Software Defined Wan is not a new concept. It first appeared in Australia about three years ago and has steadily been gaining traction in the market since then. And rightfully so. In this article, I will discuss if, how, and why SD-WAN can provide value for your organization.
What is it?
SD-WAN simplifies and improves the way businesses connect their sites to the corporate network by using software to control and deliver network communications over (sometimes) alternative carriage services.
The business problem
Traditional WANs are expensive and slow, and the widespread adoption of cloud services has resulted in networks that are incapable of delivering the performance and security that is required by applications used by today's businesses. Further, the old data centre centric model for hosting corporate applications and providing Internet connectivity to branch locations is becoming less valid. More corporate applications are moving to the cloud, resulting in flows between end-users or customers and the services they consume being sub-optimal and costly to provide over the WAN, and negatively impacting the end-user experience.
The business solution
What if you were able to tell your business that you were going to improve the end user experience for your workforce when accessing their critical applications, enhance security across the enterprise, increase branch site network resiliency, dramatically reduce your carrier costs, and simplify the continued adoption of cloud services? These are all examples of capabilities that an SD-WAN solution can provide, and great reasons you should be looking into how you can leverage this technology. In this article I will highlight the key benefits I am seeing for our customers, and discuss some areas you should understand before putting your SD-WAN business case forward.
What are the key benefits?
There are many benefits to SD-WAN, and each vendor tends to focus on variations of the same underlying value propositions. I find the following benefits are most interesting to our clients:
Optimised for Cloud – Connect your branch locations securely and directly into your public cloud services without transiting your WAN and data centres. This is key as you adopt more SaaS and cloud services and need your users to get the best possible performance via the most direct path to those resources.
Intent Based – The network understands business language and uses this to make decisions, rather than basic technical metrics. Write policies that allow traffic based on what your business actually needs.
Agility – Deploy WAN connectivity to new sites in minutes rather than months, and use whichever underlying carriage is best for your sites. Get a site up and running fast and with ease.
Cost – Replace or complement traditional WAN services and leverage cheaper connectivity options for dramatic cost savings. Manage your WAN from a single platform to reduce operational overhead. We have seen huge savings by moving to this model.
Visibility - Gain visibility into network traffic across your enterprise to understand application and user behaviour. No more guessing what each site is doing on the network.
Control – Centrally manage your WAN and achieve complete control over communications between your sites. Implement changes across the environment instantaneously and without carrier input.
Performance – Leverage high-speed Internet services to securely connect branch locations to the corporate network via the SD-WAN for bandwidth hungry applications and use policies to meet application performance SLAs or route critical traffic dedicated links.
Resiliency – Use SD-WAN to easily provide intelligent resiliency at the edge of the network, combining network links and selecting the best path for your applications. No more complicated manual configuration to achieve rapid failover capability.
Security – Encrypt all communications across your network by default.
Consolidated – Many SD-WAN solutions are integrated into appliances that deliver other branch network capabilities, including security, wireless, switching, routing, remote access. This makes it a great option for branch offices, stores, etc. where cost, space, and manageability are important.
SD-WAN has value for almost all of our customers, however not all benefits are available to all businesses.
Things to consider
While it would be nice if all benefits were achievable by all customers, realistically there are constraints that should be considered when evaluating what value SD-WAN will bring to your organisation.
Where are your branch sites located?
If the majority of your branch sites are located in regional areas with limited carrier options, then you might not get some of the cost savings that can be made from using cheaper, faster, network links. However, you may still get value from using alternate services for resiliency or improved performance from localised Internet breakouts. Conversely if your sites are primarily located in capital cities or overseas, then it’s likely that big savings are accessible.
How do you manage your carrier services?
If you currently manage a single carrier for all WAN and Internet services and want to continue to do so, you may miss some out on the carrier independence that SD-WAN can enable, and therefore some of the cost and performance benefits. An SD-WAN solution often gives the best results when you move to a multi carrier underlay. If you are worried about managing multiple carriers, consider a managed SD-WAN solution from an independent provider such as Basis Networks.
What capability do you have in your network team?
SD-WAN platforms are simpler to manage than legacy network equipment, but you still need to perform a migration to your new solution and up skill your team to the new platform.
How advanced is your cloud strategy?
If you have all your apps and data within your own data centres and secure Internet traffic through a central place and wish to keep this architecture, then you won’t get as much value from localised Internet breakouts at the edge. For those already consuming SaaS applications such as o365 for their users or moving in that direction, then there is likely a big advantage.
How comprehensive is your security architecture?
Do you have a security platform that can give visibility and control into a distributed network model? If not, you may need to consider how you will secure and manage traffic when it no longer goes through the data centre. Some SD-WAN solutions will take care of this for you, and others can be complemented with security solutions that provide control across your enterprise.
Do you have critical application performance SLAs?
SD-WAN allows you to utilise any underlying carriage to securely connect your sites. In many instances, high-speed Internet services are great for this purpose, however if you have latency sensitive applications you may want to keep an MPLS network where metrics such as latency can be guaranteed. In this instance, an SD-WAN can provide exceptional value through the use of policies that stipulate that specific traffic uses the MPLS, while other less critical traffic may use lower cost services.
Who is going to benefit most?
The verticals I have found that get a high return on investment in a short time frame include retailers, hospitality, construction, healthcare, and mid enterprise customers with distributed office locations. That being said, our larger enterprise customers are also having great success with SD-WAN, often deploying it in conjunction with a traditional MPLS WAN for critical services (hybrid WAN). Regardless of which industry they are in, the customers who have benefited the most from SD-WAN deployments tend to have similar profiles:
· Numerous branch sites predominantly located in capital cities.
· Some have overseas offices requiring secure WAN connectivity.
· Most have adopted (or are about to adopt) multiple SaaS applications such as o365, Box, Salesforce, or have corporate applications in the cloud and need the best performance possible for all users.
· All are looking to improve application performance.
· All want to pay less for WAN services.
· Most are looking for an easier way to manage their network.
As you can see, these attributes are common to many businesses and this is why SD-WAN is a technology I believe everyone should be looking in to.
Where do you start?
Before jumping on the SD-WAN bandwagon, it’s important to evaluate how and why your business may benefit, the potential ROI, and how the solution will be deployed and managed. At Basis Networks, we are leaders in optimised connectivity, cyber security, and network intelligence solutions with SD-WAN being a technology that we have extensive capability in. We assist our clients with their journey through a number of different services offerings, including:
Use Case Analysis – to determine how SD-WAN would be used to provide value to your business.
ROI and Options Analysis – including an assessment of viable carriage options, deployment models, and ongoing operational models to determine the best solution and expected ROI.
SD-WAN Strategy and Architectures – including vendor analysis and recommendations, technology consolidation, cloud connectivity, security, deployment and management.
SD-WAN Proof of Concept – deploy an SD-WAN into your network to a number of nominated sites to prove which benefits will work for you.
SD-WAN Procurement – partner with the leading SD-WAN vendors in the Australian market and provide competitive pricing and rapid turnaround.
SD-WAN Deployment and Carrier Migrations – cutting over to a new SD-WAN solution and changing carriers takes careful planning and execution. We have refined this process over many iterations and are confident we can do it faster and with less impact than the competition.
Managed SD-WAN - solutions to provide an end-to-end alternative to single carrier WANs.
We also have numerous SD-WAN specialists who are available to augment our customer teams, to assist wherever they are in their SD-WAN journey.
Whether you are looking to improve the end-user-experience, simplify the adoption of cloud, increase agility, or drive down WAN costs, SD-WAN is a technology solution you should be looking in to.
I recommend investigating how it may benefit your organisation now and not waiting until your existing WAN contracts are due for renewal, as the best deployments maximise the capability of the platform and are not used simply as a WAN alternative and its easier to do an evaluation when you aren’t also trying to negotiate a multi-year WAN contract at the same time.
Contact Basis Networks for a chat about how we can help with your SD-WAN strategy. https://www.basisnetworks.com.au/contact
Basis Networks are industry leaders in the delivery of intelligent connectivity, cyber security, and network intelligence solutions for Australia’s businesses.
Our highly effective approach to helping our customers deliver on their digital business initiatives has resulted in being recognised by CRN as the fourth fastest growing IT company in Australia, and the 24th fastest growing company in Australia by the Australian Financial Review, for the 2017 financial year.