the technology. This is a big deciding factor when they’re choosing a partner.

We’re seeing an increasing demand for our consultant teams to step in and build the business case for the move to SD-WAN to prove the ROI.

I believe SD-WAN is reaching critical mass and is now an essential step in the digital transformation journey. Check out the full report for critical insight into SD-WAN adoption and recommendations on how best to make the move.