SD-WAN entered the market initially being positioned as an alternative or replacement to legacy WAN solutions such as MPLS. However, as more enterprises plan to kick off Digital Transformation (DX) so as to better run the business and serve the customers, now it’s worth for us to take a broader look at SD-WAN in the innovative DX framework.
For the enterprise space, DX has three main drivers: cloud, mobility, and IoT. SD-WAN is a key enabler for all the three fields, Cloud lays the digital foundation, mobility allows ubiquitous and real time data & video access, and IoT expands the fronts of appliance and machine services.
The trend is, no doubt, for all business IT operations to go to cloud or cloud based, in terms of data center, applications, storage, security and WAN connectivity (i.e. SD-WAN). Even for some special verticals like the defense industry and government agencies which are regulated to keep some core operations on premise or non-public, they may still go for private cloud or virtual private data center, rather than staying with the legacy, expensive, and difficult to scale hardware centric IT stacks.
Any solid cloud operation would rely on stable, robust and intelligent WAN connectivity between the data center/hubs and business/client sites. But we know DX doesn’t stop at WAN links. Besides next-gen networking, SD-WAN is poised well to do more in such roles as system simplification & interoperability, and digital platform enablement in the DX process.
SD-WAN for the cloud era connectivity has become a no brainer, and we’ve experienced more and more of these exciting niches it brings onboard: intelligently centralized and managed performance, application aware routing, segmentation and security, value added service chaining and insertion, cost effective for capex and opex, fast and zero-touch provisioning, flexible and scalable deployment models, and so on.
System simplification and interoperability is another essential capability to the successful DX for today’s enterprises. As technologies evolve at a very fast pace, an enterprise faces the complexities of both human and machine applications, frequent upgrade from old to new systems, and unprecedented challenges of operational efficiency and security. How to keep a complex technical environment relatively simple and safe to run? System simplification and interoperability is the answer and SD-WAN can achieve a lot along this track.
For instance, SD-WAN runs on the overlay topology that is agnostic to underlay network solutions, such as public Internet, MPLS, LTE, etc. Hence if an enterprise today feels quite lost in keeping up with a mixed bag of network services, SD-WAN can come in tomorrow and bring everything onto a single fabric with enhanced performance outcome.
Also, if today the branch office of an enterprise hosts on site a big stack of server and device boxes like routers, switches, firewalls, email servers, web servers, file server, DHCP server, NAT server, etc., tomorrow SD-WAN can come in and handle all these in virtualized functions via a single piece of uCPE/vCPE device or remotely via a cloud platform.
Plus, if an enterprise wants to take a phased approach by starting some hybrid SD-WAN Day 1 with their existing MPLS services, SD-WAN can either handle it with embedded BGP and OSPF advertising and make the interoperability seamless, or duplicate the MPLS routing policies and protocols by running an overlay on top.
DX cannot happen without digital platforms, and their enablement means that SD-WAN, at the user end or LAN side, also enables Layer 4-7 enhanced security to virtual desktop services via service chaining and insertion; at the cloud data center end, it sets up gateways for multi-cloud access and management, adds up AI and machine learning capabilities, and also makes the new 3-tier IT operation architecture: Core Cloud, Edge Computing, and End Office/Utilization possible, dynamic and effective.
The prediction is that we will see more SD-WAN solutions being bundled into the DX system offers for enterprises’ organic and coordinated adoption. The recent practice of VMware having acquired VeloCloud SD-WAN and packing it into its NSX which is the VMware SDN network virtualization and security platform, serves as a good example. Vendors who simply position and offer SD-WAN as a link solution but fail to envision and architect the big DX picture for enterprise clients, may suffer more disadvantages in today’s very competitive IT/Cloud/Telecom markets.
David W Wang is a telecom/IT business development principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC based in Washington DC metro. Mr. Wang is also the author of the brand new book “ITComG18@gmail.com” , and the 2015 publishing “ ”, and he can be contacted at