This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Dennis Thankachan, co-founder and CEO of LightYear
Enterprises have always been interested in cost-effective WAN architectures that are reliable, flexible, scalable, secure, and easier to manage. So, what’s the difference between the past and today? In addition to rapid technological innovation driving digital transformation, changes in workforce dynamics increase the urgency to deploy a new and improved WAN strategy.
New cloud computing and XaaS (Anything as a Service) solutions are being rolled out at an unprecedented pace. In response, enterprises are adopting cloud-first strategies to stay competitive, improve network accessibility and reliability, reduce IT infrastructure CapEx and lower overall costs. On top of this, changes in workforce dynamics have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, companies rely on employees and contractors located in home offices or a distributed office environment versus dedicated corporate or branch offices. This presents a host of new connectivity, application accessibility, and security challenges.
With these combined elements and likely more changes on the horizon that we can only begin to imagine, network and IT managers seek a scalable, flexible, and simpler to manage new generation WAN architecture. The optimal solution for a growing number of enterprises are SD-WANs (software-defined wide area networks).
The advantages of SD-WANs are compelling. Compared to legacy WANs, SD-WANs offer higher performance, greater efficiency, and a breakthrough level of agility and scalability, as well as additional security benefits. And they do this while lowering overall costs.
Virtual, transport-agnostic SD-WANs support multi-cloud connectivity with on-demand bandwidth and features such as dynamic, application-aware routing and the ability to create predefined policies and prioritize critical applications. SD-WANs also give network administrators centralized visibility and control and position enterprises to accelerate onboarding new cloud-based applications and platforms to meet current and future needs.
2021 SD-WAN Use Cases
Cloud Connectivity. With the elasticity, resiliency, and affordability of the cloud coupled with enterprises having gained trust in and familiarity with cloud-based services, we’ve entered an era where XaaS is exploding into the marketplace. The result is a dramatic shift from on-premises equipment and enterprise data centers to the cloud.
From SaaS (software-as-a-service) and PaaS (platform-as-a-service) to IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) and beyond, there are cloud-based platforms, applications, or data storage solutions for almost every enterprise. As the adoption of XaaS in a multi-cloud environment continues to expand, so does the need for improved reliability and network architecture that can dynamically and cost-effectively adapt to fluctuating bandwidth demands and traffic bursts. Unlike traditional WAN technology, SD-WANS have the agility, intelligence, and sophisticated management tools to efficiently support these requirements and more, including faster deployment of new cloud-based applications and services.
Distributed and Remote Workforce. More employees and contractors work remotely from home offices due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns. And even post-pandemic, we’re likely to see a more distributed workforce with a hybrid of remote and in-person work. As commercial office leases expire, companies aiming to decrease OpEx are using smaller, more distributed offices or even co-working office concepts to support a distributed talent pool. Simultaneously, remote and distributed workers use diverse internet connections, including broadband, DSL, 4G LTE, and 5G. They also rely on bandwidth-intensive cloud-based applications to do their jobs, such as videoconferencing, team collaboration and productivity tools, PaaS for software development, and SaaS CRM, to name a few. A remote workforce may also need access to legacy enterprise-based systems and applications connected via MPLS.
Compared to the traditional hub and spoke network models, transport-agnostic SD-WANs enable enterprises to leverage any combination of transport simply, affordably, and securely. Equally important, SD-WANs support on-demand connection and bandwidth, offering improved performance while reducing network bottlenecks and costs.
Security. Every second of every day, hackers attempt to access secure data, while enterprises work hard to thwart data breaches. To make matters worse, with office work moved to the home during the COVID-19 pandemic, hackers view this as an extra opportunity to attack vulnerable networks. This situation only increases the overall value of implementing an SD-WAN that provides security for today's varying collection of connections. SD-WANs make sense by supporting cloud-based security applications, traffic segmentation, and a multi-layer security strategy built into network management. They include tools to define policies to automate security assurance based on policy violations and to execute remedial actions on suspicious network behavior detected in real-time. SASE has emerged as a new SD-WAN + security “all-in-one” option that has recently become popular as well.
It’s easy to understand why IT managers and network administrators focus on the above trio of foundational SD-WAN use cases. Ultimately, they position enterprises to address current and future business-specific endeavors, remain competitive, support their workforce, lower CapEx and OpEx, generate more revenue, and improve profitability.
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