This article was originally published on VMblog.com on January 23, 2018.

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2018. Read them in this 10th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Security on the Mind

It would be hard not to think of 2017 as a tipping point for SD-WAN services. Many vendors saw growth accelerate significantly owing to enterprise need for the cost and operational savings offered by SD-WAN technology. What lies ahead in 2018, then?

A focus on strategic outcomes that result from investment in SD-WAN

What we’ve often heard from customers is that they are investigating the use of SD-WAN, but don’t always have a strategic outcome in mind. They do their due diligence to gain an understanding of the near-term benefits, including having a more resilient, easier to manage network. And the cost savings and faster provisioning compared to traditional MPLS services is icing on the cake.

But a software-defined approach to the network brings other benefits too, and 2018 will see a shift towards a more strategic role for SD-WAN in enterprise transformation efforts.

SD-WAN will start to become a bigger part of the discussion around addressing enterprise security issues.

Also in terms of defining outcomes, SD-WAN can go beyond just offering better performance – there’s the potential for better security from reducing the attack surface available to bad actors.

Enterprises will be looking to manage functions such as VPN and application access control, content filtering, and IDS/IPS with centralized control over policies in order to get a better handle on security. But as always, doing the integration work takes time, and companies are struggling to find talent to manage devices. SD-WAN is a foundational element, but they will look to vendors that can integrate networking and security functions into a unified control plane.

Edge Computing moves up on the hype meter.

Edge computing will be another hot topic in 2018, although it will be more about market education than project implementation. Much of the discussion will be around IoT use cases, with the automotive sector being a prime example where some compute and analysis functions move away from centralized datacenters and out to cell towers, for example.

Edge Computing will start to appear in other forms first, though. A practical near-term use of SD-WAN will be to enable what we call “branch abstraction”, which means taking functions out of devices in remote offices and into regional compute nodes. This goes beyond early implementations of remote desktops (remember the thin client and network computer movement in the late 90s?); applications like AutoCAD and print servers are just the first of many functions that can be moved into multiple regional hubs using hyper-converged infrastructure, offering capex and opex savings over having to place equipment in every branch.

The industry will be talking about new technologies and methods, but tying that in with timeless themes of “faster, cheaper, and more secure” should never stop being the main topic of conversation with customers.