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Considering SD-WAN? Key questions to address before making the leap

By Nirav Modi, Vice President and General Manager, Blue Planet, Ciena | Feb. 8, 2017
How to make sure Software Defined WANs are right for your business

sd wan

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Cost reduction and enhanced network performance are just two of the many benefits promised by SD-WAN technology. IDC believes the SD-WAN market will be a $6 billion industry by 2020, so it’s no surprise that solutions are popping up everywhere you turn.

At a high level, SD-WANs promise a more cost-effective and simpler way to operate secure, virtualized WAN connections between enterprise branches, data centers and the internet. Traditional MPLS links from the branch to the data center are reliable and secure, but typically offer lower performance for users accessing cloud-based services, and are considerably more expensive than widely available broadband access links.  The Internet provides global access to cloud applications, but is limited by poor reliability, unpredictable performance and weak security.

The benefit of SD-WAN is that it provides a software controlled and programmable environment that allows you to augment or replace your existing WAN, lower costs by leveraging cheaper broadband access links and dynamically scale bandwidth capacity to the cloud when needed.

But how do you know if SD-WAN is right for your business? Consider the following questions before you make the leap: 

* Do you actually need an SD-WAN? This is the rather obvious question, but with most new technologies, the hype can distract from the actual need. SD-WAN is no different. To get started, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I reliant on MPLS or Carrier Ethernet services?
  • Am I seeing more internet connectivity requests? For example, are my sales guys using salesforce.com or social media for sales and enhanced customer support? Or, do customers in my retail outlet want to browse the internet while they wait for service?
  • Am I migrating in-house IT systems to the cloud?

Enterprise network traffic has exploded with organizations incrementally adding bandwidth to reduce service latency and avoid network failures. And, because many of today’s applications are moving out of the enterprise and into third-party cloud and SaaS environments, traffic flows within the network have drastically changed and become inefficient. Adding direct internet connections and broadband circuits can provide the needed bandwidth, but it also requires purchasing, deploying and managing daisy-chains of on-premises devices for different circuits and network functions, including routing, WAN optimization and firewalls at multiple locations.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, SD-WAN can provide new choices. With SD-WAN, you can prioritize application and traffic flows, reduce the number of on-premise devices, as well as more dynamically manage the services deployed at a given branch location.  Together, this translates into lower capital expenditure and operating expenses overall. These solutions can also provide visibility into application performance so you can optimize your end-user experience.

 

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