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SD-WAN: A network fit for business

Digital transformation is a top priority for many enterprises, who understand how technology is disrupting industry. Employees are intrinsically aware of it too, as they demand access to mobile and cloud-based applications that reflect the experiences that they have in consumer computing and support new working practices.

The Solution: SD-WAN

SD-WAN enables this by creating an overlay atop an enterprise’s existing network, making it more flexible without the expensive and time-consuming challenge of ripping and replacing existing connections.

The solution takes a relatively recent innovation called Software Defined Networking (SDN) and applies it to a wide area network. SDN abstracts the control and configuration functions traditionally hardwired into network routers and switches, and redefines them in software.
SDN enables network administrators to quickly and easily reconfigure the network using a software interface. For the first time, they can define policies to control network traffic based on business rules which, as we have seen, can change quickly as applications evolve.
SD-WAN applies SDN across a company’s entire global network infrastructure. All that is required is the installation of inexpensive routing devices at each enterprise location to manage routing functions based on policies defined in software by administrators. Working together, they create a secure overlay network that can be easily configured via an administrative portal.

SD-WAN provides four technical benefits.
1. Hybrid connectivity
2. Intelligent path control
3. Application optimization
4. Secure connectivity

How to deploy SD-WAN

There are several solutions in the market that are labelled SD-WAN, but they can vary in their scope considerably. Some only provide the routing devices designed to be installed at each enterprise location, but they leave it up to the customer to connect those boxes and configure the overlay network. This work can be very complex and pose a great challenge to the enterprise IT department, which may not have the necessary skills in-house.

The business advantages and benefits of SD-WAN

There are several solutions in the market that are labelled SD-WAN, but they can vary in their scope considerably. Some only provide the routing devices designed to be installed at each enterprise location, but they leave it up to the customer to connect those boxes and configure the overlay network. This work can be very complex and pose a great challenge to the enterprise IT department, which may not have the necessary skills in-house.

An agile business
Optimizing MPLS network performance with quality of service (QoS) initiatives such as network classes, compression and other technologies is possible. But because the control logic for a WAN is tied to the physical hardware that routed the network packets, configuring QoS is an arduous manual process that frequently involves direct changes to individual router boxes across the network.
With SD-WAN, this control can now be managed centrally. This makes it easier for administrators to change network policies on the fly, optimizing them for different applications as necessary. Beyond this, the network itself can optimize traffic dynamically by constantly monitoring its state.

More security by controlling and securing internet use
Network security is one of the biggest problems facing enterprises today. Traditional networks can be difficult to protect because security policies relating to specific applications are difficult to set and update. An SD-WAN overlay network is easier to control for security purposes, because administrators can set and update permissions for different applications centrally in accordance with defined policies.
The beauty of a software-configurable system is that security policies can be changed to reflect best practices in the business. An enterprise in a heavily-regulated industry such as finance or healthcare may have stricter requirements for security and might limit access to many cloud-based applications. Conversely, a marketing company may actively encourage social media access.

Improved end-user performance leading to better productivity
SD-WAN’s application optimization and hybrid networking translates into a tangible business benefit: enhanced productivity. Employees that may have been hindered by high latency, slow database access and choppy video will find themselves able to achieve more each day as their computing experience improves. No more time spent asking contacts in voice or video conversations to repeat themselves.
No more waiting around while server-based bookkeeping applications take precious seconds to refresh data. By aggregating local network connections and optimizing the traffic that runs through them in line with business-centric policies, organizations will improve application speed and get more from their employees, which translates to a more effective business.

Making more effective use of networking investments
CIOs face constant pressure to do more with less, and SD-WAN creates a robust platform that ensures IT budgets are spent more effectively. By rightsizing local and regional network connections, organizations can save money on networking contracts that are underused.

The future of the network

SD-WAN is the latest step in the long-term evolution of the corporate network, which consists of three main components: the network connections, the applications that run on them, and the people that use them.

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