SD-WAN Enables Secure, Seamless and Superior User Experience for the Cloud On-Ramp

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Over 90% of enterprises now leverage multi-cloud and hybrid (public/private) cloud environments as a critical component of their networking and business strategy. As a result, essential data and business-critical applications may reside anywhere—whether on-campus, at a branch office, in the data center, or the cloud. And of course, where these applications live should be transparent to the end-user. Secure SD-WAN provides organizations the reliable and secure connectivity and user experience they need for their cloud on-ramp journey.

SD-WAN has accelerated business transformation

Today, any user on any device from any location should be able to access whatever applications and data they need to do their jobs. And their experience should be pretty consistent, regardless of the how or where or what. That makes things like on-demand scalability and seamless connectivity critical considerations—which means that applications and data need to be seamlessly interconnected across clouds, data centers, and branches.

SD-WAN solutions have seen such rapid adoption because they are specifically designed to address these challenges. An effective SD-WAN should deliver applications with a seamless, secure, and superior quality of experience (QoE) to its users and customers. The problem is that far too many SD-WAN solutions either don’t do a lot of these things, or they do them poorly. Many lack the scalability, performance, reliability, and most importantly, the intelligence to ensure a superior user experience. But without fast, secure, and reliable access to critical data and applications, digital transformation initiatives can stall. But at the same time, meeting and maintaining constantly increasing performance requirements often occurs at the expense of security, which vendors often add to their solutions as an afterthought. And far too often, fixing these issues ends up costing customers a fortune.

Choosing the right SD-WAN solution

Part of the challenge is that there are so many solutions from which to choose. Organizations considering adopting or upgrading their SD-WAN need to have a clear idea of what they need their solution to do now anda pretty good idea of what’s coming around the corner. Will you be maintaining a large hybrid workforce? Then your SD-WAN may need to work seamlessly with SASE. What about performance? Expect that applications will continually become more complex, and end-users will demand richer media. Your SD-WAN solution should not become a bottleneck. Every function, including security, should operate at 5G speeds.

Given the rate of digital innovation, network expansion, and business transformation, decision-makers should list the essential functions any SD-WAN solution should provide. Here are five essential SD-WAN features and functions that should be at the top of anyone’s list:

  1. Cloud on-ramp ensures optimal user experience. Any SD-WAN solution should be able to dynamically choose the optimal path for application traffic. An SD-WAN solution needs to recognize an application and then steer it to the shortest and/or most optimized route to where it resides. It also needs to be able to identify and classify applications, including encrypted traffic based on first packet. Of course, nearly all SD-WAN solutions perform some variation of this. But how they do it can make a lot of difference.

When application recognition and steering happen in the cloud—especially when it occurs several hops away from the end-user—it can significantly impact performance and user experience, especially when that “last mile” happens over a public network connection. It is better for application recognition to happen as close to the user as possible, ensuring that traffic is steered toward an optimized backbone early in the connection. A vendor with multiple cloud access points is a good start. But branch offices are not always located close to a vendor’s access point. Ideally, that function should happen on the SD-WAN device itself instead of in the cloud. That way, you get a more consistent onramp experience across widely dispersed branch offices.

  1. Advanced SD-WAN capabilities is critical. Path optimization, application-aware steering, self-healing connections, and the ability to support and switch between different transport modes (broadband, LTE/5G, MPLS, etc.) are essential. An SD-WAN strategy should also monitor and optimize user experience and adapt dynamically based on the kinds of traffic and applications in use.
  2. It must support a variety of cloud use cases. SD-WAN is also about more than just connecting remote workers to cloud environments. In addition to supporting access to the cloud (cloud on-ramp), SD-WAN should provide secure connections between clouds, enabling the secure transfer of data across a multi-cloud And as a native cloud solution, it should provide secure connections between resources within the cloud, whether public or private. A single VM that supports both SD-WAN and full security stack reduced footprint and simplifies overall management. Accelerated deployment through automation (i.e. integration with Ansible, Terraform) is key to reduce operational cost and errors.
  3. Fully integrated security cannot be an afterthought. Traditional MPLS-based WAN connections rely on the enterprise-grade security provided at the core network to protect data and transactions. All that goes away when you transition to SD-WAN. And unfortunately, most SD-WAN solutions either only include minimal security or toss that responsibility back on the customer. Organizations that conduct business over an SD-WAN connection to the cloud should not be relying on some home-grown firewall and a VPN. There is too much at stake. Remote workers require the same full stack of integrated security to protect their transactions. Even if the data they use is less confidential, a WAN is still part of the network, and a network is only as secure as its weakest link. That security should also be enterprise-grade. It should be tested and validated by third parties. It should also have the flexibility to offer cloud-delivered security, which most remote users will use or adopt, that is integrated with SD-WAN. Additionally, it should include open APIs so it can be integrated with other security solutions. And perhaps most importantly, it should have the ability to conduct deep inspection on application traffic—including the ability to inspect streaming video—on the fly.
  4. Networking and security should be a single solution. One of the biggest challenges of securing a dynamically changing and highly adaptive SD-WAN deployment is that connections and applications change faster than security can keep up. This creates security gaps that can be easily exploited. This is one of the primary reasons why building an effective bolt-on security solution for SD-WAN is next to impossible—especially when everything is operating at 5G speeds. Security-driven networking, built around an enterprise-grade security platform that intrinsically supports SD-WAN, blends security and networking into a unified solution. This enables security and connectivity to adapt simultaneously to an event, such as the degradation of an application connection, ensuring consistent security in even the most dynamic environments.
  5. Accelerated access to cloud applications. To help achieve superior user experience, organizations also need to be able to accelerate access to XaaS applications through flexible SD-WAN gateways that sit at different PoPs that are close to applications.

Ensuring a secure, seamless, and superior user experience

Keeping remote workers productive and businesses competitive depends on ensuring a superior user experience. That means that application access and use should be both seamless and secure. SD-WAN is the most effective strategy for remote users to connect with applications and workloads running on cloud providers. It does this by providing a simplified, automated, operationally efficient, and secure cloud on-ramp and SD-WAN experience.

Centrally connecting, unifying, automating, and orchestrating access, connectivity, and security across disparate environments helps organizations ensure a truly seamless, secure, and superior quality of experience (QoE) for their users and customers. But this depends on carefully selecting a Secure SD-WAN solution designed for your business today and tomorrow.

Take a security-driven approach to networking to improve user experience and simplify operations at the WAN edge with Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN solution.

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