Is the hype surrounding software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) worth it? SD-WAN allows IT engineers to centrally and intelligently manage or orchestrate wide-area networks using applications like SD-WAN controllers. As this fast up-and-coming technology continues to evolve, the best way to get the most of it is to understand its value and how it can help your organisation thrive.
The public IT sector and wide-area networks (WANs) have undergone an immense transformation in recent years. In particular, the need to support remote workers and provide video conferencing, secure remote access, and cloud applications has grown. As a result, public sector IT teams have shifted gears away from traditional, often multi-protocol label switching (MPLS)-based WANs and began to switch focus towards more innovative solutions.
In their place, agencies are increasingly exploring how smart WAN technology—specifically SD-WANs—can simplify network management and improve network agility and security applications across the board.
Yet, IT pros often argue the hype received by SD-WAN has a long way to go before the technology catches up, creating unnecessary barriers to adoption.
So what exactly is SD-WAN? And why should network leaders be more bullish about making the switch?
SD-WAN is a software-based approach to managing the WAN. Offered “as a service,” SD-WAN is abstracted from the underlying hardware.
This abstraction is smarter as it vastly simplifies the traditionally complex and time-consuming task of provisioning and managing WANs.
SD-WAN and Security
Closing the gaps in an organisation’s security is arguably the most significant benefit of SD-WAN. In fact, many of today’s SD-WAN solutions have built-in security.
Consider encryption. Traditional MPLS WAN networks may encapsulate traffic in data packets, but unfortunately, this data remains unprotected from interception as it moves from site to site. On the other hand, almost all SD-WAN solutions have some form of encryption, dramatically improving the security of data in transit.
SD-WAN also enables IT teams to bring advanced security services to reach the most remote edges of their network. This is critical in addressing the changing needs of a remote workforce, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, and segmentation.
Why Your Organisation Should Consider SD-WAN
One of the significant advantages of SD-WAN for budget-constrained agencies is the ability to be acquired as a software as a service (SaaS) solution with little up-front capital expenditure (CapEx). Once adopted, cost savings continue to be realised in improved network utilisation and the productivity of those tasked with managing the network.
Adopting SD-WAN can involve a learning curve, as with any updated networking technology. However, once provisioned, it removes a massive burden from the shoulders of network engineers by automating the complexity of managing highly dynamic cloud and remote office environments. Moreover, SD-WAN performance monitoring can help detect malicious activity traffic anomalies, discover compromised accounts, and reveal threats.
Earning the Hype
Traditional WANs may suffice for smaller organisations with few remote workers and only a handful of geographically distributed sites. However, in the case of highly distributed environments with landscapes consisting of hybrid infrastructure, organisations should realise the benefits and economies of scale offered by SD-WAN.