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GigaOm Key Criteria for Evaluating Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) Solutionsv4.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. SD-WAN Sector Brief
  3. Decision Criteria Analysis
  4. Analyst’s Take
  5. About Ivan McPhee

1. Executive Summary

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) provides branch offices, distributed workforces, and remote workers fast, seamless access to corporate applications, resources, and services. An SD-WAN creates a virtual network overlay with centralized management and end-to-end observability, enabling flexible, responsive, and scalable wide area connectivity that dynamically adapts to changing application demands and network conditions.

SD-WAN solutions provision remote branches, monitor network health and QoS, and intelligently reroute traffic flows based on software-defined rules. As a result, enterprises are migrating to SD-WAN to take advantage of its application-aware path selection across multiple links, centralized orchestration, native security, and other application performance optimization capabilities.

Typically sourced from network equipment providers (NEPs), network service providers (NSPs), or managed network service providers (MNSPs) and their channels, SD-WAN infrastructure can exist on- or off-premises via physical or virtual appliances. In addition, it can be managed in-house, co-managed, or outsourced in its entirety to a third-party provider.

Business Imperative
While traditional WANs impose higher expenses for less flexibility, deploying an SD-WAN offers scalable infrastructure and reduces the need for expensive multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections. As an investment in efficiency, performance, and cost savings, an SD-WAN directly impacts business growth in a cloud-centric world by enhancing network agility, reducing costs, and optimizing cloud performance. By auto-selecting the best path, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity even if a link fails, and enhancing the user experience, integration with cloud platforms means faster access to applications, directly impacting productivity. Furthermore, with centralized management, deploying policy changes is swift and hassle-free.

Sector Adoption Score
To help executives and decision-makers assess the potential impact and value of a SD-WAN solution deployment to the business, this GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a structured assessment of the SD-WAN sector across five factors: benefit, maturity, urgency, impact, and effort. By scoring each factor based on how strongly it compels or deters adoption of SD-WAN, we provide an overall Sector Adoption Score for SD-WAN of 4.4 out of 5, with 5 indicating the strongest possible recommendation to adopt. This indicates that SD-WAN is a credible candidate for deployment and worth thoughtful consideration.

The factors contributing to the Sector Adoption Score for SD-WAN are explained in more detail in the Sector Brief section that follows.

Key Criteria for Evaluating Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) Solutions

Sector Adoption Score







Figure 1. Sector Adoption Score for SD-WAN

This is the fourth year that GigaOm has reported on the SD-WAN space in the context of our Key Criteria and Radar reports. This report builds on our previous analysis and considers how the market has evolved over the last year.

This GigaOm Key Criteria report highlights the capabilities (table stakes, key features, and emerging features) and non-functional requirements (business criteria) for selecting an effective SD-WAN solution. The companion GigaOm Radar report identifies vendors and products that excel in those capabilities and metrics. Together, these reports provide an overview of the category and its underlying technology, identify leading SD-WAN offerings, and help decision-makers evaluate these solutions so they can make a more informed investment decision.


The GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a detailed decision framework for IT and executive leadership assessing enterprise technologies. Each report defines relevant functional and non-functional aspects of solutions in a sector. The Key Criteria report informs the GigaOm Radar report, which provides a forward-looking assessment of vendor solutions in the sector.