A digital-first enterprise needs SD-WAN

As enterprises shift into the age of digital transformation, SD-WAN is increasingly being seen as the next generation of networking solutions. From application performance and agility, to cost savings and network security, there are some important benefits SD-WAN brings to digital-first organizations.

network wan
Gerd Altmann (CC0)

Since the advent of the internet and IP, networking technology has not seen a seismic shift of this magnitude that is occurring in Enterprise networks today. As organizations move from on-premises application hosting to a cloud-based approach, they are inundated with the inherent challenges of legacy network solutions. The conventional network architectures in most of today’s enterprises, were not built to handle the workloads of a cloud-first organization. Moreover, the increasing usage of broadband to connect to multi-cloud-based applications have escalated concerns around application performance, agility, and network security.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) has gained immense traction among CIOs lately. Gartner forecasts that SD-WAN will grow at a 59% compound annual growth rate through 2021 to become a $1.3 billion market. This is because there are a myriad of payoffs of moving to SD-WAN: Primarily, SD-WAN enables easier access to cloud and SaaS based applications for geographically distributed branch offices and mobile work force. Here are but just a few other important benefits that SD-WAN brings to digital-first organizations:

Enhanced application experience

As organizations expand their cloud and SaaS portfolio, branch locations and remote workers increasingly depend on the internet as the preferred path to cloud-based applications. However, the public internet is a congested and latency-riddled highway. The internet, by itself, is unable to prioritize network traffic, meaning non-work-related internet usage could be consuming the bandwidth necessary for mission critical applications like web-based ERP/CRM or salesforce services.

SD-WAN couples the principals of application-aware or context-based routing to optimally leverage multiple methods of connecting remote sites to public, private, or hybrid cloud. SD-WAN allows organizations to define business intent and outcome associated with each application (prioritize business-critical applications and choose the best path for it) and determine the most optimal combination of individual users, applications, and connectivity types for intelligent network traffic routing.

IT agility

SD-WAN brings the principles of the cloud to the networks; therefore, IT teams can now deploy, provision, and dynamically scale requirements on-demand.

Imagine that your business wants to add three more offshore sales offices. With cloud, it is only a matter of minutes for you to add three more users to your Salesforce subscription. SD-WAN takes it a step further and allows you to provision application policies for the kind of access and security policies that applies to your salesforce users at the branch from a central management console. What would take days or weeks earlier, is now a task that the IT team can check off their do-list on their coffee break.

Simpler management

In a continuously growing and complex IT environment, SD-WAN simplifies the management of a lot of it by abstracting the software pane from the underlying hardware layer. It facilitates the management of the enterprise WAN and branch networks from a single, centralized management console making it easy for IT teams to monitor, configure, and deploy the enterprise network at branch locations. IT teams will no longer have to spend millions of dollars and countless hours on shipping and installing proprietary hardware and software on-premises and arranging for skilled IT resources to oversee operations at these locations.

Lower cost

With SD-WAN, organizations now have the option to leverage cheaper broadband and convert it into a high-performance and secure carrier of enterprise data. Organizations that have existing MPLS connectivity in place can now leverage both MPLS and broadband to create an automated and intelligent hybrid WAN that can deliver enterprise-grade quality of service and also reduce cost and complexity at the same time. This leads to significant cost savings in networking CapEx and OpEx.

Faster deployment

Cloud and SaaS based applications make it easier for organizations to connect new users and branch locations. With SD-WAN, organizations can circumvent the long-haul process of getting MPLS connectivity up and running at remote locations.

SD-WAN improves the network agility manifold through a software-based approach that enables IT to rapidly provision network and application access for geographically distributed users, dynamically add new network and security functions, change and implement services, and scale capacity as business demands.

Security

One of the advantages of SD-WAN is the automated and dynamic secure connectivity for branch-to-branch and branch-to-private-cloud traffic. However, the move to multi-cloud and the adoption of distributed direct internet access across the WAN requires IT to rearchitect their entire security posture to protect the business. 

While traditional SD-WAN security is similar to capabilities supported by today’s current routers, several advanced features are not supported by the majority of today’s SD-WAN products. Services such as intrusion prevention systems (IPS), content specific controls, URL filtering and anti-malware protection are noticeably absent from many SD-WAN vendors and nor are they tailored to offer incident detection and response capabilities.

For most industry verticals, especially financial services, retail, and healthcare, this is a major challenge. The nature of the business makes every branch office location a critical and integral part of the business, and securing these locations is equally vital for the business. Organizations that require more advanced security should look for Secure SD-WAN solutions that deliver NGFW and UTM security natively within the platform to avoid the hassles of integrating third-party security solutions and the added management complexity.

Ultimately, organizations need to find a Secure SD-WAN solution that incorporates advanced SD-WAN capabilities and advanced security functions, all in one cloud-native software platform, so that IT teams can design, deploy and operate the entire enterprise WAN from one single console.

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