Why SD-WAN is key to network transformation

17 June 2019 | Song Toh

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Song Toh

Blog Author | vice president of global network services, Tata Communications

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It’s no secret that innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) are driving digital transformation in the business world - but in order for that to happen you need a cloud-ready network that’s built for the future.

As businesses’ reliance on cloud-based data and applications continues to grow, the traditional WAN (wide-area network) can’t cope. It is often too slow, inflexible, expensive and simply not scalable enough, as it wasn't designed for the cloud. This leaves established businesses unable to innovate, scale up and offer new services at speed, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their younger cloud-native rivals. That's why software-defined internet-based hybrid networks are the only way forward. SD-WAN enables businesses to manage these hybrid networks more effectively, helping them to remain competitive.

Not only does SD-WAN lower costs, it also enables businesses to roll out applications and bandwidth rapidly across the network and branch locations. It also offers the flexibility to try out new configurations and services before introducing them on a larger scale.

However, it’s essential that businesses understand that SD-WAN is not just as simple as slapping on a quick fix on top of their existing not-fit-for-purpose networks. A future-proof infrastructure should anticipate and prepare for long-term business objectives, needs and limitations as well as predicted technology developments.

The range of industries that could benefit from an SD-WAN network is huge but one company that’s already done so is Carlsberg. The global brewer's Tata Communications assisted switch to a software-defined hybrid network is part of the company's digital transformation program. The aim of the transformation is to harness the power of the internet and cloud computing to boost agility, increase efficiencies and reduce costs. The scalability and cost-effectiveness of a hybrid network has already enabled Carlsberg to digitise its supply chain and explore new AI-enabled opportunities that’ll keep it ahead of the crowd.

That’s just one example. In manufacturing, it can protect factories and provide maximum availability through load sharing; secure and control partner access through the extranet; and address compartmentalised lines of business. In banking, more robust integrated security will allow faster threat detection, while ubiquitous encryption addresses differences between ATM machine communications and branch-to-branch VoIP or video. What's more, the technology also has various potential applications in the wider financial and trading services world.

Of course, businesses are only able to see these benefits if SD-WAN is implemented correctly, which is why many are looking to trusted partners — including vendors like Cisco and managed service providers (MSPs) like Tata Communications — to manage it all for them. With lots of complex issues to consider and important decisions to make, such as how to manage broadband provisioning, how to ensure security at the network edge and what role on-premises hardware will take, making use of an MSP to deploy and maintain SD-WAN infrastructure can eliminate any hassle and help to avoid enduring any extra costs through unforeseen problems or complications. It also allows businesses to allocate more resources to strategic initiatives.

MSPs can vary massively, from consultancy firms to system integrators, but those that operate their own network have a built-in advantage and offer a number of benefits for customers. At Tata Communications, we're collaborating with Cisco and other technology vendors in order to lower the barriers for businesses aiming to make the move to hybrid SD-WAN infrastructure.

This kind of cross-industry partnership is essential when it comes to adopting emerging technologies. Tata Communications' long-standing business collaboration with Cisco is a perfect example of how bringing experts together from different fields can cater for our customers' wide-ranging digital transformation needs and give businesses the best possible foundation for success in the digital era.

The cloud-centric future will be mostly WAN-less — where site-to-site connectivity is the exception rather than the rule. For businesses to thrive in the digital era, they require a SD-WAN hybrid infrastructure that combines the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public internet, with the resilience and reliability of a private network. In short, agile businesses require an agile digital infrastructure.