Network Traffic Trends and the Evolution of WAN into SD-WAN

Businesses are looking to the power of the cloud, and SD-WAN technologies are facilitating their efforts to build lower cost, resilient, easy-to-manage networks to keep up with the growth and change in network usage.

Does it seem like we just started hearing about SD-WAN? A year ago, software defined wide area networks—to break down the acronym—was considered an emerging technology. Now it’s rapidly going mainstream.

A 2017 report from SD-WAN vendor Aryaka offers some perspective on why. Wide area networks are experiencing throughput challenges, and SD-WAN is positioned to help enterprises keep up and future-proof their networks.

Traffic Growth and the Move to SD-WAN

Network traffic volumes are on the rise as companies push more applications and larger workloads to the cloud. Here are some compelling findings:

  • WAN traffic grew 205% in 2016, following a 236% increase in 2015. No wonder some enterprises are struggling!
  • Much of the growth is being driven by increasing use of video and VOIP, as well as the emergence of “bring your own device” policies. And of course, there is the Internet of Things and the associated data explosion
  • HTTPS generates 28% of WAN traffic, followed by 19% for HTTP. These are indicators of the expanding reliance on cloud-based services. In fact, 50% of WAN traffic for enterprise-level companies is the cloud.
  • MPLS pricing for bandwidth has held steady or increased slightly. IT organizations are not getting better deals, despite added volume.
  • SD-WAN is attractive, in that it enables the use of multiple, low-cost broadband connections to reduce reliance on expensive MPLS while dealing effectively with skyrocketing traffic volumes.

Not all traffic is growing, however. SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) declined from 4.7% to 2.1% of traffic. Microsoft has been pushing Office 365 and the strategy appears to be working. CIFS (common internet file system)—a Microsoft file-sharing protocol—was in the top spot for traffic in 2015 but dropped to third place just two years later. Other sharp declines were seen for FTP, MS Remote Desktop, and MSSQL.

What Does It All Mean?

Businesses are looking to the power of the cloud, and SD-WAN technologies are facilitating their efforts to build lower cost, resilient, easy-to-manage networks to keep up with the growth and change in network usage. We’re witnessing a transition of networks from ones built for client-server applications to more flexible software-defined networks optimized for the cloud.

This will undoubtedly have repercussions for organizations’ selection of networking equipment and the gear network administrators opt to keep in service. IT leaders will be searching for the “sweet spot” when existing hardware investments have been fully leveraged, and SD-WAN offers the greatest promise for cost-savings and strategic goal achievement.