MPLS usage drops by 24% in two years as SD-WAN adoption ramps up

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TeleGeography, a global telecommunications market research and consulting firm, has revealed that 43% of enterprises surveyed had installed SD-WAN in 2020, compared to just 18% in 2018. Its WAN Manager Survey shows the accelerating adoption of SD-WAN and enterprise networking trends across the globe.

According to the survey, increasing site capacity and using alternative access solutions are key motivators for WAN managers pursuing SD-WAN, and 40% of respondents prefer a co-managed SD-WAN solution. On top of this, enterprises were running MPLS at an average of 71% of sites during the three year period of 2018-2020. MPLS use is, however, on the decline, with the average network having MPLS at only 58% of sites in 2020, compared to 82% in 2018. 

“Our annual WAN Manager Survey always provides interesting insights into enterprise networking trends globally, but this year has been of particular interest due to the impact of the pandemic on our findings,” said Greg Bryan, Senior Manager, Enterprise Research at TeleGeography. “SD-WAN has dramatically increased in adoption in the last couple of years. The pandemic slowed down roll-outs for a time, but increased interest in adoption. SD-WAN frees WAN managers to select a broad mix of underlay technologies, and can also boost performance. The full report offers a clear picture into how mid-to-large enterprises are adjusting to emerging WAN technologies, helping vendors make more informed decisions.” 

DIA was found to be the key underlay product for larger capacity sites, and more than one-quarter of DIA sites were larger than 100 Mbps. In response to COVID-19, 85% of enterprises reported that the majority of their workforce were working remotely at some stage. The key challenges faced by WAN managers at the onset of the pandemic were congestion at internet gateways from the influx of remote users, paired with the performance of at-home broadband.

“A growing number of WAN managers are seeing the opportunity in SD-WAN and adapting their networks, which could explain the 24% decrease we’ve seen in MPLS from 2018 to 2020,” said Elizabeth Thorne, Research Analyst, Enterprise Networks at TeleGeography. “The pandemic caused enterprises across the globe to really re-evaluate their operations and seek new ways to improve performance and efficiency. It’ll be interesting to see the lasting effects of the pandemic in terms of accelerating digital transformation and changing networking models globally.”

TeleGeography’s WAN Manager Survey offers in-depth analysis based on the experiences of WAN managers from 125 companies. The companies represented in the survey had a median revenue of $10 billion, with a range of IT managers covering the designing, sourcing, and managing of US national, regional, and global corporate wide-area computer networks. Read more about the survey here.

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