SD-WAN: A Modern Approach to Connectivity for Digital Businesses

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Digital transformation has crossed the chasm from visionary aspiration to practical implementation and in the process, it is disrupting technologies across the business landscape.

As enterprises and governments transform their operations, many are finding their legacy wide area networks (WANs) cannot meet today’s digital-driven bandwidth demands. Rather than giving them a competitive edge and supporting business growth, their networks are stifling innovation and impeding flexibility.

To address this challenge, software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) are emerging as a smart way to streamline connections among enterprise sites.

Enterprise WANs are under pressure to keep pace with the cloud revolution, which plays a critical role in digital transformation. “Companies worldwide are aggressively consolidating their data centers, implementing new data models, and shifting development to agile, mobile-first, cloud-based models,” IDC Group Vice President and IT executive advisor Joseph Pucciarelli writes in the Winter 2018 Issue of CIO's Digital Magazine.

According to IDC, more than 70% of IT organizations in a recent survey currently use cloud services like Infrastructure as a Service, and 90% plan to use Platform as a Service in 12 months. Other factors straining enterprise WANs include big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) — both dependent on cloud.

The problem with existing technologies

Over the past two decades, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) has evolved as the predominant technology for enterprise WANs, given its ability to accommodate multiple protocols such as the increasingly important Internet protocol (IP). With the ability to support Quality of Service (QoS) requirements and assign different Class of Service (CoS) bandwidth prioritization to varied applications, MPLS has essentially become the default for interconnecting data centers to branch offices and remote operations.

But MPLS can be costly for remote operations and time-consuming to provision or reconfigure for new business needs. As a result, many enterprises supplement MPLS carrier-managed private lines with IP virtual private networks (IP VPNs) that are quicker to set up and less costly, but lack the QoS and CoS manageability of MPLS. This hybrid approach is ill-equipped to meet the growing reliance on cloud services. It shouldn’t be surprising then that in Computerworld's Tech Forecast 2017 survey, more than half of survey respondents gave their organizations a grade C or lower in their progress toward digital transformation.

Today’s enterprises are increasingly adopting cloud-based infrastructure and migrating enterprise applications to the cloud for access from distributed locations. This makes legacy WAN management more difficult and complex in a business environment that demands change and flexibility.

The Growth of SD-WAN

“The increase in cloud adoption for business applications throughout the enterprise disrupts the prominence of MPLS-based WAN connectivity to the branch,” according to IDC. “SD-WAN is increasingly leveraged to provide dynamic connectivity and automate path selection in a policy-driven, centrally manageable distributed network architecture.” IDC projects that SD-WAN sales will grow at a 69% compound annual growth rate to $8.05 billion in 2021

“SD-WAN offerings typically include a bundle of routing and WAN optimization infrastructure combined with policy controller and overlay network software, which enable applications to customize the network characteristics they need,” writes Network World senior editor Brandon Butler. For example, he writes, an SD-WAN could ensure that UC or other services always have first priority for network connectivity, while giving secondary priority for high-bandwidth traffic like video and social media.

SD-WAN differentiators

Given the projected market growth for SD-WAN solutions, there’s fierce competition among carriers that stand to lose MPLS growth, VPN hardware suppliers, and emerging companies. For enterprises looking for an effective SD-WAN solution, this makes for a confusing selection process.

Some key attributes to look for in a long-term SD-WAN solution include:

  • Flexible bundling of many types of WAN links (such as xDSL, 3G/4G/5G, and GPON) over MPLS or the Internet
  • Quick, automated provisioning
  • Application-aware smart traffic scheduling to flexibly switch services between links
  • Visualized cloud-based operation and management for uniformly managing the LAN and WAN
  • Open interfaces for compatibility with third-party solutions

Huawei’s SD-WAN solution utilizes those attributes to provide on-demand interconnection between branches, between branches and data centers, and between branches and the cloud. The solution is the first to pass SD-WAN testing by the European Advanced Networking Test Center, which is an internationally recognized independent test center.

The Digital Difference

SD-WAN is a critical emerging solution to accelerate the cloud-centric, digital business. As businesses expand their use of cloud and emerging technologies, they need to overcome the issues of high costs, slow response, and difficult operation and management of traditional enterprise leased lines.

Some companies will prefer to manage their own SD-WAN services within the enterprise, others will opt for tenant services on a carrier-managed SD-WAN. Regardless of which option is deployed, Huawei’s SD-WAN solution is designed to deliver the ultimate experience in enterprise interconnection through application-based intelligent traffic steering and acceleration, a full series of open universal customer premise equipment options, and cloud-based management.

Only an open and flexible WAN infrastructure can fully achieve the expectations of digital business. For more information on employing SD-WAN, go to http://e.huawei.com/en/solutions/technical/sdn/sd-wan 

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.