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Machine learning and AI to debut in SD-WAN this year

By Shannon Williams
Thu 19 Jan 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are rapidly revolutionising all industries and 2017 will bring early instances of machine learning-based innovations to networking.

That’s the view of David Hughes, founder and CEO of Silver Peak, broadband and hybrid wide area network (WAN) solutions firm.

“We will see early applications of machine learning in the wide area network, with intelligent decisions being made autonomously based on reams of measurement data that a human could never process. Ultimately, the software defined WAN becomes the self-driving WAN,” says Hughes.

Huges also foresees that a tsunami of managed SD-WAN services will hit the market in 2017.

“Following the barrage of global service provider SD-WAN announcements last year, 2017 will mark a separation between the providers that deliver mature scalable offerings and those that rushed to market with a minimal viable response to demand,” he says.

According to Hughes, it will become clear which SD-WAN architectures and solutions perform best for carriers - also revealing the criteria that matter most to enterprises when evaluating new managed SD-WAN service offerings.

Hughes has deep knowledge of the networking industry and its technology. He has been awarded more than 50 patents in areas including data acceleration, routing and packet switching, control and scheduling algorithms.

His complete list of 2017 predictions include:

Hybrid SD-WANs go mainstream

As SD-WAN adoption continues to gain ground and go mainstream in 2017, the majority of initial enterprise deployments will be hybrid, leveraging both MPLS and a complement of broadband connectivity. Many enterprises already have some level of broadband connectivity to branch and remote locations, but these links often remain idle or are relegated to backup or disaster recovery (DR). Enterprises will begin to fully leverage this bandwidth to scale bandwidth cost effectively in line with expanding application and user requirements.

Introduction of SLAs for SD-WAN over pure broadband

To date, the deployment of SD-WAN over pure broadband has been limited. In 2017, enterprise adoption of SD-WAN over pure broadband will accelerate dramatically as they realise that it's possible to deliver MPLS-equivalent quality of service and availability when combining any combination of transport, including consumer broadband connectivity. Whether or not vendors or service providers can deliver on pure broadband SLAs will fast become a key decision criterion.

Different approaches will become more apparent

To a large degree current SD-WAN solutions sound quite similar. However, under the hood, each vendor's offerings are fundamentally quite different and at varying levels of maturity. As more enterprises gain experience with large-scale production deployments, the advantages and disadvantages the various approaches will become clearer. Some vendors’ architectures may be limited to a narrow set of use cases.

Best-of-breed or worst of everything?

Some SD-WAN vendors will attempt to go horizontal, seeking to deliver rudimentary support for nearly every function imaginable - while others will focus on core competencies and build partnerships and ecosystems to service chain best-of-breed functions, capabilities and services. Vendors that embrace building an ecosystem to complement their own strengths will ultimately win.

SD-WAN and on-demand WAN optimisation come together

Virtually all geographically distributed enterprises will continue to require WAN optimisation, perhaps not for all locations and offices, but certainly for a significant portion of their WAN traffic. It will become increasingly attractive to purchase WAN optimisation by-the-drip as an integrated service in an SD-WAN solution vs. buying it as a stand-alone product deployed at every location. Enterprises will demand the option to purchase and consume WAN optimisation on-demand for only the applications and locations that require it vs. over-paying for the maximum provisioned bandwidth across all sites.

Fine-grained control of branch office internet breakout

Early SD-WAN offerings include the ability to breakout internet-destined traffic locally at the branch office. Enterprises are beginning to realise that this shouldn't be an all or nothing decision and will demand finer-grained control over which web traffic is broken out at the branch and which is backhauled to a regional hub in alignment with security policies. In 2017, geographically distributed enterprises will seek to steer different types of internet traffic in different directions/paths based on business intent. Deep visibility and control over internet traffic will become a critical requirement for SD-WAN deployments.

1,000-plus SD-WAN deployments

2017 will mark the most important year for early industry leaders to gain momentum, making it increasingly difficult for new entrants to survive and thrive. Smaller SD-WAN vendors will struggle to remain relevant and will be relegated to occupying a niche position in the market. It will become far more difficult for new entrants to bring incremental offerings to market and establish market penetration or traction.

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