SD-WAN, always-on network asset in the era of WFH

Software-defined networking has the potential to overcome operational complexity and increase performance and availability, suggests Greg Hatfield, Principal Practice Head: Hybrid Networks – Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data.

Johannesburg, 07 Dec 2021
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The global software-defined networking (SDN) market, as predicted by Statista, is expected to reach $43.3 billion by 2027. This number is hardly surprising considering the numerous benefits that SDN brings to the business and how effectively it has proven its value over the past two years. According to PwC, SDN is the key to unlocking inventive solutions and business processes in the new, 5G world.

For McKinsey, it's the toolkit required to centralise network intelligence and control and the linchpin in advancing innovation within infrastructure and architecture.

The SDN market has undergone a significant transformation in perception, from a technology that was perceived as complex and convoluted to a trusted way through many of the obstacles thrown up by the pandemic.

The case for SD-WAN among South African business

For business, the real meat and potatoes behind the growth of SDN, or software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), is the fact that it has become increasingly accessible and relevant while ticking some very important business boxes around speed, resilience, reliability and cost.

While it was gaining ground pre-COVID-19, particularly with larger enterprises that had large networks and large requirements, now it’s been adopted by organisations of all sizes. Organisations that want to sit on the edge of agility while they scurry to find long-term stability in the current environment. The pandemic was the proof point that the internet was a strong enough connectivity layer, that the business could bypass the costly MPLS experience in favour of software and redefined connectivity. And, of course, in favour of improved cost efficiencies.

Alongside robust and reliable communications and connectivity, SDN has offered the business financial respite in times of tightened capex budgets and increased financial pressure. However, this goes beyond just offering a cheap service – this perception can oversimplify the value that SDN brings to the organisation and potentially result in poor decision-making. Companies run the risk of jumping onto the SDN bandwagon because it’s the cheapest, not because it's the best fit for the business. While SDN does deliver value, this value must be embedded from the outset and genuinely contribute to enabling the business.

The shine in SDN maturity

SDN has matured and brought with it a bouquet of benefits that can deliver long-term value to the organisation:

  1. It offers transparency that allows for the business to retain control over systems and processes and embed robust security throughout the organisation. This added layer of security and control has become particularly relevant in the current hybrid workplace.
  2. It enables controlled parameters in our work from home (WFH) world; SDN can be deployed as a small branch on the corporate WAN and used to plug urgent holes on demand.

This is where SDN shines. In its ability to be provisioned on-demand across organisations of all sizes. Leveraging the technology, organisations can provision to specific requirements at scale, and ensure consistency and transparency across the technology stack. SDN lets the business simplify operations significantly – if any issues arise within the network, they can be resolved from a central point. The same value can be found in the security embedded within SDN – with one point of contact, challenges across security and credentials can be centrally managed to minimise multiple distribution endpoints while maximising overall efficiency.

  1. SDN is automated, secure, simple and cost-effective. It is also reliable. One of the primary attributes of the SDN is that it is provisioned automatically – one policy configured on a controller in the cloud and this controller pushes the configuration down to all the devices that are connected to this SDN.

Instead of engineers logging every device onto the network, the entire process is automated from start to finish. Because configuration additions, patches and new devices can be added and changed from a central point, it reduces the risk of error, and security risk overall. This reliability is critical, especially at a time when organisations are increasingly dependent on their IT infrastructure to operate.

SDN weaves these benefits into its very fabric, giving the business the space it needs to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions without the weight of capex and admin. It has proven its worth over the past two years and will continue to evolve and adapt to business demands as it gains ground and popularity. 

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