How SD-WAN is impacting warehousing & logistics
Software-defined networking is the foundation of digital transformation. In a sector that is facing into wide-ranging disruptive technology innovations, it is the backbone that can enable innovation.
By decoupling the network from the underlying infrastructure, software-defined networking and SD-WAN solutions offer an opportunity to maintain the integrity of your network while gaining benefits of agility, scalability and cost savings.
The benefits of SD-WAN for warehouse operators
Instead of relying on expensive MPLS solutions, SD-WAN enables warehouse operators to utilise cheaper Internet connections. As well as driving down the cost of traffic, this makes it possible to avoid the long lead times associated with MPLS installations.
This is particularly useful in a sector like warehousing, where new facilities are being built in the UK at a faster rate than any time in the last 38 years. SD-WAN can be provisioned over existing Internet lines or even over 4G mobile networks to deliver the network capacity and security required quickly.
As well as enabling the use of cheaper network solutions, SD-WAN makes it easier to combine the services of multiple carriers in order to secure the best price in different markets and regions – further helping to drive down the cost of communications.
The ability to provision connectivity services quickly and efficiently is an important enabler of innovation. In this way, SD-WAN can enhance an organisation’s ability to rollout new software solutions and technologies by enabling the connectivity of devices and sites quickly and securely and supporting the increased dataflows associated with rolling out those solutions.
For example, replacing an on-premises ERP solution with a new cloud-based ERP solution will increase traffic to and from the cloud provider. SD-WAN simplifies the process by which you provision that additional capacity. By making provisioning more agile and responsive, SD-Wan makes your business more agile and enables innovation.
SD-WAN enables you to set rules around which traffic you wish to prioritise. This means you can choose to throttle non-essential services when experiencing bandwidth problems; ensure critical services do not experience packet loss; and opt to route workloads selectively, e.g. specify which go over the VPN.
The freedom to determine which services are prioritised means you can meet the unique resilience, security and compliance needs of your business. In a warehouse environment, this might mean using the MPLS for telemetry data and forcing email or Microsoft 365 traffic over public Internet connections.
SD-WAN changes the way change is managed through your network configuration. Changes can be rolled out using the best of cloud software development practices, including CI/CD pipelines and Dev-Sec-Ops. Changes are fully traceable and auditable and can be rolled back, as required. This reduces the risk around change and eliminates the need for maintenance engineers to be attending site to make physical updates to network hardware. Because configuration is defined by code, it’s adaptable and repeatable – a fantastic advantage if you are operating multiple warehouse locations.
This centralised distribution of network-wide policies enables another key benefit of SD-WAN: improved network security. It is easier to keep tools and services up to date, with security patches applied rapidly via automated processes and the potential for manual error reduced.
This is a major benefit for warehouse operators, who are grappling with an increased focus on supply chain security (including by Government bodies, such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and in its Cyber Essentials scheme). Being able to reassure supply chain partners about good cyber security practices will be increasingly important in winning and retaining new business.