5 Ways SD-WAN Promote Business Agility

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with coining the adage “change is the only constant in life” –  a saying that certainly applies to enterprises in 2019. With change as a given, it’s crucial for businesses to be agile and flexible in order to keep up.

Employing software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology is one way to promote business agility. SD-WANs abstract the network control layer from the underlying forwarding plane and physical transport. Users can employ most any wide-area network service – leased lines, MPLS, broadband wireless, Internet – and still apply policy-based control and other SD-WAN features.

With SD-WAN, companies can quickly make network changes in response to, or in anticipation of, varying business requirements. The technology also promotes a high degree of automation, with support for policies that define how the network should react to various situations – with no human intervention required.

To learn more about the various ways SD-WANs promote agility, I spoke with Michael Lawson, General Manager of SD-WAN Solution Architecture for CenturyLink, which provides managed SD-WAN services. He offered up the following five considerations.

1. Employ network functions on demand: When combined with network function virtualization (NFV), enterprises can apply various network capabilities on an on-demand basis, Lawson says. Just as SD-WAN decouples network control and forwarding, NFV abstracts network functions from hardware, instead putting them in software. As a result, functions such as Domain Name Service (DNS), firewalls, IDS/IPS, caching, and more can run as services in software – either on premises or in the cloud. Given there’s no hardware involved, NFV enables network functions to be deployed quickly, on-demand.

2. Quickly turn up cloud resources: SD-WAN also lets companies more quickly turn up cloud-based applications and resources. “Companies are increasingly turning to the cloud for compute capacity, SaaS applications, and more,” he says. “But the gating factor is often making the actual cloud connection from dozens or hundreds of branch sites and ensuring it’s adequate.” SD-WAN simplifies that process, enabling companies to use capacity that’s already in place at branch sites but bring it under the control of the SD-WAN umbrella, to ensure each application gets the necessary bandwidth.

3. Policy-based automation: SD-WANs have more intelligence built in compared to traditional routers; this means companies can better understand application requirements. SD-WAN generally comes with a set of predefined policies on how applications are treated. “You can push specific actions by relying on policies, such as take this route if a certain condition is met,” Lawson says. IT can also create its own policies, using the visibility that SD-WAN provides into the network to inform those policies.

4. Simplified mergers and acquisitions (M&As): M&As can wreak havoc on IT departments if the two companies have divergent strategies in terms of infrastructure, applications, and approaches. SD-WANs simplify the WAN portion, at least, by enabling users to wrap whatever WAN services are at each location under a single SD-WAN. “That creates a faster time to value from the acquisition,” Lawson notes.

5. Managed SD-WAN services: While SD-WANs provide agility on their own, signing on with a managed SD-WAN service removes the IT group from day-to-day operations tasks. “That brings the potential for even more agility, freeing the group up to focus on other ways to bring business value through IT,” he says.

From automated, policy-based changes to support for NFV and cloud resources, SD-WAN brings flexibility to the enterprise. Click here to learn more. 


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