The Past, Present and Future of SD-WAN


It’s no secret that cloud connectivity is becoming a must for modern enterprises as they connect to employees, consumers, machines and other businesses anywhere, anytime. With the rise of edge networks and our collective digital transformation, Frank Cittadino, SVP, Edge Services at Zayo Group, talks about the journey so far, the present state of tech, and the future benefits of SD-WAN.

As a key component of modern connectivity, SD-WAN empowers “anywhere operations,” enabling direct end-user to cloud traffic with speed, performance, reliability, and security. How did we reach the point where SD-WAN became critical to business operations, and what does the future hold?

The Journey So Far

Before SD-WAN came to the forefront as a networking solution, communications infrastructure was a piecemeal operation. Organizations had an MPLS network in physical locations, disparate fiber connection to hyperscalers, and a VPN connection to the end-user. With the growth of digitization and cloud computing, operations began happening beyond physical, centralized data centers. The market shifted towards the cloud because 1) MPLS operates an expensive and inefficient hub-and-spoke design, and 2) MPLS hides from the cloud because it is based on private networking rather than an open encrypted network. Enter SD-WAN, a more modern solution for evolving enterprises, bringing a cloud-first model, last-mile circuit remediation, automated network controls with strong security and an improved economic model. As our society evolves, software is vital to connect across an increasingly dispersed architecture. 

Edge networking is a hot topic, and technology built where the customers are — at the edge — can unlock the power and value of the cloud. What is driving that growth? Users want solutions that deliver data quickly and ubiquitously across the organization. Technology like SD-WAN, which unlocks multi-cloud opportunities, improves security options, moves us away from legacy hub-and-spoke networking and enables greater productivity at a lower cost with higher customer satisfaction.

Three Benefits of SD-WAN

Even before the global pandemic brought rapid digital transformation, enterprises realized software could improve processes and speed up manual tasks. But, that was still in a world where people were mainly in the office every day, physically connected. Now, the question is, “How do we stay connected from anywhere around the globe?” SD-WAN offers flexibility, security, and economical solutions that did not exist before.

1. Flexibility

When public cloud providers entered the mainstream, they didn’t mesh with enterprises’ private networks. It worked, but it was cost-prohibitive, time-consuming, and lacked capacity. Startups began introducing software, immediately opening avenues for network connectivity, as Uber and Airbnb did for transportation and travel. With software built at the edge where the customers are, businesses can utilize cloud connectivity’s scalability and value to increase flexibility. 

2. Security

SD-WAN creates a large web of connected devices — how is private data protected from hackers? SD-WAN keeps data secure with a mix of essential features, including:

    • IPsec encrypted tunnels to carry information between locations
    • Microsegmentation to separate less secure traffic from sensitive information
    • Threat detection services built on the secure edge to identify and mitigate threats

3. Performance 

Introducing software into WAN that can improve the quality of a commodity circuit was a game-changer. SD-WAN took circuits that cost thousands of dollars a month and gave them the qualities of a secure leased line for a fraction of the price by improving the behavior of the packets when there are issues such as latency, packet loss or jitter. Software saves valuable resources by increasing network performance and has enhanced last-mile performance by over 30% in the most common network issues. 

See More: Three Keys to Unlocking Value from 5G

Overlay Networking

There’s simply no time to deal with a costly, inefficient, piecemeal communications infrastructure in today’s business world. Enterprises need speed, performance, reliability and security to compete. SD-WAN streamlines traffic and strengthens network connectivity by enabling a single global overlay that goes directly from the end-user to the cloud. The software facilitates the anywhere connection from a laptop, retail store, or product showroom that keeps businesses ahead.

Key Considerations with SD-WAN

While widespread SD-WAN adoption is more of a when than an if, it still presents inherent challenges for enterprises: 

    1. Setup of new routers and dedicated connections to the hyperscalers is inefficient and requires a workaround on routing traffic from the edge to the cloud. In a standard routing environment, this is more difficult. 
    2. Legacy networking systems like MPLS tend to be complex because of a lack of automation, while modern options like SD-WAN are much more abstract and less consolidated.
    3. Security can be an afterthought, not a part of the integral design in legacy routing environments. SD-WAN security is built into every step of the architecture, leading to a more assertive security posture. 

When switching from legacy networking to software-driven solutions, it’s important to ask a few additional questions:

    1. Is over-the-top or network-based right for me with my global architecture? 
    2. How will I improve my digital transformation roadmap with SD-WAN to better leverage cloud architecture and enhance the end-user experience?
    3. What applications need support, and how can I secure those applications using the many security options available? 

See More: SD-WAN Is Ready To Remove Its Training Wheels

The Future of SD-WAN Is Multi-Cloud

SD-WAN is moving in the same direction as the rest of our world — cloud-native and cloud-deployed. Multi-cloud is likely to be a key destination for SD-WAN, given the myriad capabilities of the cloud mentioned above — performance, economy, reliability, security and scalability. As many employers permanently embrace a hybrid or remote workplace model, cloud-native technology will become table-stakes; it will be powered by 5G, a major mobility driver to connect users into overlays and hyperscalers through the cloud. 5G underpins secure, reliable global connectivity.

By now, many might feel they’ve heard all they need to hear about digital transformation. But in reality, digital transformation is a never-ending process. Groundbreaking technologies are changing the way we live our daily lives. It’s not always clear what the next big breakthrough will be, but we know this: software is the future, and the cloud will bring it to life. For enterprises, SD-WAN is changing the game. Those that embrace a powerful, reliable, secure software-driven connection will earn a competitive advantage now and in the years to come. 

What are your immediate plans for becoming cloud-native and cloud-deployed, and how does SD-WAN fit in? Share with us on  LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!