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Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is fast becoming the go-to technology for enterprises that require agility and flexibility when deploying new services or improvising existing ones. A significant departure from on-premise solutions, SaaS offers quicker and less complex deployments, as well as improved cost optimisation and reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).

SaaS allows enterprises to scale their infrastructure as needed, without incurring additional hardware costs and the ability to integrate and align with many applications. Available only on public cloud, SaaS is the solution to some of the problems faced by enterprises, not easily resolved with traditional network architectures.

As agility, flexibility and highly-resilient networks become new business requirements, communications service providers (CSPs) are pressured to introduce new products, services, or bundled solutions to meet evolving demands while driving down costs and increasing competitiveness. A trend that has since emerged is CSPs boosting their cloud capabilities through strategic partnerships or acquisition of cloud providers to grow their offerings and expand into adjacent markets as cloud, big data and IoT lead digitalisation globally.

In Asia, the manufacturing industry is one area of exponential growth as it transforms to keep up with connectivity, application performance and security when dealing with geographically dispersed factories and warehouses. Countries that serve as major manufacturing hubs in the region, such as China and Vietnam and Cambodia are turning to cloud-based operational models that are less rigid and easier to scale. To this end, SaaS is cloud-ready and can readily boost production and effectively manage supply chains using automated workflows or remote workers.

Other key industries include the retail industry, where analytics are used to drive traffic and improve customer experiences, as well as the financial industry, where high-capacity, low-latency and secured networks are fundamental to operations.

SD-WAN to support agile operations

In the past year, traffic has become more unpredictable. Enterprises that require greater connectivity, performance and flexibility are increasingly turning to Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) to deliver secure, optimised and efficient management of real-time traffic management to improve the way users connect with cloud and SaaS applications.

Unlike traditional WAN, SD-WAN provides an architecture that integrates security, intelligent routing, centralised policy and orchestration to achieve improved bandwidth and performance. For instance, SD-WAN can route traffic to the next best-performing path to counter complex traffic patterns, or in the event of an outage to reduce enterprise network downtime. It can also be easily deployed and fully integrate into existing solutions to support real-time optimisation on SaaS applications, featuring segmentation capabilities to enable control, manageability and end-to-end security across multi-cloud environments.

In a research conducted by TeleGeography, Asia Pacific’s SD-WAN market size is estimated at US$356 million in 2020, with China, Japan, India and Australia accounting for the majority of SD-WAN sites. Even though SD-WAN currently lags MPLS in terms of market size globally and in APAC, SD-WAN providers can expect greater upside in 2021 and the coming years. For CSPs, this means introducing SD-WAN as a value-added edge to complement its network services. In the region, operators such as Tata Telecom, Singtel, Indosat Ooredoo and China Telecom have already done so. More recently, Optus announced a partnership with VMware to launch SD-WAN solutions to enterprises and aid its 5G rollout.

According to Greg Bryan, Senior Manager, Enterprise Research at TeleGeography, “The global trend is that SD-WAN adoption has been rapidly increasing. When we first asked about SD-WAN adoption in 2018, fewer than 1 in 5 enterprises in our survey had installed SD-WAN, in 2020 that had increased to nearly 1 in 2. As adoption keeps increasing we expect within the next few years that other regions will catch up to the US and Canada and Western Europe, and the global distribution of SD-WAN will be close to the global distribution of enterprise network sites. So growth of SD-WAN adoption will likely be faster in APAC than in the US and Canada and Western Europe in the coming years, but will likely take a few years to reach the point where it matches those regions in terms of a the percentage of corporate sites with service rolled out.”

Improving network performance is the most commonly cited reason to adopt SD-WAN. The second and third biggest factors were increasing site capacity and using alternative underlay technologies such as direct Internet access (DIA) and broadband. The key motivating factors thus really come down to ensuring network performance through SD-WAN technologies such as forward error correction and load balancing and being able to purchase additional bandwidth without paying for expensive MPLS circuits,” Greg added.

For CSPs, this means growing their capabilities and solutions to meet more complex enterprise needs in today’s multi-cloud, multi-access and multi-SaaS application landscape where more work is migrating away from on-premises. As SD-WAN continues to gain momentum, CSPs will have to begin to embrace these changes to stay abreast with global competition.