This article was originally published on VMBlog on October 17, 2018.

2018 is the year that SD-WAN went mainstream in the enterprise. With numerous use cases – from cost optimization through reducing reliance on MPLS, to direct Internet breakout for branches – it’s no wonder that IDC says that SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenue is poised for a compound annual growth rate of nearly 70% over the next three to four years.

As enterprises ramp up their SD-WAN deployments in the year ahead, what can we expect? 2019 will be the year of performance and security optimization.

While vendors are touting their solutions for MPLS replacement, many enterprises are still hesitant to remove MPLS entirely and will instead build hybrid WANs, some of which will incorporate dual band connections to reduce costs and increase agility. Internet-only connections will be relegated to less critical locations-at least until companies grow more confident that broadband alone can serve their critical business needs.

Enabling more broadband connections is all well and good, but companies may find that this has an impact on their application performance, particularly for bandwidth-intensive applications such as Office 365 collaboration services, or video-based services in the branch locations. Enterprises will need to get a better understanding of traffic patterns by mapping their applications: i.e., knowing where the applications are hosted and where the users are located, and mapping the flows between the users and their applications. This information is essential input to application performance enhancement.

Optimizing SD-WAN Deployments in 2019

For many enterprises, implementing an SD-WAN overlay will be a start, but more will need to be done to support application performance and security as they grow. Adding traffic steering and prioritization features are the next steps in this optimization effort. For business-critical applications, an underlay network of application hubs is necessary to add in order to route traffic appropriately to cloud peering points or direct connections. For example, an application hub in the cloud can have direct peering with critical SaaS applications such as Office 365, which will reduce latency that can put a drag on cloud application performance.

Getting security right will be another challenge as enterprises deploy their SD-WANs. Companies will want to avoid deploying firewalls in hundreds of branches-a move that negates the cost savings of utilizing broadband instead of MPLS. Instead, they will need to take security out of the data center and the local branches and place it closer to the applications and users. Here again, an underlay network of application hubs will be the solution for providing a full security stack in the precise places closest to the applications.

If 2018 was the year of SD-WAN going mainstream, then 2019 will be the year of discovering just what this technology can do and how it can be optimized to deliver real business benefits.

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