Adaptive networks that power your digital transformation

Adaptive networks that power your digital transformation

10 August 2020 | Manul Agarwal, International Connectivity Products Lead, Telstra

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Do you know the true value of SD-WAN?

Q.  Cost reduction, application performance or cloud adoption – what’s the true value of SD-WAN?

There is a strong link between network performance and success in digital transformation and corporate strategy, which attests to the importance of networks to organisations. With businesses moving more workloads to various cloud platforms and supporting a growing proportion of remote employees with ICT needs, network strategies have started to shift. When enterprises use SD-WAN as enabler to manage the right mix of connectivity – MPLS, DIA and broadband – this can help them to better provision and manage networks, especially in accommodating the many moves, adds, and changes for new workloads.

In short, SD-WAN can improve application performance to cloud services, support more resilient branch networking operations, and promote business continuity by dynamically adjusting to changing conditions. All these serve to empower business transformation.

Q.  What are the main benefits of SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a solution recommended for enterprises looking to manage security, agility, and complexity of their business networks. Its benefits include improved application performance for a better end user experience, which can support more resilient branch networking operations. With greater visibility of application traffic, more efficient bandwidth usage, and the ability to quickly and easily control your network routing options, SD-WAN can simplify and streamline your network management. It can support business continuity by dynamically adjusting to changing conditions, empowering your business transformation. 

Q.  How do Cloud and SD-WAN influence WAN design? How can the underlay impact SD-WAN performance?

Migrating business applications to the cloud means your corporate network will face increased bandwidth demands. SD-WAN brings together a range of different underlay connectivity such as IPVPN  (MPLS), Internet, broadband and wireless, and uses Software-Defined Networking (SDN) as an overlay solution to route traffic along the best available path. This sets up the enterprise network for peak performance to meet business priorities in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. SD-WAN can improve traffic engineering, management and visibility within network domains, but not the WAN and network solutions on an overall basis. Ultimately, SD-WAN can only function well when the underlying Internet connection is reliable and high-performing.

Q.  How do you see different SD-WAN technologies evolve in future?

There are a number of trends in SD-WAN to look out for. First, SD-WAN will be deployed as the first step towards more advanced, integrated management of enterprises’ LANs and branches alongside the WAN. We also expect it to be available “as a Service”, where SD-WAN is offered as a more fully cloud-based software service, free from vendor or hardware-based constraints.

SD-WAN will be more commonly used as an enabling component of edge/IoT platforms, where its features and infrastructure will be integrated with service providers’ edge computing and IoT platforms.

Automation might be another path for SD-WAN to take, as there’s much work to be done in making the edge of a network more intuitive and responsive to the needs of a business. A self-driving edge network would be able to correct network issues that occur, without the need for IT professionals to configure fixes manually. With the move towards cloud-centricity, the SD-WAN focus will be on the LAN and branch, WAN (delivered in an even more flexible, cloud-native way), and the edge (with edge computing and IoT).

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are pouring into all areas of technology, and network infrastructure is no exception. The dynamic nature of traffic patterns over SD-WAN make it a prime technology candidate to enable, say, security threat detection or traffic routing optimisation. Whichever direction SD-WAN takes, it is likely to relate to AI/ML.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is basically about having security designed into the network. This concept is at early stages of evolution at the moment (and at the peak of inflated expectations on the Gartner Hype Cycle). Nevertheless when you look at where SD-WAN is going, and security will no doubt be an integral part of it.

Ultimately, application performance is what defines SD-WAN networks, and will become an even more important consideration over time. We need to give customers assurance that Enterprise applications will have optimum performance along with application performance insights insight & commitments. This has become even more important with more employees working remotely.

Finally, self-service and control will be an indispensable part of SD-WAN, in line with growing customer expectations to use this technology on their own terms.

Q.  As a service provider, what’s your advice to organisations embarking on an SD-WAN transformation?

While SD-WAN technology and capabilities continue to evolve, we advocate an approach anchored on three strategic pillars. First, any SD-WAN implementation should stem from a business-led conversation, not a technology-led one. Next, SD-WAN should be considered as part of the broader technology mix, including IPVPN, Wi-Fi, cloud, data centre, local area network (LAN) – and other networking solutions – if it is to deliver on its promise. It is an opportunity for customers to review and optimise their networks from end to end. By optimizing capacity on the network, it opens up possibilities to extend the benefits of software-defined networking and the virtualised network functions to support your organisation’s digital transformation.