Is SD-WAN the key to business transformation?

Karl McDermott
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On: 22 Aug 2019
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SD WAN

We are in a changing business landscape. Irish businesses are migrating their applications to the cloud at a steady pace. By 2020 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud. Successful migration to the cloud requires a robust, flexible infrastructure, but with increasingly complex demands and bandwidth requirements, traditional networks are struggling to keep up with those needs. SD-WAN is a network technology that could make all the difference to businesses that want to embrace the cloud and take the next step to a more efficient way of working.

Enterprises’ network requirements are growing in complexity.

The simplicity of working from the cloud, where you can access applications and data from anywhere, belies the diverse underlying infrastructure required to make it function. With every new application now available via the cloud and every new remote location requiring access, demands on the network become ever more complex. Users are accessing different clouds and from multiple locations around the world; they require consistent bandwidth so they can be as productive as possible; they need a resilient, always-available connection and they need all of this quickly and seamlessly.

What is SD-WAN and how does it help?

With SD-WAN (software defined wide area network), the burden of traffic management has been removed from physical devices and is instead centrally managed by software. SD-WAN is a simpler and easier way for network administrators to use available bandwidth more efficiently and to prioritise network traffic so that critical applications receive the highest levels of performance. The technology is available to companies of all sizes and can bring additional cost savings especially for those with locations overseas.

Enterprises can quickly and easily reroute bandwidth to specific locations on the network or to applications that might need a temporary boost. Traditionally, requests for bandwidth increases required advanced notice, interaction with an engineer and a waiting period. With SD-WAN, bandwidth boosts or traffic re-prioritisation becomes as simple as pushing a button. This gives businesses the ability to react faster to market trends, company needs, or unexpected events.

To provide increased access to bandwidth, an SD-WAN can also use both the primary and back-up connection simultaneously. Typically an enterprise’s back-up line will only be used in the event of the primary connection going down. The SD-WAN cleverly makes use of both connections and their respective bandwidth, providing a useful boost where necessary.

SD-WAN provides the resiliency and flexibility today’s enterprise needs.

With so much data flowing back and forth trying to access applications in multiple clouds, businesses are now utterly dependent on their network. Any network outage could lead to significant downtime as business grinds to a halt. And while enterprises will typically have a primary and back-up link, failover to a back-up connection can take time, and in an environment where a company’s mission critical applications are sitting in the cloud, every second is vital.

An SD-WAN has the capacity to understand each connection’s performance. It quickly identifies any issues and re-routes all traffic instantly if a connection goes down. SD-WAN provides application-aware routing which will dynamically route traffic between dedicated backup circuits and secure Internet connections to drive constant delivery of business-critical applications.  Conversely, once the issue has been fixed, traffic is directed back to the primary link. 

Previously if an enterprise wanted to improve their WAN, they had to invest in dedicated links, hardware and of course expert engineers to set it up. This could take time, and that’s even before all of this equipment was configured correctly. With an SD-WAN, enterprises can combine different access technologies – DSL, 4G, microwave, fibre – at specific locations to build a network fit for their purpose.

SD-WAN is simplifying the complex enterprise infrastructure.

Let’s not forget that for most enterprises, their core business isn’t running a network, it’s providing a service or a product. In this complex environment they are struggling to keep up with these new demands on their network. 

This is where SD-WAN is making a difference. It sits on top of the underlying infrastructure, takes sites on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or any other access technology, and other sites using SD-WAN, and presents them as one network via a centralised control panel. This single pane of glass gives enterprises ultimate visibility into the inner workings of their network connections. 

From this easy-to-use management pane, enterprises can control and manage their infrastructure. Any adjustments, from bandwidth boosts to application prioritisation, can be done through the SD-WAN’s simple user interface.

SD-WAN shoring up enterprise network security. 

Naturally, as an enterprise’s network grows and adds connection points, this increases the avenues for malicious attack.  Thanks to the improved network visibility available with an SD-WAN, businesses have better control over the security on the network. They can instantly see what’s happening and if anomalies occur. Many SD-WANs can also protect application traffic from threats within the company and from outside by leveraging a full suite of included security solutions, such as next generation firewalls, intrusion prevention, URL filtering, malware protection and cloud security.

SD-WANs also play well with other technologies and applications. Integrating an SD-WAN with an AI application helps the virtual WAN to make decisions and react to scenarios. By tying it into Active Directory, the SD-WAN identifies users and their associated permissions, allowing it to detect any changes in behaviour and take immediate action.

SD-WAN is unsurprisingly making waves in the enterprise space, where savvy organisations are recognising it as the enabler it is. Aside from the cost benefits, where international sites can be inexpensively connected back to the main hub through a simple internet connection, the ability to prioritise applications will deliver incredible productivity benefits. With SD-WAN, enterprises can effectively take control of their network. In this digital age, this power is going to become more and more important.

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