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‘Is SD the WAN we’ve been waiting for?’ – Node4 expert

‘Is SD the WAN we’ve been waiting for?’ – Node4 expert

In an industry which is constantly innovating, there are always new technologies and solutions coming to market. But are they always worth the hype? Glenn Akester, Network Architect at Node4 looks in detail at SD-WAN, one particular technology innovation which he argues offers major benefits for customers and does live up to its reputation.

There’s always a bit of a song and dance about new technologies. It’s safe to say that the IT industry likes shiny new things, but that’s what drives it to continue to innovate.

The question for most of these new solutions is, however, whether customers are as enthusiastic as vendors after the dust settles and the solution is installed and running.

So, where does SD-WAN sit within the spectrum? Are customers dancing all the way to the bank due to significant savings and performance improvements; or are they regretting ever installing it?

Are organisations benefiting?

SD-WAN is an acronym for software-defined networking in a wide area network. At its core, SD-WAN essentially simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by decoupling the networking hardware from its control mechanism. The market for this is continuing to grow and SD-Wan is proving to being more than just a buzzword, with MarketsandMarkets predicting that by 2020, the sector will be worth around US$5.57 billion.

For the most part, SD-WAN offers some real benefits. Organisations can benefit from improved flexibility, security, control, visibility and manageability when deploying this new and improved WAN solution.

One reason for this is that, because of SD-WAN, businesses no longer have to rely solely on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) but can also utilise broadband, 3G and 4G. It makes the most of every bit of bandwidth at the company’s disposal, without compromising on reliability and only using MPLS for high priority traffic.

Additionally, blending Internet with MPLS allows direct access to public cloud and SaaS services, supporting cloud first IT strategies. This is an area where there can be cost and time savings as there is no requirement to use centralised Internet bandwidth from the data centre unless absolutely necessary.

How is SD-WAN making an impact?

The fact that SD-WAN can be centrally managed is huge. Application updates can be made just once, saving time, chance of human error and making the business more agile, competitive and responsive to opportunities.

Setting up a new branch or remote office can also be organised in minutes using a combination of automation and zero touch provisioning. It’s clear to see the ROI that this delivers. It allows for a leaner team, which can easily be achieved when no IT staff are needed to visit a new branch to set it up. It also means that remote locations can be delivered at real speed.

This is also a brilliant benefit for any businesses that are thinking about completing a merger or acquisition, as it allows two companies to merge their networks with minimal lead times.

Central management means that the solution’s next-generation security function is also easier to manage, there is a consistent security policy in place and a full suite of next generation features at each branch. The benefit of this being that all branches now have direct Internet connectivity. These features can also be used to provide internal segmentation and secure communications between branch sites.

Alongside this, end-to-end network visibility means engineers can spot and alleviate problems quickly. This improves performance and thwarts any problems before IT teams or your customers feel them, helping to bullet-proof profits and brand. The software itself minimises disruption by monitoring the network, then segmenting parts of it which are experiencing a flaw. It then intelligently reroutes traffic to make the most of what is available based on the application.

It appears that SD-WAN is continuing to make a splash in the IT world, with customers seemingly happy and content with the benefits they are seeing as a result. Although some IT trends can be just that, a trend, it appears that SD-WAN is living up to its reputation and becoming an integral part of the IT industry.

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