Building Tomorrow’s Networks on an SD-WAN Foundation

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One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is a direct result of their efforts to chase their biggest opportunity. The end goals of a digital-first model include ensuring every user and device has rapid access to critical resources (including workers on-premises, at home, and on the move), enabling the rapid scalability and agile development of those resources, ensuring an optimal user experience for all users, including employees, contractors, and customers, and gathering and processing data from distributed sources to enable better business decisions.

To do this, organizations have transitioned to a hybrid network strategy that encompasses traditional data centers and campuses, branch offices, private clouds, multiple public clouds, home offices, and mobile workers. Newer strategies, such as Edge Computing, will expand the edges of the network even further by moving computation and storage closer to sources of data to improve response times and conserve bandwidth.

The challenge is keeping a handle on these rapidly evolving and highly fragmented environments. Issues around performance, connectivity, user experience, and security become increasingly difficult to manage and maintain as the underlying network expands and adapts to evolving conditions.

SD-WAN Enables Flexible WAN and Application Connectivity

One of the first tools to address these issues was SD-WAN. Its initial objective was to replace static MPLS connections with flexible, on-demand access to business-critical applications without having to backhaul bandwidth-hungry traffic through the core network. Rapid cloud on-ramp and advanced application steering gave users in branch offices the same level of access to business-critical applications deployed in the cloud or data center as those on-premises.

The biggest hurdle was security. Legacy security solutions were simply not agile enough to adapt to constantly changing connections, which made building and managing overlay protections difficult if not downright impossible. Integrating security into SD-WAN, or rather, actually building SD-WAN inside a security platform, changed that. Secure SD-WAN was the first solution to support a security-driven network, where security and networking operate as a single system to ensure protections are part of even the slightest changes to a connection, while ensuring that all application traffic is fully inspected and secured in real time.

Beyond the WAN

For the majority of organizations with an SD-WAN deployment, this is as far as they have gone. However, many organizations are realizing that SD-WAN has much more to offer. Because Secure SD-WAN is built on a converged security and networking platform, secure WAN connectivity can be seamlessly coupled with access point, switching, network access control, and enterprise-grade security technologies. This enables IT teams to extend things like traffic inspection, access control, segmentation, and direct internet access to the branch LAN while improving their ability to remotely manage all aspects of the SD-Branch. Integration with LTE and 5G also ensures that every connection has reliable connectivity even if their broadband connections fail.

Using the Secure SD-WAN Platform to Future-Proof Your Network

But that’s just the start. By deploying physical and virtual versions of a Secure SD-WAN platform across the data center and private and public clouds, IT teams are now able to quickly create secure, high-performance, ad-hoc connections to ensure that applications and workflows are fully protected as they move across and between these environments. This is especially useful in OT environments where zero trust is replacing inherent trust as the preferred model for accessing production-level equipment.

It also enables the deployment of a powerful, single-vendor SASE solution that can extend those same connectivity and security advantages to remote workers and thin client branch offices. A single-vendor solution built using tested and validated components provides significant performance and management advantages over one put together from a variety of vendors. According to research from ESG, integration and interoperability are crucial. Nearly 55%% of organizations surveyed say they now intentionally select integrated security platforms rather than best-of-breed product or are switching from a best-of-breed to integrated security suites approach. In fact, according to one CISO, “integration and interoperability are the new best-of-breed.”

By combining SWG (secure web gateway), CASB (cloud access security broker), ZTNA (zero trust network access), and SD-WAN technologies into a single cloud service, and tying them to a robust, unified endpoint agent, organizations can deploy a SASE solution that extends the exact same services and user experience to remote and mobile workers as those enjoyed by on-prem and branch workers.

Looking forward, the ability to deploy a fully integrated Secure SD-WAN platform anywhere—in the campus and data center, the OT network, private and public clouds, and as part of cloud-based service POPs—becomes the foundation for deploying and managing a comprehensive zero trust edge (ZTE). Secure SD-WAN everywhere enables remote management, enhanced application access, data encryption and inspection, and the secure distribution of information.

Highly Distributed Tools Require Centralized Control

A Secure SD-WAN platform can serve as the cohesive foundation for holding together today’s highly distributed, hybrid networks. But central to that model is the ability to monitor and manage these complex, and often temporary connections. IT teams need to see the entire network to anticipate and troubleshoot issues, automate remediation, implement and enforce policy, and centrally control access to applications and resources per-user, per-device, per-session, and per-application. It’s why more than 80% of respondents to one recent survey admitted that it is challenging to implement a zero-trust strategy across an extended network. And it may also help account for a recent report that shows that 93% of OT organizations experienced an intrusion in the past 12 months, with 78% experiencing more than three.

In part, that’s because as the number of connections multiply, the complexity of keeping track of and managing those connections amplifies exponentially. Pretty soon, they outstrip the ability of human analysts to detect and troubleshoot issues. This is another example of why a single-vendor integrated platform approach is preferable to a multi-vendor strategy. One critical advantage of a fully integrated SD-WAN platform is it can be managed through a central, single-pane-of-glass console. Policies can be orchestrated, configurations can be standardized and validated, and data can be centrally gathered and correlated. And for more advanced NetOps environments, AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations) and DEM (Digital Experience Monitoring) technologies can be added that leverage the interoperability of converged solutions to better pinpoint issues, automate troubleshooting, monitor and maintain user experience, and generate or even resolve tickets that traditional systems would otherwise miss.

Today’s Distributed Networks Rely on SD-WAN. Tomorrow’s Will as Well

Today’s SD-WAN does more than just ensure that every user and device has quick and secure access to critical resources. For many organizations, an advanced Secure SD-WAN platform has become a vital component of their digital acceleration efforts, extending critical connectivity and security to the edges of their rapidly expanding networks. And as new technologies and strategies emerge that extend the edges of the network farther and faster, the self-healing connections, integrated inline security, rapid application access, and optimized user experience provided by SD-WAN will be even more essential.

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








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