Blog: Security Integration is Top Challenge for Managed SD-WANs

By Rosemary Cochran, Principal & Co-Founder, Vertical Systems Group
October 12, 2023

Security integration for multiple SD-WAN platforms is now the top challenge for Managed SD-WAN Service Providers – surpassing hype over SASE, according to Vertical Systems Group’s mid-2023 research. Last year, our mid-2022 Vertical Blog cited that service providers considered the integration of security for multiple SD-WAN platforms as a major challenge, both technically and operationally. At that time most providers offered customers a choice of two or more different SD-WAN service platforms, with either integral security or add-on options for SASE or SSE.

Since then the challenge has intensified. Many managed service providers are now tackling the complexities of supporting up to five or more different SD-WAN/SASE platforms, each possibly with different sets of security solutions. Service providers are integrating security capabilities using internal resources or engaging with technology partners. Acquisitions of security companies are also in play. Meanwhile SD-WAN technology suppliers are continuously enhancing their SASE and SSE offerings.

Top Challenges for SD-WAN

DevOps for security integration will have a critical role as the SD-WAN market evolves. The number of enterprises and business customers migrating to SD-WAN is growing rapidly. By 2027, the number of carrier managed SD-WAN sites in the U.S. will surpass one million based on Vertical Systems Group’s projections.

Real World Perspectives from Carrier Managed Service Providers

Repercussions are emerging from the expanding mix of SD-WAN, SASE and SSE solutions. Security integration is more complex and resource intensive. Sales training is more demanding due to the range of features and capabilities across different solutions. The sales process and purchase decisions are more protracted as customers have multiple options to evaluate. Technical support and operations are more difficult due to configuration complexities and the upkeep of ongoing updates.

How do SD-WAN Service Providers view these challenges? The selected responses below are from Vertical Systems Group’s mid-2023 Carrier Managed SD-WAN Service Provider survey. Comments have been edited for clarity and to eliminate identifying information.

“The coordination of delivering multiple services that make up a customer’s SD-WAN network solution is an ongoing challenge that we seek to make easier.”

“We are continually adding new partners and features to fulfill changing customer needs, including custom solutions to help simplify integration with existing infrastructure.”

“As we add more functionality such as SASE capabilities to our product line the sales process becomes more demanding on both our sellers and clients.”

“Strategically we have a best vendor approach with the best SD-WAN fit per customer and the best SSE as a ‘bolt-on’ to make it work optimally.”

“The largest challenge is support of the frequent releases with rapidly evolving features introduced by the different technology providers.”

``As SD-WAN companies race for feature parity we have noticed an increase in patching with releases that have service affecting bugs.”

Bottom Line

The complexities of supporting mixtures of SD-WAN, SASE and SSE technologies will persist. Currently a number of service providers are adding to their SD-WAN and security portfolios, while others are streamlining their solutions to include only best-of-breed.

A new resource announced by MEF and CyberRatings for evaluating solutions is a beta SASE certification program, which encompasses SD-WAN, SSE and ZTNA services and products. Participants in this program include four of the five top SD-WAN suppliers ranked on the Mid-2023 U.S. SD-WAN Technology LEADERBOARD – Cisco, VMware, Fortinet, and Versa Networks. Certification testing will be generally available following this initial phase.

Vertical Systems Group defined the required components and functionality for a Carrier Managed SD-WAN Service in the May 2019 Vertical Blog, Managed SD-WAN Services Reality Check. Security was cited as the most essential additional capability that SD-WAN customers would require. Years later, it is even clearer that security is absolutely essential.

Source: Excerpted from analysis available exclusively with an @SD-WAN ENS Research Program subscription. Contact us for more information and pricing.