U.S. ISG Report: Network - Software Defined Solutions and Services 2022

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Report Author: Dr. Kenn D Walters, ISG Global Lead Analyst and Executive Advisor


Rapid evolution toward end-to-end secure SD networks

Networks and software-defined solutions and services encompass many technological topics, business coverage areas, organizational functions, and business processes and methods. In addition, these are closely tied to the overall digital business transformation and cloudification trends of enterprises globally. This ISG Provider Lens™ study examines different kinds of network offerings related to software-defined networking in the U.S. These include SD-WAN and associated core and mobility technologies and service offerings related to these segments, transformation services, the increasingly crucial edge technologies and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). This study considers the changing market requirements and provides a consistent market overview of the segments. It also gives concrete decision-making support to help user organizations evaluate and assess the offerings and performance of providers.

Enterprises are evaluating various means to increase their agility, flexibility, competitiveness, delivery structures and remote working and continuity practices. A large part of this challenge is not only associated with technology use, but also with the transformation of established processes and traditional management practices. Enterprises are also analyzing how companies can achieve a sufficient degree of flexibility, speed and collaboration internally and across and outside of enterprise boundaries securely, while being able to master their challenges to deliver benefits to themselves and their (ever more mobile) customers and users, including at the edge of the business and edge of the traditional network.

Enterprise agility goes far beyond traditional network abilities and provisioning capabilities in a constantly changing competitive environment. CEOs and chief technology officers (CTOs) must understand that software-defined networking works together with cloudification, intelligent edge and mobility strategies, along with digital business transformation areas such as AI, IoT, automation and collaboration. These collectively have a high influence on agility, flexibility, productivity and profitability across enterprises.

In the U.S., some of the primary factors driving these rapid changes in enterprises are as follows:

Increasing flexibility and agility, while simplifying management: Enterprises are increasingly focusing on improving the integration, automation, orchestration and management of network resources and processes. This has evolved to encompass software-defined networking. By moving its control layer to the cloud, SD-WAN can operate and be managed in real time via a one-touch or single-pane-of-glass, fully integrated management and reporting tool, coupled with the use of policy and automation. This trend is being driven by enterprises’ desire to seamlessly add applications and network resources to meet business and user goals more efficiently and securely without creating silos or depending on single vendors.

Support for cloud and multicloud migrations: Enterprises are increasingly focused on migrating their IT and network operations into the cloud. SD networks have been proven to assist with this by reducing complexity and enabling a reduced risk migration to single or multicloud environments for enterprises.

Increasing security across networks, including cloud-based networks: Network security has become a major point of concern across business units and enterprises, in line with the changes within modern networks and the expectations of full security from core to edge in all networks enabled or simplified by SD-networking, which is vital in provisioning cloud-based and hybrid networks. Integrated secure enterprise networks (ISEN), also described as secure access, secure edge (SASE), are increasingly being deployed with advanced security aspects across all areas of modern integrated networks.

Consuming managed or co-managed service, while increasing customer satisfaction and sales: The client experience can be enhanced by allowing them to consume via modern payment terms and conditions in a fully managed or co-managed manner, while retaining or enhancing the ability to respond quickly and seamlessly to customer enquiries and rapidly provide (often automatically) new services via SD networks. At the same time, this tends to boost sales and retain customers, while sinking staffing costs in the enterprise. This has become crucial to many enterprises.

Forming a basis for new or near-term innovative technologies and solutions: Digital business transformation and many new innovations (such as intent-based networks, AI/machine learning-driven solutions, services and systems, rapid hot spot provisioning and data flow allowance, self-healing networks, intelligent edge and edge computing, and SASE) require the flexibility and abilities of SD networks to be utilized fully and drive solutions to their full potential.

Most telecommunication service suppliers and network service suppliers, as well as systems integrators, have an impressive portfolio of SD-WAN and other SD network solutions. These range from partial or function-specific solutions to complete end-to-end SD-WAN or SD network solutions, with many solutions differing based on the enterprise size, scope of offering, industry type, or desired reach and interaction between enterprises and customers or end users. Others have introduced other advanced SDN-based technological innovations such as intent-based networks that use AI/machine learning interactions and control, or edge intelligence and computing solutions, with SD-LAN or SD-wireless or wireless and mobile LAN (SD-WLAN or SD-WMLAN), sometimes coupled with enterprise 4G/5G mobility solutions inherently in use. This is further driven by the transition of many enterprises to cloud and multicloud environments, which are well supported by SD networks, from enterprise core to edge. Further change is apparent with the early implementation around fully ISEN environments (SASE), with strong growth forecasted over the next 12 to 24 months.

ISG Provider Lens™ report comparing Managed SD-WAN service provider strengths and competitive differentiators

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