We Asked WAN Managers About SD-WAN + SASE

By Greg BryanJun 17, 2024


With the release of our new WAN Manager Survey intel, it was only a matter of time before we got to the s-words: SD-WAN and SASE. 

Earlier this month, we mentioned both buzzwords in our breakdown of major survey findings. Today I want to spend a little more time with these technologies.

And don't worry, dear readers. There will totally be charts.

SD-WAN Adoption

We already expected relatively fast growth for SD-WAN over the past several years, and if anything, we thought COVID would mostly increase demand–which it certainly did. (If you find yourself Googling "what is SD-WAN?" after reading this, I suggest checking out this early edition of our podcast, which covers the definition pretty well.)

While we saw some adoption delays due to COVID, supply chain issues, and then general difficulty in accomplishing a full rollout, we have seen adoption rates steadily increase.

In 2023, for the first time, we had a majority of respondents indicate that they have installed SD-WAN at most of their sites. Let me hit you with some numbers:

  • A strong majority–63% of respondents–have already installed at least some SD-WAN service.  
    • This includes 12% of respondents that have already installed SD-WAN service on a minority of sites in their network.
    • A bare majority–51% of respondents–have already installed SD-WAN service on most or all of their network.
  • One-quarter of respondents have started the process of adopting SD-WAN.
    • This includes 15% that are currently in the process of rolling out SD-WAN.
    • Another 5% are in the POC/pilot stage.
    • Finally, 5% are actively researching vendors and options.
  • A mere 2% are seriously considering SD-WAN service but have not begun the process.
  • One in 10 have decided against adopting SD-WAN, but no respondents this year indicated they have not thought about it. 

This represents a considerable change from just last year, let alone the development over the past five years. 

SD-WAN Adoption Stage (2018-2023)

SD-WAN Adoption Stage 18-23

Notes: Each bar represents the percentage of all respondents from the coordinating year who indicated that they are in that stage of SD-WAN adoption. In 2023, we changed to asking this question every year instead of every two years.

  • In 2018, most respondents were actively researching vendors and options, and only 21% had already installed SD-WAN service on at least part of the network. Now, 63% of respondents have installed SD-WAN service on at least part of the network. 
  • In 2018, 18% of respondents had either not seriously considered SD-WAN or had not yet begun installing SD-WAN. Now, less than 3% of respondents are in this stage.  
  • The percentage of respondents in the ‘actively researching vendors and options’ phase has dropped from 33% in 2018 to 5%, indicating that the vast majority of enterprises have already decided on vendors and services. 
  • Some enterprises have bucked the trend and decided against SD-WAN. The percentage of respondents who have decided not to adopt SD-WAN reached 10% this year, 8% more than in 2018. 

Secure Access Service Edge

As corporate networks integrate internet and cloud applications and the underlay changes shape, weaknesses in the traditional network security model have become more glaring.

Compromised credentials are high-risk vectors for traditional perimeter-based network security. Initially, the Zero Trust Security (ZTS) concept emerged and led network security professionals to think differently about how they set up and secure the network. (Again, let me tap the sign: we have a podcast episode on this.)

The security approach entailed principles such as:

  • Verify users with more than one method–multi-factor authentication
  • Simplify how many passwords people need to keep track of–single sign on
  • Restrict access based on identity so people can only access what they need–privileged access management
  • Segment the network to prevent horizontal movement across the organization by bad actors 

In recent years, SASE has dominated the security conversation as a framework for combining SD-WAN-enabled internet networking with cloud-based network security and zero trust principles to facilitate internet use, cloud, BYOD, and work-from-anywhere. Additionally, there is an element of ‘one-stop-shop,’ potentially having both SD-WAN and network security managed by one vendor.

This year, we wanted to check in on how WAN managers are securing their corporate networks, what vendors they are using to secure their internet, and how they are approaching SASE adoption.

SASE Adoption

While it just emerged as a security framework a few years ago, by the end of 2023, a large percentage of our respondents had already begun adopting at least some SASE elements.

What is your stage of adoption of a SASE network security framework? (2023)

What is your stage of adoption of a SASE network security framework

  • More than half–53%–of respondents are in the process of adopting or have already implemented at least some elements of a SASE framework.   
    • One in 10 respondents are in the process of adopting a SASE framework but it is not yet fully implemented.
    • Approaching half of enterprises–43%– have already implemented at least some elements of a SASE framework.
  • While SD-WAN is crucial to implementing SASE, only 8% of respondents indicated they were waiting on SD-WAN before starting the SASE journey.
  • A few respondents–15%–have no plans to adopt SASE.
  • Education on this topic has clearly worked, as only 5% of respondents said they were unfamiliar with the SASE framework.
  • Finally, 8% of respondents chose ‘Other:’
    • One respondent stated that they host government traffic and SASE is insufficiently secure for their needs.  
    • Another stated that they have custom SASE based on existing platforms.  
    • A third respondent stated that they use SSE (Zscaler). 

Zero Trust/SASE Adoption Stage (2019-2023)

Zero TrustSASE Adoption Stage

Notes: Each bar represents the percentage of all respondents from each designated year who indicated that they are in that stage of SASE adoption. This chart mixes SASE and ZTS, as that was specifically the security framework we asked about in 2019.
  • The percentage of respondents who have already implemented at least some elements of a SASE framework has risen by 35% since 2019 and 8% since 2021, at 43% by 2023.  
  • The percentage of respondents who indicated they plan to adopt SASE but have not yet begun the process has decreased by 18% since 2019.  
  • As SD-WAN adoptions have increased, the percentage of respondents waiting on SD-WAN installation to adopt a SASE framework has dropped by 19% since 2021.  
  • The percentage of respondents who are unfamiliar with the SASE framework has continued to drop. In 2018, 20% of respondents were unfamiliar with SASE. In 2021, this had dropped to 10%. Now, only 5% are unfamiliar with it. 

Download the free executive summary for a closer look at our latest survey results. Or—if you prefer your data in deck form—download my related slide deck from the 2024 Enterprise Network & Security Summit over here.

The Present and Future of the Enterprise WAN

Greg Bryan

Greg Bryan

Greg is Senior Manager, Enterprise Research at TeleGeography. He's spent the last decade and a half at TeleGeography developing many of our pricing products and reports about enterprise networks. He is a frequent speaker at conferences about corporate wide area networks and enterprise telecom services. He also hosts our podcast, TeleGeography Explains the Internet.

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