Deploying SD-WAN Saves Money and Simplifies Operations

January 16, 2017

The hardware-centric and CLI-driven approach to architecting and managing an enterprise network has not changed for the past twenty years. This method worked when the network was predictable, had perhaps one egress to the Internet and was easier to secure. Not anymore. Today several factors make the network faster and more capable, but also increasingly unpredictable, insecure and complex. IT organizations looking for alternatives to the traditional network architecture are deploying software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to save money and simplify operations.

Organizations are moving to a cloud-first model, migrating the majority of their systems and applications to the cloud. One of the driving factors is the fact that their users are mobile and more of them now work in branch offices and other remote locations. Delivery of apps has to become more flexible.

Everything about how we work, and how our IT systems support that work, is changing. That is, except the typical approach to managing the network. As a result, today’s hybrid networks are more difficult and complex to manage and scale. Remote and branch offices (ROBOs) feel the impact through poor performing apps and network outages, hurting user productivity and the bottom line.

SD-WAN’s Value Prop

Like the migration to a cloud-first world, the creation of hybrid networks is not a short-term trend. Having a mix of on-premises systems and public-cloud applications and services is the new normal because it meets the demands of today’s users. Enterprises need multiple network transport technologies to connect to mobile workers and cloud-based data centers or applications.

However, while these hybrid topologies allow support for a distributed workforce, the unsuitability of traditional systems to manage such complex topologies has created a need for a rethink in IT management. That’s why network architects and operators are increasingly turning to implementing software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technologies, which offer four key benefits over the traditional hardware-centric model: cost-savings, simplicity, agility and reliability.

While the network architecture has evolved, what hasn’t changed is that enterprises still count on NetOps to ensure that the network functions as expected with minimal (i.e., zero) interruptions. IT has to balance that objective with the constant enterprise-wide goal of lowering costs. Striking that balance requires simplifying the operations and workflows to ensure performance, reliability and to keep costs down.  

SD-WAN enables IT to achieve those objectives, and reach what should be any IT organization’s top goal: to become a more strategic partner to the entire enterprise. Simplifying the management of the network and providing consistent performance levels to users means IT will spend less time managing and provisioning network resources, and more time and energy helping all users become more agile and perform better.

SD-WAN is thus a transformational approach to network management workflows that is ideal for today’s cloud-centric hybrid networks. IT achieves a higher level of operational efficiency through features including: 

  • Zero-touch provisioning: Automates provisioning and eliminates the need to provision resources at each branch. This obviates the requirement to try to place skilled IT personnel at branches and remote offices.
  • Centralized management: Make changes once and roll them out globally at the same time to all locations and users. This not only enables you to make all new configurations and edits from a central location, but to also manage and update policies. It is imperative that the SD-WAN solution enables business-aligned orchestration so that IT can achieve orchestration based on users, apps or security policies.
  • Cloud Connectivity: Connect securely to the Cloud. Even as enterprises adopt more cloud services and applications, connecting securely to the cloud is critical. Complexity breeds wasted time and lost productivity.
  • WAN optimization: Optimize the delivery of applications across hybrid networks for on-premise, cloud and SaaS (News - Alert) application users anywhere. Managing the application performance is critical for the business. It should reduce application protocol chattiness, support acceleration of SSL encrypted traffic and enable path selection. Now you can reserve MPLS bandwidth for business-critical applications. For example, push Facebook (News - Alert) traffic to the Internet because optimum user experience is not a concern. This ensures that when the sales team is trying to close deals at the end of the quarter, Salesforce traffic goes over the MPLS network.
  • Improved security: A comprehensive SD-WAN solution will have a built-in firewall, automated virtual private network (VPN) capability and threat management technologies improve the entire organization’s security posture. It simplifies security systems management, and eliminates the need to spend more money on additional firewall and other threat management capabilities for remote and branch offices.

SD-WAN is emerging and is here to stay because it delivers benefits that are in line with the priorities of today’s enterprises of improving agility, efficiency and performance. Market analysts estimate SD-WAN is up to two-and-a-half times less expensive than traditional WAN architectures. The promise SD-WAN holds of improving network performance for today’s mobile and remote users, reducing management costs, and freeing IT organizations to provide its services and support to all areas of the business will build the momentum for SD-WAN. Remember that not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. Look for a solution that addreses your problems and helps you achieve your stated goals.

Edited by Alicia Young