By Jeanette Simpson, Product Manager: SD-WAN at ARMATA
Digital transformation has triggered remarkable shifts in infrastructure and architecture. Enabling innovation, productivity, connectivity and growth, digital is reshaping how organizations interact and engage with markets, employees and customers. It has also triggered a fundamental change in the structure of the network.
Today, networks are key enablers of digital transformation and innovation. Without an agile and scalable network infrastructure that can handle the demands of the digitally-evolved enterprise, the business will not be able to realize its full potential.
Enter SD-WAN, software-defined networking, that offers organizations of all sizes the toolkit they need to modernize their infrastructure and take it to the point where it can handle today’s applications, demands and hybrid workforce expectations.
“The challenge now facing the implementation of SD-WAN is the misconceptions that trail behind it,” says Jeanette Simpson, Product Manager: SD-WAN at Vox.
“These have come about because SD-WAN technologies are an increasingly popular choice for automating network performance management and its rapid growth has resulted in it being surrounded by hyperbole and misunderstanding.”
It improves internet performance
This is not true. What SD-WAN actually does is prioritize application traffic and bandwidth, optimizing how the traffic is routed and automating the optimal usage of network resources.
The platform has immense potential and can measurably improve the manageability of the network, and it provides organizations with tools and customization options that they could not normally afford.
“The architecture of most current networks is based on a hybrid of broadband circuits that use different combinations of MPLS, virtual private LAN service and optical point-to-point or multi-point connectivity so you get more bandwidth at your fingertips and everyone will experience better network performance,” says Simpson.
This is true, but it also isn’t. SD-WAN does have a cost-saving element to it, but it isn’t going to fundamentally transform costs for customers depending on their existing infrastructure, how they use their network and what their objectives are.
SD-WAN saves costs when compared with Layer 3 virtual private routed networks like MPLS and uses lower-cost connectivity in the form of broadband internet connectivity, but these benefits are more aligned with the business case for the improved performance and functionality provided by SD-WAN than budget cuts.
“The platform is centralized and companies can make changes faster. The entire system is a lot less resource-intensive, so these two factors will save money,” says Richard Frost, Product Head: Cybersecurity at Armata. “It is very likely that an organization will see a monthly cost reduction but rather than a heavy slice in costs, it will be more of savings in time and resources.”
It is a silver bullet
Everyone in tech knows that there is no silver bullet, there is also no one-size-fits-all. There is, however, a long list of benefits that can fundamentally transform and modernize an organization’s infrastructure if done properly and with realistic and strategic objectives.
The biggest benefit of SD-WAN is how user-friendly it is – the centralized controlling functionality, built around the concepts of plug-and-play and point-and-click services and consumption, provides an easier work environment compared to MPLS.
“SD-WAN will improve performance, installation and manageability of the WAN, but it won’t necessarily save on all costs or completely replace your MPLS or provide LAN-like performance in a WAN,” says Simpson.
“It can improve remote network performance by continuously evaluating throughput capacity, packet loss, latency and other characteristics across two or more WAN links, but the entire network will only be as fast and reliable as the WAN links deployed for it.”
I can build my own SD-WAN
You can. This is absolutely a possibility, but it may risk the business losing hold of the nuanced potential that lies within the SD-WAN architecture.
There has to be a deep understanding of the existing network from both the virtual and physical perspectives and the right resources allocated to manage the process and the implementation.
For larger, global organizations, this is a challenge that can be overcome with internal resources, but smaller teams would benefit from a managed SD-WAN service provider as this would ensure every box ticked and every gap filled.
“SD-WAN is a promising technology that enables the enterprise to deploy WANs faster and with significant cost savings,” concludes Frost, “Most network architects have abandoned WAN optimization in favour of SD-WAN or have used a combination of the two to achieve their ideal results.
Using a trusted service provider, companies can gain immeasurable value from SD-WAN that spans agility, optimized architecture, multipath networks, dynamic meshing, and a solution that complements and collaborates with existing MPLS to handle more data than either could alone.”
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