SD-WAN Is Ready To Remove Its Training Wheels

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SD-WAN is evolving from being a network to software. As it matures, agility, on-demand, and fluid bandwidth innovations, with cloud-native and security improvements, will play into its advancement, says Sven Müller, IP product director, Colt Technology Services.

The enterprise network’s role in the world of digital everything is changing rapidly. But businesses aren’t drilling holes through drywalls and claiming the corner office to install another barrage of switches. Instead, heroes like SD-WAN have made their way onto the scene. And as the technology matures, so does its use case, shifting to be far more than just a high-speed software-defined network. 

Why Did the Network Become Software?

Software-defined anything is attractive because the notion of building something in software and then rolling it out without constraints is hugely attractive. So, when SD-WAN first made its way onto the scene, demand was driven because it was more effective than MPLS, and there was the promise of ease of deployment. With the cost being the primary driver for its explosion onto the scene, businesses still need to temper its use with a robust business use case. From a financial perspective, having dedicated MPLS connections for smaller offices across disparate geographies is overkill. Today, fiber is pervasive and cities connected, with the cost savings from SD-WAN often being negligible. This has seen the reasons it is being used shift from cost to agility. 

Central to its software-centric makeup, SD-WAN allows users to act on change quickly (with agility). In terms of how traffic is routed on the network, applications flow, firewalls, and security are rolled out. Agility is essential because it supports the speed needed by self-service and automation. Today’s users want to be in control of their environment and less reliant on service providers, and by its nature, SD-WAN simplifies the operation and management of the WAN. 

In short, with SD-WAN, you bring your systems “closer” to IT because of this agility allowing teams to login and effect changes on the fly and make network policy changes when needed. However, as much as it is software, it isn’t quite Kubernetes to build a mobile app, so at the beginning of its heyday, a fair amount of technical know-how was needed to get it to work optimally. Fortunately, time means maturity, and SD-WAN is no longer a toddler and is significantly easier to deploy. 

See More: How Multi-CDN Strategies Can Help Organizations to Mitigate the Impact of Outages

What Does SD-WAN Fix?

The same way we aren’t feeding hungry mainframes in the basement anymore, neither are we building large bulky datacenters with complex MPLS networks connecting geographies. The cloud is the big operating model shift that SD-WAN is helping IT teams simplify. Why? Because SD-WAN is built on a cloud-native topology and does not require centralizing all IT assets before breaking into the cloud. While you can break into the cloud with your MPLS network, you won’t be able to do it without complete centralization first. 

Instead, with SD-WAN, you can immediately start moving your branch offices to the cloud without the need for centralization. It is a significant mindset change for those in IT still deeply attached to their tin and complicated routing topologies. Again, while this is a change in the IT or network operating model, it is also a driver in SD-WAN’s future success as it gives customers the agility and flexibility they crave. 

Speak to a user of hyperconverged infrastructure in their datacenter, and they will tell you that it is the legacy network holding back cloud-based data center deployments in many cases. Aging networks throttle traffic and are the masters of creating latency where there shouldn’t be – another business case for SD-WAN. 

Then, those businesses with SD-WAN at play when office workers streamed out of the boardroom and into their living rooms quickly saw the benefits. The first was security. Network security was always a bit like buying accessories for the prom dress after buying the dress. You add it where you need it, some are functional, some are just for peace of mind, some look good, and the boss said you need it. With SD-WAN, security and networking operations are converging, and the security solution and its management become intrinsic at the software layer. In essence, security is now sewn into the dress. 

The second was agility, users working from home demand network agility, and IT teams need better control of networks when connecting people’s homes, offices, and clouds. More control allows for better security. 

See More: How SD-WAN Is Simplifying and Accelerating Multi-Cloud Adoption

Where To Next?

Looking forward, SD-WAN solutions will offer astonishing scale, all within the bounds of delivering real-time, on-demand connectivity. 

Then, in terms of enterprise functionality, SD-WAN solutions will need to improve in the “looks” department with greater ease of use and functionality. This will mean adding in tools such as AI and machine learning, which will contribute to the expanding intelligent edge.

In the foreseeable future, these networks will get more intelligent, apps will start completing their own SLAs, and the networks will have stronger control in understanding where packet loss emanates and how it can be overcome dynamically.

So, in summary, the evolution of SD-WAN is inevitable, and many factors will play into its advancement. As we look forward to 2022, we will see agility, on-demand, and fluid bandwidth innovations, with cloud-native and security improvements happening in tandem.

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