SD-WAN waxes as MPLS wanes

More than two-fifths (43%) of enterprises have installed SD-WAN in 2020, compared to just 18% in 2018, according to TeleGeography’s WAN Manager Survey.

The 125 companies represented in the survey had a median revenue of $10 billion, with a range of IT managers covering the designing, sourcing, and managing of United States national, regional, and global corporate wide area computer networks.

Results show that increasing site capacity and using alternative access solutions are key motivators for WAN managers pursuing SD-WAN, and 40% of respondents prefer a co-managed SD-WAN solution. 

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On top of this, enterprises were running MPLS at an average of 71% of sites during the three year period of 2018-2020. MPLS use is, however, on the decline, with the average network having MPLS at only 58% of sites in 2020, compared to 82% in 2018.

“SD-WAN has dramatically increased in adoption in the last couple of years. The pandemic slowed down roll-outs for a time, but increased interest in adoption,” said Greg Bryan, senior manager of Enterprise Research at TeleGeography. “SD-WAN frees WAN managers to select a broad mix of underlay technologies, and can also boost performance.”

DIA was found to be the key underlay product for larger capacity sites, and more than one-quarter of DIA sites were larger than 100 Mbps. In response to COVID-19, 85% of enterprises reported that the majority of their workforce were working remotely at some stage. 

The key challenges faced by WAN managers at the onset of the pandemic were congestion at internet gateways from the influx of remote users, paired with the performance of at-home broadband.

“A growing number of WAN managers are seeing the opportunity in SD-WAN and adapting their networks, which could explain the 24% decrease we’ve seen in MPLS from 2018 to 2020,” said Elizabeth Thorne, research analyst on enterprise networks at TeleGeography. 

“The pandemic caused enterprises across the globe to really re-evaluate their operations and seek new ways to improve performance and efficiency,” said Thorne. “It’ll be interesting to see the lasting effects of the pandemic in terms of accelerating digital transformation and changing networking models globally.”