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Why are we switching to cloud and software-defined technologies?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Ra2Studio / Shutterstock)

Companies are talking a lot about digital business transformation at the moment. We read about it everyday. It’s everywhere. According to Gartner: “Whether deploying digital technologies to improve workflows or to transform the entire business model, organisations must respond to the challenges of digital business.”

Public Cloud services such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Drive are the key driving forces behind this transformation. From business to government, the world is embracing the latest in software-defined technologies to streamline access to Cloud applications. By doing away with clunky hardware, companies can adopt automated, policy-based management of network resources. Enterprises want to give every employee – whether they are based in corporate headquarters or a small branch office – access to high-performance applications and the data they need. Every site can now become part of the wider company workflow.

SD-WAN is perhaps the most rapidly adopted software-defined technology available today. Since its inception, our team at Expereo has seen a significant surge in Cloud adoption and overall digital transformation for enterprises of almost every kind.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is the latest secure overlay technology of choice, offering control over Cloud applications, network traffic and underlying internet access infrastructure. Tailoring a fit-for-purpose internet network to meet specific business needs, SD-WAN customers have the flexibility to handpick applications, hardware and all other SD-WAN components from a range of providers.

Enterprises will soon no longer be forced into a one size fits all package as SD-WAN services continue to rapidly expand. The overall compound growth rate of the SD-WAN market is 84.7 per cent, as researched by IDC. That amounts to a spend of $4.6 billion by 2022. Managed internet services that SD-WAN provides an overlay for will then see $25.8 billion spend. What does this mean? Organisations across every industry no longer feel compelled to buy the classic managed MPLS connection from a global service provider. Instead, enterprise leaders acknowledge and accept the internet as a trustworthy networking technology, capable of supporting business-critical applications.

SD-WAN solutions bring control to the internet access underlay, as well as application performance insight and ease of network management.

Application performance

SD-WAN has several means of improving application performance. Mainly, this comes down to policy-based management of network resources. As enterprises move online to streamline everyday activities and improve productivity with shared workflows, SD-WAN is able to prioritise traffic to Cloud applications as needed and prevent potential drop-offs.

SD-WAN can also optimise traffic by managing additional services added to the underlay of a network infrastructure. One such example is intelligent routing and cloud acceleration. This system executes thousands of tests per minute, then chooses the best path available for your connection. In this way, intelligent routing can work around any abnormal, erroneous, or sub-optimal routing paths in milliseconds. Issues are detected and solved instantaneously, leaving businesses to run much more smoothly.

Additional dynamic protocols can later be added to an SD-WAN overlay, speeding up performance with automated instructions for traffic. For instance, a dynamic protocol might intervene when packets are lost or received out of order, correcting the issue in milliseconds without any noticeable drop-off in running applications. Automated performance enhancement is a big part of SD-WAN’s inherent flexibility.

SD-WAN reliability

Businesses that require higher availability within a network, to prevent errors or delays in internet connectivity, will benefit from the rise of software-defined technologies. In other words, SD-WAN introduces a certain amount of reliability. This is because additional services can be added to the underlay of an SD-WAN design – such as a combination of dedicated fibre with mobile and broadband connectivity – providing a safety net for businesses.

In order for SD-WAN to function well, it should be given as many connection options as possible. Expereo uses 5G to deliver services on a mobile connectivity platform that are almost identical in performance to fixed-line, terrestrial services, whenever it's available.

Mobile connectivity fits very well into an internet underlay design for SD-WAN and Cloud access. Ensuring that businesses can be flexible and fast, that they have a redundant internet solution ensuring site and application availability. Businesses using SD-WAN will therefore be able to maintain peak productivity even in the event of fixed line drop outs.

Cost effectiveness

It’s undeniable that switching to SD-WAN can have a big impact on cost effectiveness for businesses, but try to keep your expectations realistic. The promise of 90 per cent cost reduction is unlikely for most enterprise sites. Likewise, the cost-saving calculators found on carrier websites should be taken with a pinch of salt. Instead, consider the indirect cost savings provided by SD-WAN.

Broadband might look cheap, but the real costs of maintaining reliable network connectivity are not found on ISP price pages. SD-WAN savings come from leveraging lower WAN transport and infrastructure costs, alongside improved operational efficiencies.

Just look at ModusLink, who recently replaced their legacy MPLS VPN network with SD-WAN over dual internet – a mix of DIA and broadband. The company saw cost savings of over 35 per cent across 26 international sites in the USA, China, Australia, the Netherlands and more. Ted Holland, Director of Global IT Infrastructure and Operations, concluded that "our primary goal, to reduce costs, was clearly achieved. Our secondary goal, not to lose any existing functionality, was exceeded.”

Software-defined technology is here, it is now, and we have to act on it. Companies that fail to address digital business transformation are likely to disappear within the next 10 years – whether from excessive network costs or poor performance. Don’t be left behind.

Salim Khouri, Solutions Engineer, Expereo