To run a fully functional modern business successfully, it is taken for granted that an organisation will make use of cloud technologies. Increasingly, business applications are migrating to cloud and according to Logic Monitor’s Cloud Vision 2020 report, more than 80 per cent of enterprise workloads will run in the cloud by 2020. Indeed, it is essential that businesses realise the value of cloud transformation and not be stymied by their network capabilities. To make the most of cloud, companies need to embrace a networking solution that can deliver a multiplier effect from their cloud investments.
To compete in today’s digitalised economy, it is becoming vital that companies put their cloud capabilities before all else. In any comprehensive approach to cloud, a business must always be able to connect users directly to cloud applications and it is imperative that they can rapidly deliver new applications to thousands of sites, across multiple clouds, in the shortest amount of time possible. To be able to meet these demands, an organisation must look towards its network.
Legacy network infrastructure in the cloud era
Unfortunately, today’s approaches weren’t designed for the cloud era, and as a result, force compromise. Traditional router-based and basic SD-WAN infrastructure can’t keep up in the face of the cloud business transformation because network traffic patterns have shifted, the fundamental nature of applications has changed, and security needs are different when everything is open and connected in the cloud.
Designed before the conception of cloud, traditional router-based networks backhaul all traffic from branch offices back to the data centre instead of straight to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) applications and instances, impairing application performance and business productivity. The requirement to backhaul is due either to an inflexible architecture and/or security requirement that dictates advanced inspections that conventional routers lack the ability to perform.
SD-WAN technology has enabled enterprises to connect users directly and securely to cloud applications and services using any underlying transport available on the network, whether it is broadband internet, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), or even 4G LTE. While basic SD-WANs offer an advancement beyond router-based infrastructure, they still fall well short of the goal of a fully automated cloud ready and secure network.
The business-driven SD-WAN revolution
This has led companies to turn to a business-driven SD-WAN approach, where the network becomes an enabler to the company, rather than a constraint. Some of the key reasons driving this networking revolution include:
A business-first networking model is a top down approach. It is one in which the network conforms to the business in contrast to the legacy router-centric approach where applications – and the business – must conform to the constraints imposed by the network. Business intent defines how applications should be delivered to end users and can include performance, priority, security, resiliency, and routing commands that should be applied differently, depending on the application. In Layman’s terms, a network manager can tell the network what it wants to do from a business standpoint – for example set the platform to prioritise all video calls – and the advanced SD-WAN technology will deploy, deliver and enforce the command holistically, no matter where the organisation’s branch offices are located.
Solving the ‘first-mile’ issue
Only leading business-driven SD-WAN platforms offer a solution to the industry-defining ‘first-mile’ issue. Network traffic from the branch office (‘first mile’) is often sent long distances, making numerous hops between several tiers of internet service providers (ISPs), ultimately causing unpredictable levels of packet loss and jitter. Inadequate application service level agreements (SLAs) across the internet are one of the most significant barriers to consistent performance for SaaS applications. By bonding tunnels and automating the entire process, a business-driven SD-WAN solution can bypass subpar networks, guaranteeing organisations have consistent and reliable performance for connecting users to cloud applications.
Centralised and adaptive orchestration
Furthermore, a business-driven SD-WAN network allows for centralised and adaptive orchestration that enables self-learning and continuous control to ensure ongoing alignment with business intent. In the cloud era, a company’s network often changes, new links are added, SaaS applications or IaaS providers make changes, or new cloud security Points of Presence (PoPs) are supplemented. Such changes are monitored and learnt by an advanced SD-WAN platform, which continuously and automatically adapts to ensure peak network performance. Through such a solution, disruption to cloud services is minimised and applications do not break or falter because of poor network connectivity. Indeed, this can translate into competitive differentiation, higher productivity from employees and ultimately, higher revenue as the business continues to operate normally, even under less than ideal conditions.
Making the most of operational expenditure
The best way to think of the effect of a business-driven SD-WAN on cloud and existing infrastructure is both as a multiplier and an insurance policy. With prolific and expensive SaaS applications often mission-critical to business activities, any disruption to cloud services can result in lost opportunity. For a small portion of an organisation’s overall spend, business-driven SD-WAN platforms can guarantee all applications run at peak performance meaning that businesses are getting what they pay for. This is especially true for notoriously sensitive voice and video applications, which can be run at peak performance over low-cost broadband with service level agreements (SLAs).
On top of this, enterprises also gain the ability to slowly or entirely retire legacy branch routers and firewalls, automate everything, gain advanced security and the freedom to select best-of-breed partners without compromise. SD-WAN can be run seamlessly alongside router-centric architecture, while the contracts are running their course. With SD-WAN approaches reaching the intelligent WAN edge, businesses are getting a smarter network that collates routing, security and WAN optimisation features. These business-driven solutions are designed for the future, since they are constantly incorporating the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and self-learning to become a self-driving wide area network that gets smarter every day.
Given the scope of cloud transformation, it’s undeniable that the technology is soon set to underline all business activity. As such, it is essential that enterprises find a network solution that delivers a multiplier effect on cloud investments by ensuring the best application performance and enhancing employee productivity. Indeed, a business-driven SD-WAN solution can help firms to future proof their networks with guaranteed control and functionality, while continuing to evolve in the face of fast-paced technological transformation.
Kristian Thyregod, vice president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa, Silver Peak