Companies should take a considered approach to SD-WAN

SD-WAN offers many advantages and is beneficial to many industries, but deciding what network option to choose requires careful consideration and close collaboration with your service provider.

Johannesburg, 27 Mar 2019
Read time 3min 40sec
Pedro Maia, Managing Director, IntDev.
Pedro Maia, Managing Director, IntDev.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has changed the way people view automation. Mobile has changed the way people do work, and now the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is changing the way people see the network. After all, SD-WAN is technology that offers increased bandwidth at a lower cost, affords better control and delivers much simpler network management and reduced overall operational expenditure.

Not only does this speak directly to the two issues businesses are most concerned about, productivity and cost, but it also boosts network performance, helps to improve productivity across offices and assists companies to increase their agility when rolling out strategies that promote sustainable growth.

So, the question then is: if SD-WAN enables business applications to perform better, reduces network downtime and enables organisations to prioritise business-critical applications on the network, thereby ensuring top performance at all times, why isn't everybody using it?

Despite multiple benefits, explains Pedro Maia, managing director at IntDev, there remain certain challenges that have negatively impacted its rate of adoption. These include scepticism about Internet performance, multiple vendors entering an already vendor-heavy market, and the natural resistance to change that most people experience when it comes to emerging technologies.

"SD-WAN nonetheless remains a compelling option for businesses, mainly due to its ability to deliver cost savings, agility and availability, and also thanks to its ability to act as a risk management tool. Furthermore, the fact that the roll-out is quick, easy and standardised, with little complexity, also makes the solution an appealing one," he says.

"Users of the technology can enable greater enterprise efficiencies through better management of bandwidth availability and usage, improved traffic routing and prioritisation, and ease of administration.
Moreover, it provides agility by enabling users to prioritise mission-critical applications and to deploy required configurations for short periods of time, such as during month-end, from a centralised control point, at the simple click of a button."

Maia suggests further that while all market sectors can obviously benefit from SD-WAN implementations, some of the key industries where SD-WAN will prove particularly cost-effective are those that involve project sites, retail branches and roaming brokers, or those where it is too expensive and cumbersome to deploy fibre to a temporary location.

"In the construction industry, for example, SD-WAN provides an instant solution that can connect to wireless mediums such as LTE and has a near-zero touch configuration, thanks to being software-driven, self-provisioning and resilient."

"Moreover, SD-WAN also helps to address the difficulty that many businesses face in transforming traditional internally-focused infrastructure into a cloud-optimised configuration. Now, thanks to SD-WAN, users can seamlessly access cloud-based applications direct from the branch, without needing to back-haul data through the data centre and still go through the data centre to access legacy applications securely and in the most efficient manner possible."

There can be little doubt that enterprises are increasingly attracted by the potential SD-WAN offers, but, cautions Maia, it remains important for them to understand the differences between SD-WAN and the more traditional WAN solutions. Whether you're a mid-sized business or a global enterprise, he advises that players should talk to their service provider to help them determine which WAN solution is right for their organisation.

"Once businesses considering SD-WAN have decided to implement it, they need to determine whether they want to build an in-house WAN competence, with the associated technical expertise and tolerance for technology complexity, or outsource their WAN to a trusted partner. While in-house skills are always a nice-to-have, building them up can take time. The benefit of using an external system integrator or service provider is that access to specialist skills and centralised deployment of SD-WAN configurations is essentially immediate, ensuring a rapid, error-free roll-out."

"Ultimately, decision-makers must also consider the business drivers across the categories of performance, cost, availability, agility, bandwidth requirements and application architecture. Only once they have done this properly should they, guided by their service provider, decide on the WAN model that is best for their specific enterprise infrastructure requirements," he concludes.

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