Guest Blog by Hubert Da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA, Cybera
Digital transformation is no longer a future state, or something to consider for the next financial year – it’s an initiative that needs to be woven into the very fabric of an organisation. Global connectivity is a fundamental part of the jigsaw, but when networking costs for distributed enterprise sites such as restaurants and retail stores can exceed 60% of overall IT spending, something has to give.
According to analysis by IDC, ‘the WAN needs to be reinvented’. As businesses channel technology investment to support their own digital transformation, their connectivity strategy becomes more important. Consequently, many organisations are turning to networking technologies, such as Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), to meet their rapidly growing bandwidth demands securely, and cost effectively. The trend raises some key questions:
The momentum behind market-shaping trends, such as IoT, continues to accelerate, putting traditional connectivity strategies under pressure. Take MPLS architectures, for example, which have acted as the foundation for Wide Area Networks around the world for many years. MPLS offers the benefits of a private network architecture that keeps corporate traffic distinctly separate from the public Internet. It adds the additional benefits of enabling classes of service, which allow for the integration of multiple traffic types onto a single physical network.
But, the challenges of building networks around MPLS when digital transformation is on the agenda are becoming significant. MPLS requires expensive routers in order to facilitate and administer the network. As a result, the cost of each new site deployment is significant due to the equipment cost and its associated support contracts and software licenses.
It’s an approach that also dictates considerable complexity in the network structure, as IT staff must maintain explicit configurations within every router. Because of its point-to-point star topology, the larger the network scales, the more exponential the complexity becomes. This burden also carries with it the cost of hiring expensive technicians who commonly require a range of specialist technology certifications.
In a landscape increasingly powered by the need for reliable and secure connectivity at the edge, and where businesses are adding huge numbers of new devices, these issues are fast becoming economically incompatible with business priorities.
SD-WAN is a software-based technology used to connect remote locations to a distributed enterprise network. It works as a network overlay enabling remote sites to consolidate multiple network functions and applications over low cost broadband connections.
Being software-based, an SD-WAN can reduce the number of network devices and connections required at each location, with the result that it significantly reduces network complexity and costs. As the needs of users change, the SD-WAN can be remotely customised and reconfigured, helping to reduce administrative and management overheads.
For example, remote locations can be defined simultaneously and then kept fully in sync using centralised cloud-based policy administration inherent in SD-WAN connectivity models. This architecture helps reduce expenses and complexity while increasing network flexibility. Of particular benefit to the growing number of distributed enterprises, it can be piloted on the network incrementally on a branch-by-branch basis, mitigating concerns about network disruption, and giving users a quick way to determine the return on investment.
Alongside performance and cost advantages, security is also a major consideration. Implementing secure SD-WAN solutions greatly simplifies enterprise networks and allows mission-critical applications to co-exist with public applications, such as WiFi, on a single network. This provides application-specific security where applications are segmented into their own dedicated logical networks, which prevents them meeting other application traffic on the same network.
In practical terms, organisations planning to build a connectivity strategy based around SD-WAN often begin by piloting installations to demonstrate the practical benefits of the technology. Moving from there to a branch-by-branch roll-out can help avoid disrupting existing architecture and minimise risk, while engaging key stakeholders in the benefits.
While SD-WAN technology has reached a mature stage of development, there remains much potential for on-going innovation. As IDC explains, “One key expected advancement will be deploying virtualised network functions (VNFs) in branch office locations. VNFs are software-based versions of network applications that may have previously been delivered in a purpose-built hardware appliance. The deployment of VNFs at the branch office will lead to the evolution of the software-defined branch market.”
Research and market trend data lends support to the SD-WAN proposition. IDC recently reported that the SD-WAN infrastructure market saw sales increase 64.9% in 2018 to $1.37 billion. This points towards a trend that will see spending on SD-WAN infrastructure reach $5.25 billion by 2023.
Legacy network complexity, security and operational challenges have put barriers in the way of effective WAN deployments, especially against the current backdrop of rapid innovation and change. But approaches based around technology such as SD-WAN in are no longer an impediment for the digital transformation investment taking place in so many distributed enterprises.
Guest Blog by Hubert Da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA, Cybera
We put distributed enterprises in control of their business. Cybera fundamentally changes the way distributed businesses (including those in retail, food services, healthcare, financial services, and other industries) use technology. Our purpose-built network services platform empowers you to rapidly deploy, secure, and optimize new cloud-based applications and services. The remote network edge presents unique challenges that haven’t been solved by traditional networking, and SD-WAN approaches are primarily designed for large enterprise branch offices. In contrast, the Cybera network services platform makes it easy, non-disruptive, and cost-effective to securely deliver, test, and deploy new cloud-based applications and services in these types of remote environments. This approach is ideal for loyalty programs, omni-channel strategies, compliance, IoT deployment, payments, and back-office applications across hundreds or even thousands of remote sites.