Traditional Wide Area Networks (WANs) have served many organisations worldwide for many years. However, they are no longer good enough for today’s digital era, plagued by longstanding issues brought on by inflexibility, congestion, reliability problems, rising costs and complexities, long deployment times, as well as applications that are demanding higher amounts of bandwidth and mobility.
A growing number of businesses are discovering that the benefits of Software-Defined Wide Area Network (or SD-WAN) allow them to circumvent many of these issues in a sophisticated and efficient manner.
Through the smart use of software and abstraction, Software-Defined Wide Area Network (or SD-WAN) technology enables businesses to modernise, better manage and fully optimise their Wide Area Network (WAN) to meet their current and future connectivity demands.
With technology enabling businesses to expand and operate across regions, SD-WAN provides an optimal end-user experience around application and service delivery. Be it large enterprises or SMEs, SD-WAN allows businesses to make the most out of their existing network infrastructure to achieve business agility.
Unsurprisingly, IDC predicts that the market for SD-WAN will experience a compound annual growth rate of more than 40% through to 2022, on course to become mainstream in years to come.
So how does SD-WAN actually benefit businesses?
Firstly, SD-WAN is able to improve business agility and overall network experience. Since SD-WAN technology abstracts the network control layer from the underlying hardware, companies can migrate from using MPLS to relatively cheaper broadband and still maintain the same throughput and apply policy-based control to automate and prioritise the network transport routing depending on the needs of specific users and applications.
Businesses are also able to distribute operations to their branch sites without the need for sending or employing additional IT personnel. This is because services can be centrally configured and delivered by the IT management team via SD-WAN’s provisioning and orchestration capabilities.
The biggest advantage that SD-WAN has over legacy WAN infrastructure is that it removes the rigidity and inefficiencies within the network to become much more agile, adaptable and flexible to handle the increasing demands of businesses today and in the future.
Secondly, with agility comes increased cost savings. As we previously mentioned, with SD-WAN technology, companies can make considerable savings in bandwidth costs as they have the option to move beyond MPLS and optimise their usage of public broadband connections and even wireless 4G/LTE and 5G connections.
Organisations can deploy an array of cloud-based applications over the network by leveraging on SD-WAN. This lowers IT costs as SD-WAN consolidates point products into one enterprise-grade solution.
The best part about SD-WAN is that you can get a return on investment fairly quickly and see immediate improvements to your business’ bottom line. According to reports, many companies that transition to SD-WAN reap substantial savings on bandwidth connectivity with some cases reporting upwards of 40%.
Other than eliminate or reduce reliance on costly MPLS connections, you can also replace legacy networking hardware and eliminate expensive support contracts, simplify network tasks for IT teams and administrators, minimise manual configurations and processes through automated orchestration, as well as alleviate connectivity bottlenecks and boost the overall system performance to provide a much better user experience.
These benefits provide both direct and indirect cost savings for the business, and can significantly raise productivity, employee and customer satisfaction as well as speed up how your business operates.
Next comes enhanced visibility and security. With more companies allowing workplace mobility and BYOD, SD-WAN empowers companies to have that extra visibility on connected devices as well as workloads going through their networks. More SD-WAN solutions today are providing built-in security features such as encryption and sandboxing capabilities to not only help prevent data loss and regulatory violations, but also downtime.
Network security expert Fortinet took it a step further by developing its SD-WAN to not only be software-driven, but also security-driven, with security built into it by design. Fortinet has added best-of-breed SD-WAN capabilities to its industry-leading FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) to help protect organisations against the latest risk exposures and advanced cyber-attacks.
This is essential because most of the modern threats come from the network, so you need a solution that can secure the entry points, orchestrate and inspect traffic – all without bringing down network performance.
With that said, there’s a myriad of SD-WAN solutions available in the market today. Businesses have to ensure they evaluate each solution properly before making their decision. Be it an SD-WAN appliance, a public cloud-based SD-WAN or a virtual machine SD-WAN, you should check if the product is able to deliver and meet your organisation’s needs.
You can always check reviews in third-party analyst reports or webinars on network security to get a rough idea on the selected SD-WAN solution. More importantly, what does the SD-WAN solution offer to your organisation and can the SD-WAN solution integrate and support the applications you use? Also, does it have robust built-in security?
The bottom line is there are certain considerations to look into when deploying SD-WAN, especially if you have offices that spread out over vast distances. We hope this article has given you a better understanding of this exciting, (relatively) new technology. Still, if you are considering investing in SD-WAN and require further information, this whitepaper explains the obstacles in WAN transformation and how you can overcome them.