Tony Walt
Tony Walt Chief Operations Officer

Businesses with multiple locations have long faced challenges when it comes to setting up, maintaining and managing their enterprise network. The traditional solution is to rely on an MPLS or other dedicated circuit technology, but that has proven, all too often, to be high in cost and low in speed.

people in meeting room working on laptops

This way of “doing” a wide area network (WAN) has prevailed despite the increasing availability of fast, inexpensive public Internet capabilities and intelligent connectivity solutions.

But it’s time that organisations reimagined their WANs. Continuing to connect numerous branch offices to a central corporate network with costly, cumbersome hardware devices and teams of technicians is inefficient. Productivity and profits slip. Migrating to a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) takes a huge chunk of control over the network into the cloud, and leverages software to do much of the connectivity legwork.

SD-WAN technology has prevailed, but is starting to make big waves in the telecoms industry. As more and more companies shift to virtual environments and their dependence on reliable, cost-effective Internet grows, SD-WAN’s potential is becoming clearer. SD-WAN solutions are capable of revolutionising the way that businesses structure and pay for their corporate networks. The right product offers cost savings with improved performance – lending it great appeal for IT managers and CEOs alike. Here’s how a Software-Defined Wide Area Network delivers.

SD-WAN boosts network performance

There are two keywords to keep in mind here: intelligence and availability. SD-WAN is smart technology: it can dynamically route network traffic according to performance needs and the connections that are available. It taps into both private links and public broadband (with as much hybridity as the business – and its budget – needs). It monitors them all to ensure that lag is minimised and downtime is eroded. Should one link go down, traffic is simply routed via another. Mission critical applications can be prioritised, giving employees – across all offices – peace of mind that their workflows won’t be disrupted due to dreaded “network issues”.

This dynamic managed routing is a massive step up from traditional WANs and greatly increases the control that IT managers have over their networks. Previously, you could see only whether a link was working or not – you could not (certainly not easily, anyway) have traffic automatically  rerouted as needed. Where traditional WANs would go straight to “red traffic lights”, causing the flow to skid to a halt when issues arose, SD-WANs show “orange lights” to IT managers. They’ve got time to identify and resolve issues before they become crippling – while traffic continues to flow smoothly.

The shape of wide area networks to come

Evolving to SD-WAN is a far more efficient, affordable way of future-proofing an enterprise network than patching it with bandwidth when demands increase (a scenario that can bleed IT budgets dry). It’s scalable, meaning that the Wide Area Network can be expanded or shrunk as business needs change. Top SD-WAN offerings make it easy to bring new offices online (and vice versa ); a zero-touch provisioning device (generally the only physical hardware needed) can be setup to connect a new branch automatically, and without having to deploy an IT specialist. This benefit is an advantage for IT resources and overall productivity (and the revenue-generating capacity) of the organisation.

It’s no surprise then that the uptake of SD-WAN has skyrocketed – or that it will continue to do so. Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm in the US,  predicts that a full 30% of enterprises will have onboarded the technology by 2019. That’s a sizeable jump from the 1% penetration rate recorded at the end of 2015. Since SD-WAN gives organisations the simplicity, automation and agility they need to survive – and thrive – in the changing economic climate, this tech is set to soar.

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