If SD-WAN vendors can do security, why can't a security vendor do SD-WAN?

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

October 25, 2018

4 Min Read

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) vendors are using security to differentiate themselves from the competition, but what happens when security vendors set themselves apart with SD-WAN?

Barracuda Networks commissioned a Vanson Bourne survey of more than 900 technology professionals, which concluded that security is the biggest driver and biggest advantage of SD-WAN adoption. Almost all (92 percent) espondents agreed in some part that security should be the biggest factor for switching to the technology. Increased network security was the main “achievement” of 57 percent of adopters. That was just a tick higher than improved overall connectivity, which 56 percent of the respondents selected.


Courtesy of Barracuda Networks

Barracuda is known for its “next-generation” firewall but has used SD-WAN to provide security for some time now, according to Ezra Hookano, vice president of channels.

Hookano told Channel Partners that the two-headed approach of legacy firewalls on an MPLS network leads to both connectivity and security problems as more and more remote offices pop up.

“The more that all of that stuff expands out, the more you need to be actually pushing apps and controls out to the end of your sites,” he said.


Barracuda’s Ezra Hookano

But here’s the rub, according to Hookano: The majority of customers are buying security and SD-WAN separately. The majority of respondents (55 percent) either added two distinct solutions (28 percent) or bought “pure-play SD-WAN with basic security” (27 percent). Another 27 percent deployed a single solution with “advanced security and SD-WAN.”

Hookano said the demand for both technologies is clearly on the rise. The study found that many end users demand SD-WAN and also want to add new functionality to their firewall.

“The solution for that isn’t ‘Go buy something else to add to your firewall,'” he said. “The solution is, replace your firewall with one that does all those things already.”


Courtesy of Barracuda Networks

We’ve noted two related trends. Fortinet joins Barracuda as security companies promoting SD-WAN. Meantime, SD-WAN vendors are tripping over one another to prove that they have security built into their platform.

So what’s better: security with SD-WAN or SD-WAN with security? Or is there a difference? Hookano said he would never trust an SD-WAN-only vendor with his firewall.

“I would never let somebody who’s just pure connectivity actually manage my security,” he said. “Folks are very afraid of that kind of architecture.”


The majority of survey respondents (66 percent) had already deployed SD-WAN or were in the process of deploying it. Another 15 percent planned to deploy it in the next year. Only 4 percent “had no plans.”

Make no mistake; demand is up and adoption is up.


Courtesy of Barracuda Networks

We mentioned above that improved security and connectivity were the biggest drivers in the study, at 57 and 56 percent, respectively. Network flexibility and application performance were close, at 53 percent apiece. Overall cost was also a factor, chosen by 48 percent of respondents.

Hookano primarily credits “ease of connectivity” and the ability to effectively control remote offices, but reducing the cost of MPLS services is nevertheless a consideration. The multiplication of branch offices comes with a big price tag if you have MPLS.

“I still need phone systems. I still need access to that database. I can’t put a $25,000 line at every single office,” he said. ” … The more the office becomes dispersed and the more all the applications become dispersed, the more important it is that …

… your connectivity to those offices becomes less expensive, and the more important it is that your firewall or something else can actually manage all those functions.”


Courtesy of Barracuda Networks

Barracuda gave an application to a group of doctors to help them upload and download files to a database. The doctors were frequently moving from hospital to hospital and struggling to connect to the database as they switched to new remote sites.

“Instead what they’ve done is given each doctor a firewall. It’s already secure. That firewall connects to a local firewall, and it goes up into the cloud,” Hookana said. “Yes, there’s a cost element to it, but the other part of it is just ease of connectivity.”

A Spring IHS Markit study also revealed how security is a driver for SD-WAN adoption. To read more about trends, see Kurt Marko’s recent report, “Beyond the Basics: How SD-WAN Is Evolving to Improve Performance and Reliability.”

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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