The WAN continues to extend its growth, with the number of enterprises connecting to over 100 inter-regional sites growing by 50%, from 19% in 2020 to 28% in 2021, according to Aryaka.
This is coupled with continued application growth, with the number of enterprises stating that they’ve deployed over 500 distinct applications growing to 46%, compared to 32% in 2021.
As evidence of collaboration traction, Zoom was identified as critical by 36% in 2021, up from 25% in 2020.
Year-on-year trends with changing challenges and priorities
One finding that did not noticeably change year-on-year is complexity, which was identified by 36% of enterprises as their number one network issue. Interestingly, those who identified cost as a major issue grew to 20% in 2021 from 16% in 2020, a 25% increase. This may be attributed to cloud or MPLS cost concerns.
Overall, investment priorities did see recede in some areas, due to tactical pandemic concerns driving near-term planning. For example, only 17% of respondents plan to conduct an SD-WAN/SASE-driven network refresh this year versus 29% in 2020.
However, combining this with remote access upgrades, a new entry at 22%, and security, at 21%, results in strong momentum going into 2021. In contrast, LTE/5G experienced growth from 24% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. Finally, VPN investment is at 31% this year versus 27% in 2020. The new remote workforce, due to the pandemic, led to this VPN increase.
For actual deployment, managed services still reign supreme at 71%, versus 18% who are looking for a DIY solution. Many enterprises are also further along the deployment lifecycle, with 26% evaluating SD-WAN this year, up from 22% in 2020. This increasing market maturity is reflected in a drop in identified barriers to SD-WAN adoption.
Enterprises are less concerned that the WAN service won’t address application performance, coming in at 36% this year, versus 43% in 2020, with corresponding drops in SLA concerns, technology maturity, and lack of skills.
A closer look at SASE and the rise of the hybrid workplace
Enterprise SASE deployment plans are accelerating, with 29% stating that they are already deploying what they consider to be a SASE architecture. Another 56% are planning to deploy a SASE architecture in the next 12-24 months.
As part of a complete SASE architecture, the top capability identified was SD-WAN transport at 34%. And for deployment, over half state that they prefer a solution that includes technology from both their WAN vendor and security specialists, spanning across cloud and the edge.
When the pandemic hit, workers around the world migrated from their offices to their homes, a shift that will also impact future planning and investment throughout 2021. 59% of the respondents stated they expect 25-50% of their workers to remain remote, while 21% say they are planning for more than 50% of their workforce to continue working from home.
Businesses are also prioritizing flexibility, with 63% stating that they consider the ability to quickly move resources between on-premises and remote to be very important.