By: Abhey Dadwal, Senior Product Manager
In the first blog in my series about SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networks), I explored the increasing complexity of WAN management for enterprise. SD-WAN is a powerful virtual technology, enabling enterprises to extend their networks economically and customize solutions for each branch site.
Today, I’ll dive into detail about how SD-WAN can help solve six key challenges of enterprise IT identified in a recent Dimensional Research survey of network managers. IT decision-makers should carefully consider these key challenges when selecting an SD-WAN provider.
1. Managing network and security devices at branch locations
WANs connect headquarters, branch locations and business applications located in data centres over one reliable network. Using conventional IT architecture, organizations require multiple devices, each dedicated to different functions (e.g., routing, switching, firewall) making IT more costly and complex. SD-WAN enables enterprises to extend both high-performance bandwidth and critical applications to all locations. SD-WAN solutions can leverage Network Function Virtualization (NFV) functionality in order to provide multiple services on a single device, achieving a simpler, streamlined, more cost-effective network.
2. Mitigating information security risks at branch locations
Protecting your enterprise against security threats is a priority. It’s even more of a challenge for enterprises that integrate the public internet into their WAN. SD-WAN secures the traffic going over the WAN network through IPSec (Internet Protocol Security). In addition, a majority of SD-WAN solutions support stateful firewall to provide an additional layer of security to branch offices that may require local internet access as well. When selecting a provider, it is important to understand how IPSec is implemented in their solution. How is the encryption key secure? How frequently does it change? Is the encryption key shared over the network?
3. Deploying new network and security solutions at branch locations
The more complex the solution, the more difficult it is to deploy. While SD-WAN certainly helps in simplifying the network, the number of options means that preparation is key to a successful migration and vital business continuity. Zero Touch Provisioning can simplify deployment but be aware that it works only when specific conditions are met, despite what some providers may claim. The underlying network is an even more important consideration. Identify a provider that does not limit its scope to just the SD-WAN software/device deployment but also has the ability to deliver a comprehensive, resilient solution.
4. Increasing costs due to the growing traffic volume over their MPLS network.
MPLS is a private network that commands a higher price than Internet, which has cost-effective broadband options as well. However, not all branch locations may justify the use of premium MPLS services. More enterprises are deploying hybrid networks, reserving MPLS for mission-critical traffic and using the internet for other traffic. With SD-WAN, enterprises can virtually extend network capabilities over both MPLS and the internet, ensuring a network design that is cost-effective without compromising quality. One of the key benefits of SD-WAN: is that its access agnostic. Choose a provider that takes the time to understand your needs, your WAN architecture and works with you on an effective network design.
5. Reducing the time it takes to bring up a new branch location
Bringing up a new branch location can be time- and resource-intensive, especially when permitting and builds are required. Dedicated MPLS or other private connectivity to your WAN can take months. SD-WAN can overcome these issues by using existing internet connections and even wireless to bring up a new site location quickly and seamlessly. Clearly define your benchmarks and timing requirements when evaluating potential providers.
6. Providing fast access to cloud applications (SaaS)
Most enterprises are using cloud applications today, and adoption is only predicted to grow. A high-bandwidth network connectivity enables predictable performance and faster connections to the cloud. Does the SD-WAN provider you’re evaluating have on-ramps to the cloud? Can they help accelerate your migration to the cloud?
SD-WAN continues to gain traction in the market, selecting the right provider will be increasingly important. Choose a partner that can help you manage your network, extend capabilities, optimize costs and tackle top challenges on your terms.
Next in the series: Insights for Enterprise
Abhey Dadwal is a senior product manager in Zayo’s Enterprise Network’s Product Group. He has more than 10 years of experience in the service provider industry, working in systems integration, support and product management roles. Abhey has implemented several global projects in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. He studied engineering at Manipal University, India and business at the University of Toronto.