One of the technologies that many enterprises are looking at today for succeeding in meeting their global network challenges is a Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). While a nascent technology at present, SD-WAN is set for huge growth: Gartner predicts that by 2018 more than 40 percent of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be SD-WAN-based, up from less than 2 percent today.
The benefits that SD-WAN brings to enterprises
An SD-WAN enables enterprises to deploy a new kind of hybrid network infrastructure that combines the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the Internet with security and reliability of a private MPLS WAN. This gives the CIO unprecedented control over the entire network infrastructure across all branch offices, and lowers the barriers for enterprises to expand into new geographies
In practice, an SD-WAN enhances the performance of both on-premise and cloud applications. The CIO could change routing policies in real-time, and assign different policies for different offices depending on demand, for example. The ability to dynamically route traffic between the Internet and the private network, and use the public Internet for less business-critical applications, makes the enterprise network a lot more cost-effective.
An SD-WAN also improves the end user experience, as congestion is minimised and application responsiveness is maximised. This helps ensure that employees are able to enjoy faultless, secure access to applications and data to empower them to collaborate securely and seamlessly, wherever in the world they are. The benefits are clear: a boost in productivity and an improved bottom line.
The level of agility and flexibility that an SD-WAN brings to an enterprise is simply not achievable with a traditional WAN. Still, for any global enterprise with dozens of sites spread across five continents, upgrading the whole network infrastructure and managing it effectively day-to-day might seem like an insurmountable task.
In the age of cloud and hybrid IT, you need the right hybrid IT skills. For example, anyone involved in the definition of routing policies needs to have a solid understanding of not just network topology, but also the security and application layers. They also need to have the expertise to manage both public and private clouds and the associated virtual machine operating systems.
It's also important that the SD-WAN can be deployed globally across the entire network. This enables organisations to connect even the smallest branch offices to the cloud and enterprise WAN easily, securely and cost-effectively, supporting the enterprise's growth ambitions. To maximise the reach and manageability of the network and simplify the roll-out of the SD-WAN, it is often easier and less risky to choose an overlay SD-WAN that is tightly integrated with the underlay IP infrastructure.
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