Fast, agile SD-WANs are the ideal addition to other networks.
Digitization requires flexible networks
SD-WAN supplements the benefits of classic VPNs with simplicity, speed and agility
Central management enables rapid network modifications
Service provisioning with point-and-click simplicity
New SD-WAN technology for exceptional network agility
Experts are agreed: SD-WANs are a powerful way to enhance multi-site networks. US market analysts IDC estimate that the worldwide SD-WAN market will enjoy compound annual growth of almost 70 percent and will be worth US$8 billion by 2021. “While many network technologies are over-hyped as the next big thing, SDWAN is delivering on the promise,” writes Gartner’s Andrew Lerner in a blog post.
Opinions differ, however, as to the role and significance of SD-WAN. While it is derived from the data-center technology known as software-defined networking, it is not exactly the same thing. Gartner, for example, regards it primarily as a way of accelerating data transmission within wide-area networks with multiple access methods: the network selects a suitable transfer technology in line with the application, current network load, security policies, and other factors.
Central network management
Certainly, SD-WAN can deliver greater speed. But it does much more besides. “This new network model supports automated WAN modifications: a multi-VPN, an Internet breakout, or a firewall can be provisioned practically at the touch of a button,” says Ulrich Welss, T‑Systems Vice President responsible for enterprise networks. This was not previously possible: Configuring today’s MPLS-based corporate networks and IP VPNs is complex and time-consuming.
The agility of SD-WAN stems from two virtualization technologies: software-defined networking, as mentioned above, and network function virtualization (NFV). SDN centralizes network management, and makes it independent of routers and switches. This makes the network programmable, and eliminates the need to configure hardware locally. NVF provides network functions such as firewalls and load balancers in the form of software that can be provisioned immediately. Gone are the days when specialty hardware had to be physically shipped, and then configured by a service engineer on site.
MPLS is not dead
How can a multinational corporation best implement SD-WAN for its network? According to a survey by Nemertes Research, 77.8 percent of organizations looking to adopt SD-WAN have no wish to abandon their current MPLS infrastructure. There are basically two solutions: add SD-WAN technology to an existing network where high agility is required; or wait and see – since leading network vendors are also virtualizing their MPLS platforms and, for example, switching to virtual edge routers. “As a result, enterprises can gain this new level of network agility in stages,” says Welss. “They can move to the new technology in line with their actual needs – and at far lower risk.”
Businesses scouring the SD-WAN market for a suitable partner should bear three factors in mind: First, there are hardware vendors such as Cisco and Juniper. Second, there are pure-play SD-WAN providers. And, thirdly, there are companies offering SD-WAN in the form of an end-to-end, managed service, including hardware, local access, and operation in accordance with defined service levels. This latter group can, of course, only offer SD-WAN services in locations where they have their own networks.