Part 2 of the six-part series – The 2023 Global Networking Trends Report series.

Cloud is the undisputed center of gravity when supporting distributed workforces. But managing secure connectivity in a growing multicloud environment continues to be more complex, expensive, and time consuming.  

Enter the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), a powerful, abstracted software layer that serves as a centralized control plane to enable organizations to automate, simplify, and optimize their network transport for any application to any cloud.   

Are you ready to steer traffic on demand, based on centralized policy, network insights, and predictive AI, and further enhanced by end-to-end visibility? Do you want to be more proactive instead of reactive in how you manage this traffic and run your network? If so, read on! 

Abstracting the complexity of multicloud 

Enterprises accelerated their transition to cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) during the pandemic to support their distributed workforces at home and on the go. This has seen multicloud environments become the norm. Our 2023 Global Networking Trends Report found that 92% of respondents used more than one public cloud in their infrastructure and 69% used over five SaaS applications.  

Connecting to different providers and network layers in multicloud environments has led to a patchwork of infrastructure and management controllers. This results in more complexity and cost for organizations looking to ensure a secure, consistent user experience.  

Networking complexity, from first to last mile 

Let’s look at these networking layers and why IT simplification is crucial in connecting today’s highly mobile workforce to business-critical applications.  

In the first mile, users access services from offices and campuses near data centers or remotely, from uncontrolled facilities using various devices (Figure 1). Workers connect through Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), broadband, Wi-Fi, and cellular. Remote workers use their internet service provider (ISP) to connect them to concentrators at regional peering points of presence (PoPs).  


Figure 1. New architecture for the distributed workplace  


The middle mile is the long-haul transport layer that has grown in complexity with the migration to the cloud. It serves as the connective tissue between first and last mile, interconnecting different types of cloud services, cloud applications (e.g., SaaS, IaaS), and data centers. Specialized middle-mile providers like Equinix and Megaport provide cross-connects between business networks, the internet, and cloud providers globally. Adding to the array of choices in the middle mile, public cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure offer customers the ability to access their apps with site-to-cloud, site-to-site, region-to-region, cloud-to-cloud, and other connection options with different quality of experience metrics.  

The last mile is the connection between the data center or service provider and the end user’s device and application.    

Managing multicloud complexity with SD-WAN integrations  

Using applications distributed across multiple clouds and SaaS, workers have widely different experiences depending on their location. Adverse and unpredictable amounts of downtime, latency, and speed, for example, can threaten business continuity. So, establishing reliable, consistent, high-quality experiences is very much on the minds of enterprise IT managers today. 

More than half (53%) of respondents to the 2023 Global Networking Trends Report said they are prioritizing integration with cloud providers to improve connectivity to cloud-based apps from distributed locations. Additionally, 49% said they are using SD-WAN integrations across providers and multiple clouds to provide a simpler, consistent, optimized, and secure IT and application experience. 

SD-WAN unifies the entire WAN backbone and brings secure, private, cloud-aware connectivity that is agnostic to all kinds of link types, providers, and geographies (Figure 2).  


Figure 2. SD-WAN integrations with IaaS, SaaS, and middle-mile providers are vital for a better IT and user experience 


With SD-WAN providing connectivity between cloud, SaaS, and middle-mile providers, real-time traffic steering based on centralized policy and end-to-end analytics is possible. Network admins can be proactive instead of reactive, changing traffic parameters on demand, according to application, congestion, location, user, device, and other factors. 

SD-WAN multicloud integrations in action 

Tamimi Markets, a major Saudi Arabian supermarket chain, was having trouble providing a consistent experience to users at markets, warehouses, branch offices, and remote locations. Dependent on three ISPs for end-to-end connectivity in a hub-and-spoke architecture, they moved to a cloud architecture to eliminate the need to backhaul network traffic through the headquarters and in the process quadrupled bandwidth speeds. An integrated SD-WAN enables them to steer their traffic over a variety of link options based on network demand, cost, and quality of experience metrics.  

Asian food manufacturer Universal Robina Corporation shifted to a multicloud architecture to support remote workers after the pandemic. It uses SD-WAN to connect users and apps to its multicloud architecture securely, wherever they are located. The multicloud integrations enable secure connectivity from branches to the Microsoft Azure cloud and with Microsoft 365 for a superior application experience with informed network routing (INR) that enables the exchange of telemetry between Cisco and Microsoft while providing full visibility to Universal Robina’s IT team. 

Foundational for a SASE architecture 

Another benefit of SD-WAN is that it is one half of a converged secure access service edge (SASE) architecture. SASE radically simplifies security and networking through unified and centralized management to connect users to applications in complex and highly distributed environments. By combining SD-WAN networking infrastructure and routing traffic through a cloud-centric security service edge (SSE) solution, companies can maintain the same level of security for cloud users as data center users (Figure 3). 

Figure 3. SD-WAN is foundational to a SASE architecture 


It’s a multicloud world and SD-WAN―with tight integrations to leading cloud, SaaS, and middle-mile providers―is the connective tissue from first mile to last, managing complexity and driving agility throughout sprawling multicloud environments.

What’s more, SD-WAN multicloud integrations bring together each organization’s many different types of transport connections and policies under one management system for secure, consistent service.

The cost savings from automation and the ability to steer traffic on demand with optimized routing are further compelling reasons why SD-WAN continues to grow in popularity. Once established, these features enable IT departments to build an optimized global network in a simplified, fully automated way, within hours. 


Watch the Global Networking Trends on-demand webinar:

Securely connect people, places, and things in an ever-changing world


Hugo Vliegen

VP of Product Management and Technical Marketing

Enterprise Routing and SD-WAN