May 02, 2022 | 4 min read
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How SD-WAN enables transformation for retail, business services and manufacturing


Brian Washburn, Research Director, Service Provider Enterprise & Wholesale

Across all industries, more than half of large enterprises now have software-defined networking somewhere in their network strategy. Over the years, Omdia has watched small deployments become bigger, and larger SD-WAN estates grow network-wide. Which is making the different industries look at SD-WAN differently.

Each is trying to fill its own requirements, prioritizing performance and security, flexibility and cost. In this article we will see how the retail, business services, and manufacturing industries adapt SD-WAN to their needs.

Common SD-WAN trends

When it comes to SD-WAN, there are some common patterns for use across all industries.

  • Trend #1: They find SD-WAN as a toolkit incredibly versatile.
  • Trend #2: They make SD-WAN part of a bigger network and IT strategy with their network underlay, cloud, and applications.
  • Trend #3: When enterprises plan right, they see big benefits and are highly satisfied with their SD-WAN choice.  

However, there are some nuances to each industry where they have capitalized on different aspects of SD-WAN.

How is SD-WAN being adopted in retail?

Retailers mix physical stores and online e-commerce. Customers experience retail as personalized interactive shopping, complete self-service, and everything in between. But the whole sector has constant pressure to keep sales flowing and keep expenses low.


Tough margins and stiff competition were normal before COVID-19 up-ended the retail world. Retailers had to become omnichannel, linking everything: stores to warehouses, purchases to returns. They needed to be consistent; in-person, voice, computer, and mobile device. They created a blended brand experience for customer relationships.

Software-defined networking helped retailers move from more expensive private WAN to less expensive broadband and dedicated Internet. This was ideal for retailers with tight budgets and many locations. Done right, SD-WAN and Internet have acceptable reliability and performance for retail stores.

Retail was an early sector to use SD-WAN. Today, more than two-thirds of large retailers have SD-WAN, often trading out their older gear for a new SD-WAN vendor.

What’s driving SD-WAN adoption in retail?

Cost reduction and support for new applications are important to retailers, but the top reasons retailers adopt SD-WAN are:

  1. 1. Better performance.
  2. 2. Improved flexibility.
  3. 3. Visibility and management over the network.

Centralized control is especially important: Retail stores often have many locations, and no dedicated IT experts on-site for network problems.

Almost all retail SD-WAN adopters are very satisfied. The few retailers reporting problems with their SD-WAN handled their own SD-WAN network design and installation, manage their own hardware and software, and configure their own policies and SD-WAN security.

Managing SD-WAN in-house can mean there is no expert assistance when something unexpected happens.

How are professional services companies using SD-WAN?

Business or professional services companies might supply expertise in legal, regulation, and compliance; support IT hardware and software; bring specialized talent to another industry. Companies in business services depend on their talent and rely on technology to ensure their own, and their clients’ business outcomes.

Cloud is critical to business services companies which is why they are a big buyer of private WAN connections to cloud. This suits their business model as they often deal in information, grow and shrink for projects, and manage distributed workforces.

But, business services companies need to ensure solid performance from their cloud applications so workers, partners, and clients all work together smoothly is critical. Keeping all that information secure is critical too.

Still, the sector is very sensitive to cloud-related performance problems. Omdia surveys show 63% of business services companies had major network/cloud performance problems in the past 12 months.

Our findings on software-defined networking adoption in business services:

In our surveys, we found that:

  • Just over 60% of large enterprises in business services have adopted SD-WAN.
  • The technology delivers the security and performance these companies want.
  • When business services companies adopt SD-WAN, they are more likely than other industries to push SD-WAN to most or all their sites.
  • Business services companies are also very happy with their SD-WAN outcomes.
  • SD-WAN adopters in business services rate their experience a 7.9 out of 10 on average.

And this is the highest level of satisfaction of all the industries we surveyed.

Why manufacturing companies adopt SD-WAN

Manufacturers mainly use technology in two ways: One is operational technology with machines on the factory floor have become more intelligent and more connected over time.

The other major technology area is IT services, which must manage the constant supply chain flow of material orders and product shipments.

Manufacturers need continuity in their operations. If their systems all work, they are making money. If any piece in the chain breaks down and the factory stops producing, a small break in one link is a big cost to the business.

Omdia’s enterprise surveys find nearly 60% of large manufacturers have adopted SD-WAN.

Manufacturers use SD-WAN a little differently from other industries as they are likely to look to their network underlay first.

Manufacturers need to be certain their networks, like the rest of their operations, are reliable. To help with reliability, manufacturers more often tap managed services partners to keep on-site network access gear up and running. This holds for SD-WAN, routers, firewalls, and other gear.

What are the desired outcomes of SD-WAN in manufacturing?

Across SD-WAN and other managed network services, the manufacturing sector wants performance, reliability, and security. These benefits compete for priority.

Less important are on-the-fly, dynamic networks. Most manufacturers do not see a need to make network changes on the fly. The value of their networks comes from continuous, reliable operations at predictable costs. Software-defined networking is useful to keep tabs on applications performance and keep the network up and running.

However, many companies across all three industries prefer to use a responsible partner that takes care of these SD-WAN network tasks for them.

Managing your own SD-WAN deployment can be stressful, but not with Expereo

Expereo Managed SD-WAN connects all your people, workloads and things seamlessly with a unified cloud delivered network and security solution.

Our expertise and vendor-agnostic approach mean you can cut through the noise and simplify your operations with a single partner, operating under a single engagement, offering best-of-breed technology designed to your exact needs.

Get in touch today to discuss your needs.


Brian Washburn, Research Director, Service Provider Enterprise & Wholesale

Omdia is a leading research and advisory group focused on the technology industry. With clients operating in over 120 countries, Omdia provides market-critical data, analysis, advice and custom consulting.

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