Adoption of SD-WAN is on the rise, with projects spanning the UK. Comms Business examined what opportunities remain for channel companies, in what sectors and why this technology is in such demand.
What opportunities does SD-WAN present? And why is this technology in demand?
Reflecting on the past 2 decades, businesses and organisations have relied on the traditional form of Wide Area Networks and throughout its adoption, many have endured the common logistical, operational and commercial challenges associated with traditional WAN. Over the past 15 years, there has also been a significant change in how applications and workloads are delivered over the network, both consumers and technology vendors have operated less from private datacentres and more from the cloud. In turn, this places more utilisation of the public Internet and diminishing need for traditional WAN services such as MPLS, VPLS and VPN, which organisations are likely to be paying for. When we start looking at organisations that operate internationally, the multi-faceted challenges becomes even more apparent.
The rise in SD-WAN adoption is driven by the desire for a Wide Area Network that works for the organisation’s objectives. The agnostic nature of SD-WAN enables choice of any IP connectivity from any provider (no lock-in); enabling greater leverage of the Internet to take advantage of cloud services and accelerate digital transformations. Business continuity and productivity is greatly improved by utilising multiple connectivity services together for maximum resilience and network performance. In addition, the very best SD-WAN solutions offer granular visibility into the customer’s SD-WAN and the workloads that traverse it which can greatly contribute towards business intelligence value.
What sectors need SD-WAN solutions?
SD-WAN works across any sector and is fully adaptable to the specific needs of the business and applications they are reliant upon. Every organisation can benefit from more resilience, visibility and the flexibility to choose the underlying connectivity they wish to use. Such flexibility enables the agility to deploy sites in less time and better control of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). International organisations especially can consolidate and orchestrate their WAN under a single pane of glass, utilising commodity internet links in place of multi-provider MPLS circuits of variable costs and service levels country-to-country. The challenges of sub-optimal network performance due to packet loss and latency, or the security restrictions imposed at some nation-states are mitigated by the adoption of SD-WAN technology.
What innovations are coming in 2021 and beyond?
SD-WAN has continually evolved since 2014 in line with the shift towards the cloud and accelerating technologies that begin to overlap the SD-WAN space. Leading vendors are already leveraging machine learning and will play a significant role in future evolutions of SD-WAN. What this means for the end-customer is the progression to a ‘hands-off’ WAN, where the network dynamically drives the workloads based on real-time conditions, boosting network utilisation, productivity and freeing up operational resource in the process.
As coverage and availability of 5G connectivity becomes the de facto of mobile data connectivity, SD-WAN’s agnostic architecture enables customers to take advantage of 5G as an alternative to fibre-based connectivity. 5G is not without its challenges or competition in the wireless arena, how about Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) Satellite Networks? If it’s IP based, SD-WAN can utilise this too!
There has been much industry emphasis on remote or mobility working pre and post-pandemic, underscored by the proliferation of technologies positioned in the Gartner coined SASE (Secured Access Service Edge) and ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) space. There is some level of convergence between SD-WAN and SASE/ZTNA, creating decision making challenges for progressive organisations on how best to adopt new technologies in light of the shifts in working trends and cloud-delivered workloads. SD-WAN vendors have responded constructively, to work in tandem with SASE solutions rather than compete head-on with it. One-click integration into the leading cloud security platforms being one example - empowering customers to secure their network edge, eliminate the overhead and limitations of the traditional on-premise Next-Generation Firewall estate. Whilst ensuring the same security coverage spans right out to the remote workforce, who may operate off-net or outside the SD-WAN - a win-win situation.
Case studies of MSPs and other channel companies that have worked with customers in SD-WAN projects
A medical equipment research specialist, operating in the UK, Europe and the Americas required a future proof WAN to replace their managed global MPLS network, with the criteria to boost resilience and reduce costs. They were able to achieve this by obtaining direct internet access connectivity and broadband from multiple carriers, and utilising Silver Peak to drive their workloads and voice traffic efficiently and reliably across the new SD-WAN.
A motorsports team utilised SD-WAN for maximum network performance and resilience required for their bandwidth-intensive data applications. With the roaming nature of the racing team hopping from one country to the next, the service level of the track based connectivity would vary and is at the mercy of distance induced latency. By driving the application such as real-time audio, telemetry and race intelligence traffic over the SD-WAN, these challenges were greatly mitigated and ensured the lowest data transit time, giving the team the competitive edge for data acquisition and intelligence during the entire race weekend and beyond.
A global-based law firm with over 100 office sites spanning across each continent leapt the classic MPLS and sprawl of isolated networks, consolidating this into a single SD-WAN. The end-user experience was boosted for the 1500 plus strong workforce, especially at locations with limited infrastructure for high-speed connectivity. SD-WAN technology-enabled and simplified site onboarding by zero-touch deployment, and delivers robust connectivity over broadband services as modest regional ADSL through path conditioning, WAN optimisation and WAN acceleration.