In spite of an overall lack of education and skills relating to clouds, friendly networking technologies, the results revealed more and more EMEA businesses are investing in software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), a technology that helps users access the clouds quickly and securely.
Unsurprisingly, considering the fiscal and reputational damage that follows a data breach, the chief priority for IT teams (for 52% of respondents) is reducing the risk of cyber attacks – which overtakes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), automation and Internet of Things (IoT) projects. These results prove that businesses are focused on solidifying their security strategy before moving towards further innovation-led development.
Conversely, nearly half (47%) cited security as the biggest challenge when using clouds. When it came to wide area networks (WAN), however, performance to the cloud took first prize, with 42% voting it their biggest obstacle.

Not all who SD-WANder are lost

It is encouraging to see EMEA organisations are utilising SD-WAN to tackle the latency and security challenges across their clouds and WAN environments: over a quarter (26%) have already deployed SD-WAN, with nearly two thirds (64%) either considering, or in the process of, deploying. This leaves 7% of organisations with no plans whatsoever to deploy SD-WAN.
Our research found that the key reason for EMEA’s adoption of SD-WAN was to improve application performance between locations (17%), narrowly beaten by the desire to reduce security risks at remote locations (16%).
The IT C-Suite (CIO, CTO, CISO, etc.) is responsible for driving just under a third (28%) of EMEA SD-WAN deployments, a finding that differentiates EMEA from the rest of the world, where IT networking teams primarily drive these projects (29%). It appears that decisions within EMEA are made higher up the ladder, with CEOs driving 8% of SD-WAN deployments – ahead of both the US (5%) and APAC (7%).
SD-WAN enabled organisations are already reaping the rewards. A staggering 98% have already benefited from SD-WAN, citing increased network security (46%) as the most impactful benefit. Respondents were quick to note financial benefits too, estimating an average of $1,312,311 (USD) saved in MPLS and networking costs in just one year thanks to SD-WAN.

A long road ahead to the clouds

As successful as this may all sound, EMEA still has a long way to go when it comes to SD-WAN education. Worryingly, just a third (33%) believe they totally understand SD-WAN and its offering – far less than the rest of the world (57% US, 41% APAC).
Whatever the cause for this may be, all signs point to a shortage of the skills and expertise needed to deploy SD-WAN, a sentiment shared with more than a third (34%) of EMEA respondents. As for those who have yet to deploy the technology, the main obstacle is a lack of internal skills (30%), with a quarter (25%) admitting they simply do not know enough about SD-WAN.
A frightening result, likely due to the absence of education on the subject, showed that over half (53%) of EMEA respondent believe SD-WAN is a buzzword that will fail to revolutionise networking. Equally alarming, half of our respondents believe the myth that their SD-WAN solution is fully equipped to keep their network secure, when in reality most SD-WAN solutions require additional security solutions.
What’s more, a quarter (25%) of EMEA respondents believe SD-WAN security to be worse than a combination of a corporate firewall and virtual private network (VPN), significantly higher than their US (7%) and APAC (9%) counterparts. Admittedly SD-WAN has different security compared to traditional WAN, but that’s not to say it can’t be equally as secure.
An apparent lack of education aside, the EMEA region remains hopeful; 43% believe SD-WAN will replace MPLS as the leading solution, with nearly two thirds (63%) recognising that their current WAN will become outdated if they fail to embrace SD-WAN.
Acknowledging their lack of skills, many respondents were quick to address the need for further education within their organisations, with 64% agreeing that they currently don’t have access to the necessary training. Of those organisations who are in the process of, or considering, an SD-WAN deployment, under half (48%) said they will train existing staff, and 46% opting to hire new staff with specialised skills. When deciding on an SD-WAN solution, nine in ten (91%) value technical support and consultancy above all else.

We do not need no education

While these findings highlight the positive effect the new data regulation has had on EMEA organisations and their perception of cyber threats, it is clear that the region leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to SD-WAN education. Although IT teams are recognising cybersecurity as a primary concern (even becoming a CEO worthy issue), a shortage of SD-WAN skills and education is severely halting their cybersecurity progress, leaving them crying out for SD-WAN training.
Consider this a call to arms for the industry: only through working together, through better education, and a combined focus on bridging the skills gap can we begin to truly reap the benefits of SD-WAN. Until then, confusion, cynicism and chaos may reign.