Cloud and SD-WAN: a marriage made in heaven

SD-WAN technology stands ready to optimise the cloud and speed up access to applications.

Read time 4min 30sec
Paul Stuttard.
Paul Stuttard.

A decade ago, companies were being urged to prepare for the imminent impact of cloud technology on their networks. Planning, they were told, was all-important. Before running significant applications in the cloud, it was vital to understand how data is sourced and stored.

End-users were also warned about large-scale commitments to cloud technology and encouraged to plan and execute a carefully managed transition to the cloud.

Fast forward 10 years. The cloud, once a disrupter in the IT firmament, has matured, boosting the capabilities of IT departments across the globe in the process. Now the cloud is seen as a vehicle for innovation on a number of fronts.

More specifically, the cloud is now facilitating digital business and, in parallel, promoting a new generation of scalable, agile solutions. Researchers predict the global public cloud market, expected to be worth $178 billion this year, will grow at a significant 22% per annum fuelled by global enterprises' drive to adopt digital transformation strategies.

SD-WAN technology will open the door to infrastructure change by adopting new application consumption models.

Mike Harris, executive VP, research at Gartner, reportedly said the transition to digital is undeniable and it's only accelerating, disrupting government and business models.

The challenge facing organisations today is to keep pace with developments by constantly adapting their business and IT strategies in preparation for the radical digital transformation, the coming "all-cloud" future and the "Continuous Next" as the Gartner research group defines the concept of progressive change.

Gartner says the Continuous Next comes from adding mindsets and practices, then multiplying technology. This equals capabilities, which in turn lead to results.

One of the hard facts organisations will have to face when coming to terms with the Continuous Next is that traditional wide area network (WAN) architectures are not designed to support new cloud-based consumption models.

Wasted bandwidth, higher data packet loss, increased latency and elevated inefficiency levels and, most importantly, higher operational costs await organisations that opt for this hybrid solution.

This is where the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) steps in to play a key role. The SD-WAN platform is ideally geared to connect and fully integrate the edges of the enterprise as well as branch/remote offices and mobile users, at the same time allowing greater access to corporate resources.

The SD-WAN market is growing exponentially as the technology meets the increasing bandwidth requirements and refined performance targets of new cloud applications and new-generation artificial intelligence and digital services.

The technology associated with SD-WAN is appealing because it guarantees simplified network deployment, centralised control and real-time delivery for applications based on the Internet of things which are also rapidly multiplying.

SD-WAN technology will open the door to infrastructure change by adopting new application consumption models. This is important because the business world is increasingly app-defined. The number of mobile apps in the booming global app market is at record levels. The revenue generated by the mobile app industry has skyrocketed.

Business visionaries have realised there is money to be made by in-app ads and in-app purchases, both of which are gaining popularity. In-app advertising is said to be an important driver of mobile growth in the near future.

Against this backdrop, and to accommodate change of this magnitude, business policies will have to be defined on "intent" and traffic will have to be steered towards where the apps reside. Unnecessary "hops" or security compromises will have to be eliminated.

What will SD-WAN solutions of the future look like? Because security is key, they are sure to have built-in stateful firewall capabilities for Internet breakout. They will also have the capacity to intelligently direct and re-direct traffic to a cloud-based gateway before forwarding it to its final destination, based on security concerns. For example, when an app is moved and becomes hosted by another provider.

In addition, expect the SD-WAN of the future to deliver better WiFi and 4/5G wireless integration and be more easily incorporated into broader branch network functionality.

In this light, the SD-WAN of the future will be able to address all types of connectivity, from cellular to leased-line and from broadband to WiFi. It will be able to adjust dynamically to traffic demands, including those from users accessing the network from different locations and different devices.

With the built-in intelligence to learn traffic patterns over time and deal with challenges in data flow, tomorrow's SD-WAN will have the capability to prioritise data by application type and enterprise requirements.

Today, cloud technology is more important to business success than ever. One of the reasons is that organisations are "moving up the protocol stack" and using an increasing number of software-defined services, including apps-on-demand.

SD-WAN technology stands ready to optimise the cloud and speed up access to applications. The technology is perfectly aligned with the changing dynamics of the WAN market, which includes its ongoing and increasingly emphatic shift to the cloud.

Paul Stuttard

Director, Duxbury Networking.

Paul Stuttard is a director of specialist distributor Duxbury Networking. Currently Cape-based, he has been with the company for 29 years and has extensive experience in the IT industry, particularly within the value-added distribution arena. His focus is on the formulation of future-oriented network optimisation strategies and business development objectives in collaboration with resellers and end-users in Southern Africa.

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