Gartner just published its Hype Cycle for Networking and Communications, 2015 report (27 July 2015). It’s Gartner’s annual report that assesses the networking technologies that are the most relevant to enterprise network initiatives. According to analysts Danellie Young and Bjarne Munch, SD-WAN has just passed through the “Innovation Trigger” phase and is escalating into the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” phase.

 Gartner defines these phases as follows:

Innovation Trigger – A breakthrough, public demonstration, product launch or other event generates significant press and industry interest.

Peak of Inflated Expectations – During this phase of overenthusiasm and unrealistic projections, a flurry of well-publicized activity by technology leaders results in some successes, but more failures, as the technology is pushed to its limits. The only enterprises making money are conference organizers and magazine publishers.

Report authors Young and Munch believe that SD-WAN should reach the “Plateau of Productivity” in about 2 to 5 years. This is the stage where there is mainstream adoption and the technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

The authors are in the hot zone of WAN discussions with global enterprises, and I am glad this has resulted in SD-WAN making a debut on the Hype cycle directly at the edge of the ‘Innovation Trigger’ phase. It is not suprising though. In January of this year, Gartner research director Andrew Lerner wrote on his blog, Hybrid is the new WAN. According to Lerner, “This very well could be the elusive ‘killer’ SDN use-case, as many clients I speak to cite major challenges with their WAN (Cost, Performance, Availability for starters).”

Indeed, even though SD-WAN is in its early stages, we see a lot of traction for the adoption of this technology for several reasons.

First of all, there are very strong ROI benefits. SD-WAN allows an organization to blend transport types such as MPLS and broadband to suit their specific needs. A remote site that needs more bandwidth than the traditional MPLS line can deliver now has the option of adding a secure broadband line that provides 10x the bandwidth at 1/10th the cost. Cost savings also come from simplifying operations.

Next, that ability to have a hybrid configuration is very important to many organizations. A good SD-WAN overlay can help make a broadband transport connection both secure and reliable. For the first time, enterprises can trust an Internet connection to support business critical applications.

Another benefit is the flexibility to decide what applications take which transport method over the hybrid WAN. So for instance, an organization can develop policies that steer all VoIP traffic to the MPLS line while guest WiFi traffic is always directed to the lower cost broadband connection.

At Viptela, we have already seen many production deployments of our SD-WAN technology. For instance, a Fortune 200 global retailer is deploying the technology to thousands of stores (see case study). The retailer’s goal is to lower operating costs, increase speed of deployment and deliver more innovative applications and a better customer experience in their stores. The retailer is able to cost-effectively support bandwidth-intensive applications like digital signage, video collaboration and guest WiFi while segmenting its payment transactions for PCI compliance.

In another case, a large healthcare institution is leveraging Viptela’s SD-WAN technology to enable the timely divestiture of a large hospital network. The long lead times of installing and configuring traditional wide area networking infrastructure would make this nearly impossible.

Surprising to many, traditional service providers have also jumped into the SD-WAN arena. International carrier Singtel has built a range of service and solution offerings around Viptela’s technology. Verizon and Viptela, during the recent ONUG conference, discussed how they partnered to deploy SD-WAN for a healthcare customer.

What we definitely are not seeing is “scores of failures,” as Gartner’s hype cycle suggests.

We agree, SD-WAN is in its early stages and still ramping up, but we think that the technology will hit the “Plateau of Productivity” before you know it.