Hybrid WAN Providers Should Focus on Network Basics

Every year ZK Research runs a joint global network purchase intention survey with its media partner Tech Target. The survey looks at trends in networking and investigates the opinions of networking professionals around the globe. This year we added a section in on hybrid / Internet WANs to see if this was a real trend with users, or something being driven primarily from the vendor community. The survey included companies from small all the way to large, with about a third of the audience being under 100 employees, and 20% having a headcount over 5000 employees.

Not Just Hype

The results came in last week from almost 2500 total respondents, and it appears that the shift to an Internet WAN is actually happening and not just marketing hype, although for very basic reasons. In the survey we asked the question “What percentage of your branch offices would you consider for an Internet only solution?” and then gave them options of 0-25%, 26-50%, 51-75% and 76%+. In the 0-25% range, 24% of the respondents responded positively, as did a whopping 45% in the 26-50% range. Of the remaining 31%, 22% stated they would consider connecting 51-75% of their branches, and the remaining 9% were in the 75%+ range.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • 27% of respondents stated that MPLS is their primary WAN technology compared to 23% that state Internet access is
  • Carrier Ethernet (13%), cable (11%), and DSL (10%) also had at least 10% of the respondent base. Given that almost a third of responses were from companies under 100 employees, this makes sense
  • 54% percent cited “reducing WAN costs” as the top reason to consider a hybrid WAN.
  • 49% stated “Gain advantages of using MPLS and Internet in different locations” as a reason to deploy a hybrid WAN
  • 46% cited “address increasing need for bandwidth” as a driver.
  • Adding cost-efficient carrier Ethernet or Internet links was responded to by 39%
  • Only 30% cited faster WAN provisioning as a top reason, and only 20% stated WAN management

The results above show that, despite advancements in WAN technology, network managers are still trying to address the basic block-and-tackling of the network and they’re looking at hybrid WANs to help with that.

This poses an interesting dilemma for hybrid WAN/ SD-WAN solution providers, as it’s often tempting to look out into the future and market all of the advanced capabilities of the solution. But sometimes it’s fixing the basic problems that sell the products. While we all like to talk about digital transformation and the rise of the agile network, none of those initiatives will be successful if businesses don’t have a well-performing WAN run at a reasonable price.

Let us not forget that WAN challenges go back decades and it’s been a long, slow march to where we are today, so it shouldn’t be surprising that organizations are still paying too much for a network that works sub-optimally.

To the many, many vendors involved in hybrid WANs, the forward-looking vision around topics like WAN orchestration and NFV will definitely help make you thought leaders, but selling basic cost and bandwidth control will likely win you deals today.