Public-cloud providers have grown in popularity over the past decade, and enterprise adoption of cloud services and infrastructure has exploded. According to the 2017 Rightscale Survey, a remarkable 85 percent of organizations have a strategy for using multiple clouds. These enterprises have been focused on digital transformation for the past five years and are generally feeling enthusiastic about where they are.
However, it might not be time to pop the champagne just yet. Many of those with cutting-edge cloud computing strategies have networks that are stuck back in the early 2000s, which means they won’t be able to unlock the superior speed and performance promised by the cloud. Gartner expects that 50 percent of cloud deployments will suffer from business-impacting performance issues, requiring extensive network redesign.
Software-Defined WAN Reshapes Networking Strategies
As enterprise networks become more complex and unpredictable — stemming from increased mobility, cloud technology, the proliferation of applications and multiple app delivery models — IT departments struggle to react. To keep up, IT needs to fundamentally rethink its approach to networking.
Software-defined wide area networking has emerged as the key to the future of the enterprise network while enabling companies to take advantage of what the cloud has to offer. Unlike traditional WAN technologies, SD-WAN decouples the network and the control plane and utilizes a software-defined approach, making it easier to adapt to the changing demands of application delivery and user productivity.
While SD-WAN technologies are relatively new, they are being adopted at a breakneck pace, with IDC forecasting that the SD-WAN market will grow to $6 billion by 2020. The technology offers multiple advantages to the enterprise:
- Speedy provisioning: If time is money, then organizations will love SD-WAN. According to Gartner analysts, early adopters of these solutions have reduced the time it takes to provision branch-office networks by 50 to 80 percent.
- Improved reliability: Command line-driven, device-based approaches are inherently brittle and can cause networks to fail. SD-WAN improves reliability by scaling back network complexity, reducing the chance for errors and automating many manual configuration tasks.
- Increased performance: SD-WAN solutions let enterprises unlock faster cloud application performance through simplicity, scalability and high availability. An ideal SD-WAN solution also offers WAN optimization to improve application performance and employee productivity.
- Reduced costs: Organizations can save on hardware, software and IT resources, especially in branch offices, by leveraging zero-touch provisioning and automation. Additionally, many can see significant savings by embracing hybrid WANs.
How to Pick the Right SD-WAN Solution
Once you understand the benefits an SD-WAN solution can bring to the enterprise, how do you go about actually selecting one from the growing vendor landscape?
When assessing SD-WANs, it’s important to weigh individual features and benefits against the broader capabilities that the offering must deliver to fulfill the promise of reduced complexity and better speed and performance.
Those broader capabilities can be categorized as central management, global orchestration and remote deployment.
- Central management: To manage a complex, modern network, you need a single-pane view into the fabric that connects the data center and the cloud applications with branch locations and mobile users.
That integrated management platform must be able to unify multiple network elements — hybrid WANs, cloud, data center and branch wired and wireless LANs — with a single policy framework. You should also be able to automate as many tasks as possible, including the creation of secure and encrypted virtual private networks, and enforce performance and security controls based on policies that you have defined in the central management console.
- Global orchestration: To achieve the goal of operational efficiency and superior performance, your SD-WAN solution should leverage business-aligned, policy-based automation to define quality of service and access privilege for all apps and users. Your solution should ensure automated and secure connections between cloud networks and branch networks, and provide seamless integration with all network services (including WAN optimization), for superior performance. It should also provide efficient management of local breakouts and fine-grained path control.
- Remote deployment: In today’s highly distributed enterprise, branch offices are often essential to the enterprise. To achieve the agility and efficiency that business demands, the SD-WAN solution should provide the capability to provision new branch equipment quickly and (preferably) without sending a technician to set up the network.
This means that you should be able to deploy remotely, via automated activation, all required secure WAN gateways, LAN switches, Wi-Fi access points, security services and native firewalls. And, instant extension of your connectivity fabric to the cloud networks also should be possible..
SD-WAN technology will offer ever more benefits as it evolves. As you embrace the cloud, it is imperative that you rethink your approach to networking to align it to the cloud era.
Device-centric and command line-driven networking approaches defeat the advantages of the cloud.
SD-WAN not only will increase your business agility and performance but also will do so at a reduced cost. And an ideal SD-WAN solution will help you to unlock the power and agility of the cloud.
Welcome to the cloud era. Make SD-WAN your friend.