Why SD-WAN will play a bigger role in multicloud networking

Fact: SD-WAN will play a key role as more enterprises adopt multicloud to host applications. Is your organization ready?

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By Scott Raynovich, Founder and Chief Analyst, Futuriom. Fact: SD-WAN will play a key role as more enterprises adopt multicloud to host applications. Is your organization ready?

One of the trends developing in 2023 is the increased need for networking that can facilitate hybrid and multicloud connectivity. As cloud services proliferate, organizations are looking for more efficient ways to build cloud-based networking services to connect multiple clouds.

As networking and IT managers embark on their multicloud journey, they are expected to solve several challenges for their stakeholders. This includes connecting remote workers, hybrid workers, branch offices, multiple cloud services, and possibly Internet of Things (IoT) devices – all with the same network.

As the complexity of networking these many elements increase, so do the challenges to the network – including traffic costs, application performance, and security. One of the key value propositions of hybrid and multicloud networking (MCN) is that it can increase the overall visibility, performance, and security of connecting to multiple clouds and services.

SD-WAN: The original MCN

SD-WAN technology was in fact designed to help with multicloud. Originally conceived as a way to more efficiently and cost effectively connect branch offices to cloud services or corporate networks with the most efficient routing and transport – whether that’s Internet, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) or LTE/5G – SD-WAN became a better, smarter router for the edge. SD-WAN became a popular way to leverage many different networking services while at the same time providing improved application experience, traffic analysis, security, and automated management.

The key benefits of SD-WAN are that it can recognize applications and traffic needs and connect users using the most cost-effective services. For example, if they are accessing a Software as a Service (SaaS) product, there’s no need to backhaul them to a corporate data center on a more expensive MPLS line – they can be securely connected directly to the cloud service.

SD-WAN’s initial focus was on branch applications. However, its role is expanding as it can now connect to network services such as cloud onramps, datacenter points of presence (PoPs) and networks as a service (NaaS). The original features such as intelligence, visibility, and network control can now be used to connect the branches into any cloud network or service.

This makes building global, multicloud networks easier than ever. The networking options for connecting to cloud services have rapidly expanded – now including services such as public-cloud onramps and gateways, datacenter fabrics such as those provided by Equinix and Digital Realty, or Network as a Service (NaaS) platforms such as Megaport. These services are designed to put the network closer to the customer. The NaaS platforms also give the customer the option to expand their physical network connectivity quickly with virtual overlays, obviating the need for expensive capital outlay. SD-WAN can help networking managers leverage NaaS infrastructure to instantly expand networking capabilities.

Aruba’s MCN Solution

Several years ago, Aruba identified this trend to facilitate multicloud on-ramps by adding multicloud functions to expand on the original mission of Aruba EdgeConnect, its SD-WAN platform. For example, by deploying an EdgeConnect virtual appliance into a cloud environment, customers can build an overlay network into any cloud service, including the “Big Five” of Alibaba Cloud, Amazon, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle. Customers can use an Aruba overlay SD-WAN fabric to tie several cloud networks together, instantly building a scalable global multicloud network.

This multicloud approach will become more interesting as an alternative to building expensive enterprise networks using MPLS. Network managers can leverage multiple cloud and NaaS infrastructure to expand their networks with simple buttons and clicks. Today, for example the Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN platform can enable enterprises to leverage the high speed cloud service providers backbone to connect branch offices with EdgeConnect SD-WAN directly to Amazon, Microsoft or Google backbone networks using AWS CloudWAN, Azure vWAN, and Google Network Connectivity Center

An MCN approach also has the potential to reduce networking costs and improve end-user experiences, all the way from the first mile to the core of the cloud. Using first-mile networking technologies such as Aruba’s tunnel bonding, forward error correction (FEC), path conditioning, load balancing, and dynamic path control, Aruba EdgeConnect provides business-class services from the network edge into their cloud service or network of choice. Aruba calls this the “ruggedized” first mile.

This approach also lays the foundation for the infrastructure-as-code trend, which enables networks to be built using software programmability and application programming interfaces. For example, Aruba EdgeConnect can be used to instantiate and orchestrate secure networking services into cloud security services such as Zscaler and Netskope using Aruba’s intuitive GUI-based Orchestrator, leveraging automation and APIs.

Customers building networks with this model will have much more flexibility to design networks and reduce costs – for example finding affordable NaaS services to replace MPLS connections, or using Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) and other affordable communications.

In the next few years, SD-WAN will continue to play an important role as more enterprises adopt and use multicloud to host applications, and utilize MCN and SD-WAN platforms like EdgeConnect can help with that journey.

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