Few things hold modern enterprises back more than legacy infrastructure, especially when it comes to connectivity. In a fast-moving, data-heavy and cloud-dependent digital world, outdated network infrastructure can significantly diminish business performance. Multi-site enterprises need an architecture that supports their requirement for speed, flexibility, security and availability, rather than inhibiting it.
Software-Defined Networking in a Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) could be the answer. With the evolution of SD-WAN, enterprises have an increasingly viable software-based solution for delivering WAN services. But, understandably, there is still some uncertainty about the practical application of the technology and the extent of the potential benefits. So, how has SD-WAN evolved – and how can it provide more effective, efficient connectivity for enterprises?
A brief background of SD-WAN
First pioneered in the US in 2016 and 2017, SD-WAN is a software layer which simplifies the delivery of WAN services to branch locations. Now, with its bugs ironed out, focus has shifted to the European market. Recent research suggests that one in five US and UK businesses are running early-stage SD-WAN projects. Likewise, research from Frost & Sullivan found 61% of global enterprises expect to deploy SD-WAN in the next 24 months. It’s not hard to see why.
SD-WAN allows network traffic to travel independently of the transport layer. This provides both better performance and far greater network visibility, giving IT departments the ability to make more informed decisions about their networking. As a result, SD-WAN can offer policy flexibility, increased security, simpler service delivery, and easy collaboration with third parties – the last of which is particularly relevant for enterprises operating in a mature IT environment.
But with SD-WAN still somewhat of an unknown platform, adoption has moved at a fairly slow pace. Fortunately, the benefits are becoming clearer, and technical understanding about how it can be implemented is increasing.
A flexible, collaborative future: the benefits of SD-WAN
By eliminating backhaul penalties and the bottlenecks of hardware-based architectures, SD-WAN can result in a significantly improved user experience, particularly for cloud or SaaS applications. By providing a secure overlay, SD-WAN offers greater confidentiality, which is crucial for modern businesses in an age of constant cyber threat. As such, investment in this service can resolve some of the security issues surrounding cloud adoption. It’s also a flexible solution, which can be deployed rapidly to facilitate demand during peak times, or periods of significant change, for example during mergers and acquisitions. And, as mentioned, it’s an ideal solution for enterprises who regularly collaborate with third parties.
In addition to the wealth of benefits it offers, SD-WAN also drives network efficiencies, as it identifies surplus capacity that can be better utilised – providing visibility IT teams have never benefitted from before, in order to make informed decisions when buying more capacity. Plus, it can be delivered on a consumption-based billing model. Many enterprises – especially those who experience peaks and troughs in demand – rightly find this to be a more effective budgeting strategy.
The ultimate goal for SD-WAN architecture
With such a range of benefits on offer, it’s important that SD-WAN is easy to purchase and deploy. In terms of what SD-WAN will look like for customers, we see it becoming the dominant WAN platform sold to enterprise customers by 2020. It will primarily be delivered independently of the connectivity service underpinning it, using robust single source architecture with multiple service capabilities.
However, there’s still work to do before SD-WAN adoption can become widespread – primarily in terms of the customer buying process. In our opinion, we expect to see an ‘app store’ version of an SD-WAN product, with a user interface carefully designed to ensure maximum accessibility. With plans already in place at SSE Enterprise Telecoms to explore possibilities with a number of partners, we look forward to seeing how the developments play out.
Effective and efficient – but first, accessible
SD-WAN is set to be a key enabler of business efficiency, removing the time-consuming requirements of many legacy architectures and solving a number of business problems. For enterprises, this means improved performance, better communications, and ultimately the ability to deliver an improved end-customer service – and all with shorter term technology contracts. But although a willingness for transformation from customers is key, it’s ultimately the networks who’ll play the most crucial role. By providing accessibility to this new architecture, network providers can help to liberate global enterprises from the pitfalls of their existing legacy networks.
We can help you reap the benefits of modern network architecture – get in touch to discover more.