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There are very few organizations that are satisfied with the quality of the virtual private network (VPN) experience being provided to their end users. Most VPNs are cumbersome to use and challenging to secure and manage.

A new survey of 200 enterprise IT managers conducted by the market research firm Futorium highlights the extent of the problem. A full 64 percent said they have issues with VPN performance, while nearly 48 percent said they have issues with VPN security. In total, three quarters of the respondents said they are looking for a better VPN approach in the era of cloud networking.

Most enterprise IT organizations today rely on either an Internet connection or a leased MPLS line to access back-end applications and cloud services from a remote office. End users are then provided with VPN software that enables them to securely access those services over a public network while, for example, staying at a hotel.

The debate that is now ensuing is to what degree MPLS lines are the appropriate to employ for accessing cloud applications. MPLS works fine for accessing applications in a local data center. But IT organizations appear to be evenly split about the continued viability of MPLS for accessing cloud applications. Nearly half of the survey respondents (46 percent) agreed that MPLS lines provided by a telecommunications carrier wasn’t the right solution for cloud-based networking, while 46 percent disagreed with that statement. That lack of confidence in MPLS is one of the reasons the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market is so hot.

SD-WANs provide a means of accessing cloud applications from a remote office over a public Internet line without having to backhaul network traffic over an MPLS line to a data center. In some cases that means replacing a router. In other cases, it means layering SD-WAN software on top of an existing router. 

Regardless of how they feel about MPLS networks, it’s also worth noting that nearly three quarters of respondents (74 percent) also noted they see a need to run an additional layer of security over MPLS even though security is touted as a more benefit of MPLS.

The cost of MPLS networks, the rise of SD-WANs, and the cost and complexity of securing those connections has many organizations evaluating alternatives based on Zero Trust network architectures that make extensive use of segmentation to establish “micro-perimeters” to enforce security policies. Over half of survey respondents (56 percent) say Zero Trust network architectures represent a significant improvement in networking security; only 15 percent disagreed.

The MSP opportunity

From a managed service provider (MSP) perspective, the survey indicates the hold carriers have had on branch office networking is starting to loosen. There’s clearly a mandate emerging for a different method of delivering application services to the edge of the network. Wide area networks based Zero Trust architecture that leverage cloud services are starting to emerge as an alternative to carriers. MSPs have an opportunity to not only deliver those WAN services, but also extend the reach of those services to include managing and securing wireless local area networks in the branch office.

MSPs have the option of either reselling WAN services delivered via the cloud or building their own. They may still need to partner with carriers for basic connectivity. But the days when the carriers were primarily the only game in town when it came to delivering network and security services to a remote office is coming to an end.

Photo:  asharkyu / Shutterstock.


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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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