Laptop Displaying the GigaOm Research Portal

Get your Free GigaOm account today.

Access complimentary GigaOm content by signing up for a FREE GigaOm account today — or upgrade to premium for full access to the GigaOm research catalog. Join now and uncover what you’ve been missing!

Key Criteria for Evaluating Software-Defined Wide Area Network Solutionsv3.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. SD-WAN Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  7. Analyst’s Take
  8. About Ivan McPhee

1. Summary

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) gives branch offices, distributed workforces, and remote workers access to corporate applications, resources, and services managed via a centralized dashboard. Decoupling the control/management plane from the physical network hardware, an SD-WAN leverages encrypted tunnels and intelligent systems to create a virtual network overlay (see Figure 1). Centralized management and end-to-end observability enable flexible, responsive, and scalable wide area connectivity that dynamically adapts to changing application demands and network conditions.

Figure 1. SD-WAN Underlay and Overlay Components

Centrally controlled and managed using a single interface, SD-WAN solutions provision remote branches, monitor network health and quality of service (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. Moreover, several vendors from neighboring markets—such as secure service access (SSA) and zero-trust network access (ZTNA)—are emerging in this space, each with different strengths and limitations.

The GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar reports provide an overview of the SD-WAN market and highlight vendors and products that excel. This Key Criteria report identifies capabilities (table stakes, key criteria, and emerging technology) and evaluation metrics for selecting an SD-WAN solution. The corresponding Radar report provides an overview of notable SD-WAN vendors and solutions that excel. Together, these reports offer essential insights for networking initiatives, helping decision-makers evaluate solutions before deciding where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.