SD-WAN – is it right for your business?
The global software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) market could be worth more than $6 billion this year, according to IDC, but is it right for your business?
First, a primer. As the time suggests, SD-WAN uses software rather than hardware to manage the connectivity between datacentres and remote branches of an organisation, as well as cloud instances. Deployments vary – an SD-WAN infrastructure might incorporate existing routers and switches, for example. The key point is that control of the network is abstracted up to the software level – which, in turn, means that network control can be centralised and orchestrated. Configuration can be done in one place and pushed out to all devices at the same time.
There are plenty of (potential) advantages to this approach. Network management and reconfiguration is speeded up and streamlined, particularly for large networks and those spread across wide geographic areas. SD-WANs are far more flexible, efficient and cost-effective than their traditional cousins.
Surely, then, this means that SD-WAN is right for every business? Well, not quite. There are some important caveats to consider.
First, although traditional WANs are typically expensive to run, this does not mean that an SD-WAN will automatically generate cost savings – at least not straight away. There will still be costs involved in upgrading and migrating the network, and as organisations require increasing amount of bandwidth to support increasing network traffic and device volumes, so they are likely to require increasing performance from their enterprise networks anyway. Nevertheless, a big potential cost advantage of SD-WANs is their ability to support as-a-service deployment and payment models – particularly useful for smaller organisations.
Second, moving to an SD-WAN is not a risk-free option. It contains far more moving parts than a traditional network, including cloud-managed gateways, on-premise infrastructure, broadband WAN connections and more. Technologically mature organisations are unlikely to have serious problems – but it is still important to recognise such a project as a major IT project, and resource it accordingly.
Third, some environments simply are not (yet) suitable for an SD-WAN model. Organisations with a small number of very large branches – say, around 2000 users per location – may find it more difficult to find an SD-WAN solution which is optimised for them.
So SD-WAN is not a panacea. However, for lots of organisations, it can unlock an exciting new era of agility and flexibility. If any of the following apply, it could be right for you:
- Your organisation comprises multiple branches across a wide geographic area – particularly if each individual branch is not so large as to contain thousands of users. The agility gains you stand to pick up from being able to manage your network centrally could be significant.
- You are trying to support a rapidly growing number of devices on the network. This might involve an IoT deployment, for example, or simply fast business growth. SD-WAN could offer the stretchy scalability you need.
- You are trying to roll out growing numbers of cloud services. SD-WANs are ideally set up to offer cloud services across your organisation.
- You have concerns about network performance or security. It might be time for an upgrade.
At MLR Networks, we work with Cisco SD-WAN to offer a truly cloud-first architecture to a wide range of organisations. Whatever your precise setup of datacentres, branches, campuses and colocation facilities, we can create a network to suit. Why not get in touch with us today?