3 Observations on the 2019 SD-WAN Outlook

By now, you may have already read a few takes on the road ahead for SD-WAN in 2019, and how that squares with what happened in 2018. We're going to take a slightly different approach to this annual tradition. It is February already after all.  In this article, instead of making predictions – which are difficult and rarely age well – here are 3 questions and observations about SD-WAN solutions.  Based on customer input, we'll expand on these possibilities for how they might evolve from 2018 to 2019 and beyond.

1. Is 2019 the year that MPLS erosion finally sets in?

Every year, pundits offer fresh predictions about the impending decline of MPLS. The fact that they happen like clockwork brings to mind the Mark Twain quip that "rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."  If MPLS were visibly collapsing, no one would need to keep predicting it. Is this year different, though?

In 2019, analysts and customers are discussing two distinct possibilities for MPLS:

  • MPLS could continue to expand, albeit at a fairly slow pace – 7 percent compound annual growth from 2018 to 2023 is Research And Markets' forecast. In this case, MPLS remains a viable option for failsafe connectivity for years to come, likely together with SD-WAN for augmenting it with inexpensive Internet connections in many implementations.
  • A precipitous drop thanks to the low service costs of multi-link broadband and 4G LTE.  Many organizations are intent on ditching or reducing MPLS investments.  Between 2017 and 2018, enterprise MPLS footprints the pace of enterprises considering alternative approaches jumped from 23 to 41 percent, according to Nemertes Research.  Of course, those enterprises that don't want to sacrifice MPLS-class high availability and QoE in such a move will require failsafe SD-WAN technology – something that most SD-WAN vendors have not developed.

A joint Oracle/Talari & RingCentral customer RTI noted on a UCaaS Realities webinar earlier this month it was dropping its MPLS service due to cost thanks to the more-than-capable failsafe SD-WAN QoE it has attained for its dozens of branch locations.  Other customers are taking a hybrid approach and keeping a smaller MPLS footprint while adding multiple broadband connections to their SD-WAN instance.

2. Will the SD-WAN vendor market consolidate or diversify?

Would you believe us if we said the answer might be "both"? Consolidation of the SD-WAN vendor landscape has already begun as major enterprise and networking vendors have sought a presence in a rapidly growing market. Look no further than Oracle acquiring Talari, with Oracle becoming the only major cloud provider with a SD-WAN offering.  That trend should continue in 2019, since the number of stand-alone SD-WAN companies is fairly high, creating many acquisition opportunities.

At the same time, SD-WAN has also become a "feature set" integrated into other network infrastructure offerings, not just a standalone solution.  Many vendors are now claiming to be SD-WAN providers by virtue of weaving some rudimentary WAN aggregation functionality into their products; prospective customers should tread carefully, and will need to pay attention to whether these offerings can deliver the same level of reliability and application performance predictability that they have been used to with their MPLS-only WANs, as most simply cannot. Finally, rising demand for cloud-based managed SD-WAN service is also likely to bring some new faces into the marketplace.

3. What will UCaaS adoption look like in 2019?

UCaaS represents an important growth opportunity for SD-WAN vendors. Cloud-based delivery models are becoming more common and customers both large and small are migrating many of their communications to UCaaS platforms.

A Nemertes Research survey of 600 end-user organizations found 29 percent UCaaS adoption demonstrating large enterprise headroom for further uptake. The integration of SD-WAN services into UCaaS offerings, including Oracle SD-WAN partner RingCentral, has the potential to dramatically increase production deployment of SD-WAN and continue the strong adoption growth of the last two years. Maintaining voice and video call quality is another obvious area where having failsafe SD-WAN technology is critical for QoE and user satisfaction.

We'll be thinking about these questions and others throughout 2019. In the meantime, please review our FAQ, opt in for future Oracle SD-WAN updates or request a demo to learn more about how Oracle delivers failsafe SD-WAN.

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