SD-WAN – All you need to know about the next big thing in enterprise networking and why you will use it eventually

POSTED BY : VP - NETWORK PRACTICE
Monday, January 8, 2018

The latest buzz word in the enterprise circuit has been SD-WAN. It is an extension of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections of enterprise networks such as data centers or branch offices distributed across large distances. SD-WAN creates an overlay to optimize bandwidth. It does so by directing WAN traffic through the best route to and from data centers or branch offices. The technology centralizes network control and enables agile, real-time traffic management over these links.

Gartner in its 2017 report ‘Technology Insight for Software-Defined WAN’, stated that in just three years, the adoption of software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) stands at 6,000+ paying customers with more than 4,000 production implementations. The buzz around SD-WAN has led to it being called the next big thing in enterprise networking technology.

Rapid growth in the adoption of SD-WAN indicates that they are gaining traction as alternatives to traditional WAN technologies. I believe here are four reasons why you will embrace it eventually:

  1. Catalyze Business Growth
    SD-WAN enables IT departments to rapidly expand operations, set up branches powered by suitable links, and tweak the architecture to create breakouts for in-house applications as well as provide direct access to the cloud. The rapid turn up of multiple branch sites especially in sites where there may not be specific network technicians available to oversee a complex installation is a key advantage of rolling out SD-WAN. A plug-and-play box pre-configured with requisite software can be shipped to the site and quickly turned-up based on the ‘Zero Touch’ approach.
     
  2. Meet Dynamic Business Changes
    With organizations increasingly taking their IT applications out of their own data centers and into the public cloud hosting space, more and more traffic starts getting routed out of the corporate network and in-house data centers. This leads to response-time issues and/or degradation of services with the current design of WAN networks. The inherent ability of an SD-WAN solution to rapidly reconfigure bandwidth makes it an ideal fit for these changing landscape dynamics.
     
  3. Right-size your bandwidth
    Changing dynamics of traffic flows leads to constant change in bandwidth requirements. As the number of users in a branch go up, the needs expand exponentially. This is further magnified by the need for more branches to be set up in shorter time spans. SD-WAN solutions today are geared up to monitor application performance over the network and provide better insights to equip network managers to identify the right size for their bandwidth – leading to optimized cost take-outs
     
  4. Overcome legacy challenges
    Another major drawback of legacy WAN edge networks is the cumbersome process of making changes in several devices in the branches. SD-WAN solutions today not only make changes a breeze, but also combine several network appliances into an integrated device. A typical example is that unlike in a legacy network, in SD-WAN you could have a router, WAN optimizer, dynamic path selector, and several different security devices such as firewall, IDS/IPS protection all packaged into a single virtualized premise equipment that is centrally managed through easy to use interfaces.

Before you adopt SD-WAN in your organization, it is recommended that you critically evaluate several key factors– such as transitional challenges, bandwidth lock in, long term needs of the organization, and the right vendor to name just a few. Once you have done a complete evaluation and have charted out your growth plans, SD-WAN can effectively play the role of a catalyst in the process and provide a good return on investment.

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Kumaran Rangaswamy
VP - NETWORK PRACTICE