It’s Time to Rethink Networking: Part Two

by Milind Bhise

This article is the second in a two-part series. Read the first part here.

While it is possible to configure traditional routers to manage a hybrid WAN, that will create challenges IT simply can’t overcome if it wants to deliver the levels of application performance and availability that users demand. For one, hybrid WAN topologies carry high operational costs when managed with traditional approaches. That makes managing them effectively too complex and costly. They’re also inflexible and fragile, which means even small configuration changes can be time consuming and error-prone. Meanwhile, users are driving up demand for bandwidth as they strain networks with videos, cloud applications and real-time collaboration and communications tools.

You also have to be wary of an increased security risk and reduced network visibility. Direct internet access at multiple remote sites bypasses data center-grade security services, and encrypted apps (SSL, TLS, HTTPS) and SaaS vendor opacity compromise end-to-end visibility. Performance also suffers due to limited MPLS capacity and the lack of SLAs for Internet broadband.

SD-WAN Drives Digital Transformation
In its 2015 “Technology Overview for SD-WAN” report, Gartner calls SD-WAN “a new and transformational way to architect, deploy and operate corporate WANs, as it provides a dramatically simplified way of deploying and managing remote branch office connectivity in a cost-effective manner.” There are three key factors behind why SD-WAN can have such a transformative effect.

The first is by greatly improving business agility. IT can realize 50-80 percent improvement in time when provisioning new sites and services. Zero-touch provisioning and centralized management eliminate the need to have a dedicated IT staffer on-site.

SD-WAN is also more efficient and reliable. Configuration is simple because changes are based on policies and are centrally defined. Additionally, IT is able to better utilize redundant WAN circuits.

The third factor is one that’s close to the C-Suite’s heart: saving money. Improving operational efficiencies and ensuring users’ productivity levels remain high translates to at least a 40 percent reduction in TCO, according to Gartner.

SD-WAN Today and Tomorrow
SD-WAN is an important first step, but in order to bring meaningful transformation, enterprises should look further than the WAN to extend the benefits of software-defined networking past the edges of the wide-area network. If the enterprise has multiple workloads in the cloud, a solution that offers a unified connectivity fabric spanning the cloud, WAN and the LAN is beneficial. How do you integrate increasingly complex cloud networks (IaaS) into the enterprise corporate networks with ease? The objective should be to establish ubiquitous connectivity for distributed networks that spans the WAN and goes deeper into remote LAN networks where users connect their devices and IT manages remote services (phones, servers, etc.) as well as unifying connectivity into the public cloud. And given that a significant amount of business is done at the branches, the solution should also manage user access for BYOD and network segmentation at the branch LAN/WLAN and the WAN, with ease. Additionally, look for a solution that is agile and is able to offer a cloud-centric workflow to bring networking in the 21st century.

Milind Bhise is the senior director of product marketing at Riverbed.

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