Software-defined Wide Area Networks (WAN) have certainly captured the attention of CIOs across nearly every industry, promising greater control over WAN infrastructure and the application traffic that’s traversing the network.
Unlike legacy WAN architectures, software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) are designed to fit perfectly with cloud-based applications, to give organisations greater agility and efficiency as they handle exponential traffic growth. With the right SD-WAN, you can automatically orchestrate network traffic, deploy new applications faster, deliver a superior user experience, and reduce costs.
But, not all SD-WANs are the same, and not all will be right for you.
Anton Jacobsz, Managing Director at Networks Unlimited, an authorised value-added distributor of the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution, explores seven key traits to look for in an SD-WAN provider.
POCs are a great way for you to test the SD-WAN waters. Conducting a thorough POC will not only enable you to develop a trusted relationship with your SD-WAN provider, but you’ll be able to build a strong business case, founded in practical experiences. As senior leadership starts realizing the benefits from a POC, securing buy-in for larger deployments becomes easier.
SD-WANs capitalise on path selection and traffic engineering to optimise the link between branch offices and data centres, giving you faster and more reliable performance for your applications. You’ll need a provider that can guarantee enhanced quality-of-service across your WAN, regardless of the underlying network conditions, to deliver consistent applications performance and give users the best experiences, while facilitating the rapid addition of new SaaS applications to your cloud estate.
3. Lower costs
With an SD-WAN solution in place, you can realize dramatic cost-reductions. By replacing or augmenting MPLS connections with commodity broadband connectivity (used as the backbone for SD-WANs), Silver Peak clients – for instance – have seen connectivity and equipment savings of up to 90 percent.
4. Revenue growth
However, your SD-WAN business model shouldn’t rely on lower costs alone. SD-WAN vendors and integrators should work with your in-house technology team, to understand how your WAN network will enable the delivery of new applications. Ultimately, this should be quantified in terms of business productivity gains, time-to-market for new revenue streams, and increased business agility.
5. Visibility and control
Your SD-WAN solution must allow you to align application priority, security and performance with your business intent – as you assign policies, control, and direct all your WAN traffic. In fact, some of the biggest benefits of SD-WANs are the ability to identify and direct applications from the first packet received in alignment with business intent and the ability to monitor throughput, packet loss, latency and jitter in real time.
Look for an SD-WAN provider that ensures the encryption of all WAN traffic as it moves from one location to the next. Your SD-WAN should also orchestrate and automate direct Internet access to SaaS and cloud applications from branches via the usage of split tunnels, path conditioning and other techniques, as well as automatically directing any suspicious traffic to regional or data center-based firewalls. But, despite your best efforts, breaches can still occur. It’s for this reason that you need a provider than can effectively segment applications to ensure business critical applications traverse their own exclusive business intent overlay.
7. Ease of transition/ integration
Moving from traditional network architectures to SD-WANs can seem daunting. But experienced networking partners can simplify the transition, point out potential issues before they arise, and ensure that your migration is smooth and without any disruption to business operations.
With the SD-WAN market predicted to hit $6bn by 2020, the enthusiasm for this technology is growing fast. But before jumping hastily into the wrong SD-WAN configuration, take the time to critically assess your SD-WAN provider.
“We recommend Silver Peak as a global leader in SD-WANs, with its high-performance EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution. With Silver Peak, we can empower CIOs with the flexibility to use any combination of underlying transport technologies without compromising application performance – lowering costs, boosting business performance and accelerating time-to-value,” adds Jacobsz.