Over the last few years, software defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) deployments have sky rocketed, and for good reason. Although still an emerging technology - businesses are quickly recognising it as a more efficient and cost-effective way of enhancing WAN performance to meet the needs of cloud infrastructure.
The tech industry is constantly evolving, what was once the latest and greatest, soon lags behind - with SD-WAN quickly becoming one of the newest innovations to disrupt proceedings and help deliver the benefits of the cloud. As businesses become increasingly aware of the advantages of SD-WAN, the rate of adoption is expected to grow rapidly with IDC predicting the worldwide SD-WAN market to be valued at $6 billion by 2020.
As businesses shift into the age of digital transformation, SD-WAN has emerged as the next generation of networking solutions. From applications performance and agility, to network security and cost savings, organisations can reap the benefits of SD-WAN and all it has to offer.
So, why SD-WAN?
Imagine your company has branch offices across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Two of the offices might connect over a single internet connection, while the third uses multiple internet providers.
Given the security vulnerability and performance fluctuations that come with using the internet for business-critical applications, your company needs a more robust network solution which previously could only be achieved by building dedicated MPLS networks to connect all of their sites together.
Without a large in-house IT department and a significant budget for high-availability backup access, expansion will be time consuming and costly. That was until in the introduction of SD-WAN.
Network performance and agility are critical to the success of digital transformation initiatives and the effectiveness of the hybrid IT environment that underpin them. As data volumes grow and applications become more distributed – network technologies must be equally agile to keep up with pace.
SD-WAN has now emerged as a transformative connectivity technology that is empowering companies of all sizes with multiple branch offices or locations to create a more intelligent enterprise-grade wide area networks.
As businesses utilise a growing number of cloud-based applications, traditional WAN networks are no longer able to maintain strong speeds and optimised connectivity. SD-WAN is an overlay. It provides visibility into, and control over, underlying networks so that a user can control network settings and prioritise traffic. This means IT teams can quickly and easily define rules to prioritise the most important network traffic, for example voice and critical applications. It also allows new sites to be added to a WAN very easily as long as there is an existing connection – internet or even LTE (4G).
When SD-WAN is implemented, it is important to ensure that current application performance and user experience is not impacted. An organisation’s IT team needs to ensure that they are well-versed with the WAN management portal and can fine tune configuration of the network till the desired performance is achieved. This is different from traditional WAN solutions that were more hard-coded and less flexible. This shift in mindset is a big factor in the successful deployment of SD-WAN.
Business benefits of SD-WAN
SD-WAN offers numerous benefits for businesses of all sizes and is particularly ideal for any organisation with more than one location that needs to provide secure, reliable and easily managed connectivity between locations.
SD-WAN isn’t just about cost-saving, it provides a simple, secure and agile enterprise-grade WAN connection for companies with distributed branch office locations using cloud-based applications.
An overarching benefit of SD-WAN is that it allows organisations to stay focused on IT business goals. It does this by seamlessly connecting remote branch office locations to a private network in a simple, fast and more cost-effective way than traditional WAN’s - all without the need for any on-site IT support.
The beauty of SD-WAN is that it creates a secure global network connection that’s always on, and provides the security that businesses need within their existing internet, so you can trust all the software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications you use today and tomorrow. Unlike traditional and MPLS solutions, SD-WAN provides end-to-end encryption of data in transit as standard, therefore making it inherently more secure.
How different sectors leverage the benefits of SD-WAN
SD-WAN adoption is seeing significant growth in a range of different sectors and company sizes. As a rule, the more dependent a business is on IT applications that require communications with the company’s distributed locations, individuals and devices, the greater the potential benefits of SD-WAN deployment.
Organisations within the retail space with a large number of remote or branch offices need secure networks in order to protect the transmission of credit card information captured during payment operations.
It is also important for retail organisations to have efficient networks that support their employees during time sensitive tasks. You’ve no doubt experienced a member of staff apologising over a slow sale – a problem that is often caused by un-optimised networks. SD-WAN technology can provide businesses with the needed security to send and receive retail financial data and ensure that networks are fast and efficient at all times.
The financial industry is another sector that will benefit from the improved security, reliability and performance of SD-WAN. Organisations such as banks need fast and reliable access to their databases when serving their customers. Financial networks also increasingly need access to cloud services in order to function, which is not an option on private networks.
Education is perhaps one of the sectors that has most benefited from digital transformation. It was not that long ago when schools only had ICT in the classrooms that were directly related to the subject itself. Now, with the rise of personal devices, digital curriculum and online assessments, schools are experiencing a growing need for bandwidth management.
SD-WAN allows universities to prioritise academic traffic and applications over the demands of the student population for example, streaming services such as Netflix. It can also segment student traffic from teacher, from admin and from guest traffic, protecting student privacy. For schools, universities, and other public and private education institutions, SD-WAN can deliver better learning experiences with lower costs and higher bandwidths.
The rate at which technology advances means that businesses must keep pace or run the risk of becoming irrelevant. The same can be said when it comes to connectivity; business demand is rapidly increasing and shaping the need for better, cost effective and more functional solutions.
As more and more organisations reap the benefits of SD-WAN, we may begin to see a shift in how we think about the technologies that provide the foundation for business growth and success. The emergence of SD-WAN now means organisations can stay focused on their IT business goals, whilst ensuring connectivity is not the weak link in cloud adoption, and instead becomes the foundation for digital success.
Tom Adams, Director of Product Marketing, Cogeco Peer 1
Image Credit: Flex