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Q&A: The benefits of SD-WAN and its future in the market

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ Supphachai Salaeman)

SD-WAN is the “Netflix of Networks”, capable of transforming infrastructure and bringing greater power and control to network managers. Andrew Halliwell, product director at Virgin Media Business, talks more about what exactly it is and how it’s creating commercial opportunities for businesses.

1. What is SD-WAN and how is the technology being used?

SD-WAN is ‘The Netflix of Networks’. It’s a cloud-ready service designed to support next-generation networking. It provides essential tools that enable large organisations to access cloud data, applications and software - such as Office 365 - from multiple locations. Businesses are using SD-WAN to rapidly scale and alter their networks in line with their needs – it gives them more control over their bandwidth than ever before. Crucially, it also uses encryption to protect networks from cyberattacks, meaning that network managers can be confident that critical business systems are resilient.

2. What are the benefits of SD-WAN over other networking technologies?

SD-WAN builds on existing WAN and VPN technologies and can be used to connect enterprise networks seamlessly and securely. Many businesses are still using IPVPN systems, which were popular in the 1990s and, while these networks still meet some business needs, they aren’t agile enough to support modern digital innovation.

In contrast, SD-WAN offers next-generation agility and flexibility, which is crucially important for any organisation seeking to rapidly expand its operations. Unlike a lot of networking technologies, it means the network can rapidly flex and adapt with the business, providing a  secure digital platform with the cloud at its heart. Ultimately, this helps enterprises transform the way they work and serve customer needs.

3. What’s the impact of SD-WAN on the customer experience?

Our customers’ customers want a smooth and seamless experience, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing online. But without the right network infrastructure in place, businesses could struggle to cope with sudden spikes in demand, harming the customer experience. For example, if a customer is unable to easily purchase items online from a clothing brand, they’re unlikely to use that retailer’s platform again – even if the network issues are rectified afterwards. 

The scalability of SD-WAN allows businesses to quickly adapt to demand, prioritise-mission critical services and keep vital systems running during times of unexpectedly high traffic. For end users, that means a seamless level of service.

4. What’s the impact of SD-WAN on employees internally?

When a business can easily adapt its network, its employees enjoy greater flexibility and control. Everything today’s employees require - from improved remote working capabilities to seamless application performance, access to the latest internal software through to better communication tools – SD-WAN can accelerate and support businesses as they grow and adapt. The inherent scalability of the technology means that businesses can quickly expand – opening new sites and investing in new cloud software – without having to worry about adding pressure to the network.

There are added benefits - a business can remotely diagnose network issues and address them without having to call in a technician, adding convenience and ensuring any issues are rectified speedily.

5. Why do businesses need to care about upgrading their networks?

It’s all well and good having the latest, flashiest technology – whether it’s augmented reality, artificial intelligence or robotics. However, the technology can only be as effective as the foundational networks they sit upon. Without the right network infrastructure in place, workplace technology simply won’t function at an optimal level – leading to wasted investment.

6. What are your future predictions for the technology?

In an age of heightened consumer and employee demands, as well as evolving cyberthreats, the adoption of SD-WAN technology will inevitably grow. Virgin Media Business launched its SD-WAN offering in November 2018 – and it’s been well-received by customers, who have appreciated the flexibility, agility and security it has brought to their networks. As the role of infrastructure continues to grow in importance, we’re expecting the technology to continue to gain in popularity.

Andrew Halliwell, Product Director, Virgin Media Business