The future of work in the wake of COVID-19 is most definitely hybrid. A survey of 600 IT decision makers published this week by Xerox finds that on average 82 percent of the workforce in organizations will have returned to the workplace within the next 12 to 18 months. That’s not to say they won’t be working from home more often. Most organizations are going to try to strike a balance between the need to collaborate in person and the desire to maintain some degree of social distancing. There may not be enough room in the office to have everyone return at the same time.

What will change entirely is the way employees access applications. Most organizations today rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) to provide remote access to applications. The trouble with most existing VPNs is they don’t tend to scale very well. Most businesses assumed that only 10 percent or less of their organization would require remote access. With almost the entire organization now trying to access applications across a VPN, businesses are finding they need a different approach.

That realization is already spurring increased adoption of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs). As a category, SD-WANs have been adopted primarily to provide remote access to cloud applications over a public Internet connection. Now, organizations are embracing SD-WANs more widely to provide secure network connections to applications that are moving to the cloud faster than ever before.

A global survey of 750 IT professionals conducted by the market research firm Vanson Bourne on behalf of Barracuda Networks finds 51 percent are either in the process of deploying or expecting to deploy one within the next 12 months. Just under a quarter (23 percent) have already deployed an SD-WAN.

Where organizations deploy SD-WANs is changing dramatically

Much like application workloads, SD-WANs are heading into the cloud. Over half the survey respondents (52 percent) are looking to acquire an SD-WAN solution via a cloud provider, with Microsoft Azure being cited as the most preferred option. Only 16 percent said they prefer an SD-WAN from an independent vendor, while 15 percent would opt for a telecommunications provider. Another 12 percent said they would rely on a reseller.

Obviously, increased reliance on SD-WAN services from cloud service providers has major implications for SD-WAN platform vendors and their managed service provider (MSP) partners. MSPs will need to find way to augment the SD-WAN cloud service in a way that continues to make them relevant to their end customer. Providers of SD-WAN hardware will need to find ways to deliver software that extends the core capabilities of an SD-WAN service. In some cases, IT teams are even deciding the path of least resistance to accessing applications in a local data center is to reverse backhaul traffic via a cloud service provider.

As usage of SD-WAN evolves, it’s clear MSPs will need to find ways to adapt. There may still be plenty of instances where SD-WAN appliances might be deployed in an on-premises IT environment. However, it’s clear MSPs need to adapt to some new SD-WAN realities or quite possibly perish.

Photo: JoeZ / Shutterstock

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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