SD-WAN Now and Beyond

SD-WAN Now and Beyond

10 August 2020 | Abdullah Sheikh, Customer Solutions Director, Singtel

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SD-WAN is quickly becoming the unsung hero in this shift to remote work. SD-WAN is key in increasing end to end visibility for newly remote companies, ensuring company data is secure and managing demand for applications. SD-WAN does present some challenges and we have solutions to conquer them.

Q.  How does Singtel’s Network Intelligence as a Service (NIaaS) offering deliver much needed network visibility and control, to its customers?

There is shift from Data Centre to The Cloud as the Hub that allows access from anywhere and network performance requirements changed as well to ensure the user has uniform experience when accessing the corporate resources.    Cloud-Centric Enterprise WAN for Hybrid Multi-Cloud Applications pose additional challenges due to multiple underlying networks such as MPLS vs Cloud vs Internet and enhanced service performance monitoring needed across multiple connectivity domains. ​ Hybrid Networks are increasing complexities in Digital Experience (many to many connectivity)​.  There is lack of single centralized platform for monitoring and management (dashboard/troubleshooting)​, and offering a single pane of network intelligence.  Singtel’s Network Intelligence as a Service (NIaaS) ensures the enterprises can offer a smooth and predictable experience to their internal and external users. 

Q.  How has SD-WAN supported businesses and the growing number of remote workers during the Covid-19 pandemic?

SD-WAN and combination of various connectivity methods (including the Internet) allowed remote workers to securely connect back to the enterprise resources.  Users used variety of connectivity methods such as directly to the Cloud (an end point agent can enable user’s laptop connecting to the cloud resources securely) or via VPN to a nearest ingress point and from there the remote workers were able to perform their task simply as business as usual (BAU).  The corporate networks using SD-WAN were able to meet the challenges created by Covid-19 pandemic and sustained performance by extending the resources to remote workers without drop in performance or resource availability / connectivity limitations.

Q.  What are the biggest drivers of increasing adoption of SD-WAN/hybrid networks?

Agility. Flexibility. Management. Visibility. Control.  Though during the process, the cost of bandwidth goes down.  The management has better visibility of the network resources.  The administrator can troubleshoot faster resulting in lower downtimes.

Q.  What are the biggest challenges around moving from a legacy network to a SDN-enabled one? How do hybrid networks counter this?

Software Defined network and services come with their own challenges.  And migration brings its own set of challenges.  The most important is the base-lining of the existing network, identifying part of network migrating to SD-WAN, identifying the business objectives, step by step migration plan and an acceptable timeline.  During this whole process, we need to ensure the minimum or no disruption to the business.  Converting to Software Defined is not a flip of a switch; it does require careful planning and execution. 

The second major challenge to SD-WAN is a misconception that throwing in a SD-WAN Box and Internet connection will magically fix everything. It may not! The SD-WAN can only benefit based on how good the underlying connectivity is! For this, Singtel has introduced VASes with alternate methods and technologies which fixes these issues and hence the Hybrid Networks offering by Singtel. 

Q.  Who are the biggest customer/users of hybrid networking? I.e. enterprise or carrier side. Is this trend changing?

Carriers are the enablers of the Hybrid Networks. The biggest users are still the Enterprises and it will be that way.  Various hybrid network models are adopted by Enterprises.  The most adopted model by the major corporations (with multiple sites in all regions around the world, such as APAC, AMEA, Europe, North and South America) is to divide and conquer.  Major corporations are identifying regional hub locations (Data Centres) as the consolidation points for regional traffic to consolidate via a SD-WAN Implementation. More like a layered approach.  This allows the network administrators to split the network in to multiple administrative domains, yet still part of a big network.  This allows multiple benefits such as enforcing access and security policies within the region and break / control the traffic in to the cloud.  Regional connectivity approach also reduces the costs substantially and provided improved performance.  Sounds like an old model, but it is implemented differently.

Q.  What offerings do Singtel have in the hybrid networking space and how does differ from others on the market?

The major difference is that Singtel is agility, flexibility and working out a net tangible benefit model.  Benefits are measured both in cost savings, time savings, improved network performance, faster mean time to repair (MTTR).  Since Singtel is able to offer all types of underlying connectivity models (MPLS, Internet, Ethernet Lines, Mobile and Satellite) that can be used by a hybrid SD-WAN deployment model, we are able to compare which type of connectivity will meet the requirement and/or is better.  

Q.  How is Singtel ensuring continued security in the hybrid networking space? What are the challenges in this area?

Singtel offers SD Branch implementation which allows at-the-edge security as an option; additionally Singtel offers multiple security services thru its wholly owned subsidiary Trustwave; and the offering includes 9 globally distributed Security Operations Centres (SOC), SIEM and other Managed Security Services offering that go in tandem with Singtel’s Hybrid Network deployment.  There is not a single recipe towards security, and this is a challenge in itself to ensure proposed security solutions meet customer’s specific needs and ensure a security envelop is properly established network-wide.  Singtel designs Hybrid Networks with security in mind and by design we plug all the holes within the Hybrid Networks and complement them with the appropriate security solution.