5 True Business Benefits of SD-WAN

14 July 2017 | Posted by Josh Bouk

Software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) represents a simplified, cost-effective, and flexible alternative to traditional WAN solutions, improving the performance of applications both on-premises and in the cloud.

Such is the level of interest that Gartner estimates spending on SD-WAN products will rise from $129 million in 2016 to $1.3 billion in 2020. 

In a recent post, we provided an impartial perspective on SD-WAN, outlining a detailed introduction for IT and telecoms professionals. Here we provide further analysis, focusing on the 5 key benefits of SD-WAN for enterprise environments.

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1. Reduced Costs

For large retail and manufacturing companies, connecting geographically disparate branches or offices can hit IT budgets hard.

MPLS lines – considered a dependable staple of network connectivity – are expensive and risk creating an uncomfortable ‘price vs performance' ultimatum.

SD-WAN reduces reliance on expensive lines, while maintaining overall network performance. Enterprises can effectively leverage all available network connections to their full capacity, facilitating the best performance of critical applications and helping to prevent costs associated with lost productivity.

Additionally, backup connections frequently employed in WAN environments but rarely used, adding to the overall network cost, can often be fully utilized within an SD-WAN environment.

2. Improved Provisioning Times

Though enterprises enjoy increased agility and revenue in many aspects of IT, the challenges of provisioning new branch office networks continues to threaten timely progress.

An SD-WAN solution enables enterprises to use less expensive and more quickly deployed broadband circuits as opposed to purchasing additional lines when scaling-up resources. This means that a new office or branch can be provisioned almost instantly when utilizing an LTE solution – a point that we will explore in more depth in a future post.

Due to the simplified configuration, orchestration, and rapid provisioning of an SD-WAN solution, Gartner estimates there is a 50-80% reduction in the time it takes to provision network changes at branches.

3. Enhanced Branch Uptime

In the past, making changes to network configurations in branch offices would require manual configurations being created and installed and, likely, an on-premises technician employed to perform the changes. And for many businesses, this is still how things are done today. 

But it's expensive and time-consuming, and the undisputed number one cause of network outages is human error. A study from Avaya found that 82% of organizations have experienced network downtime as a result of manual configuration errors. 

SD-WAN allows for the rapid deployment of WAN services (bandwidth and firewall) without the need for IT personnel. SD-WAN configurations are simpler and less brittle than their traditional WAN counterparts, and the availability of zero-touch provisioning – a key benefit of SD-WAN networking – reduces manual configuration of devices altogether.

With SD-WAN, bandwidth can be easily added or reduced as business requirements evolve, providing organizations with the agility they need to stay ahead of competitors. However, it is worth noting that market adoption has yet to sufficiently scale to fully accommodate these outcomes.

4. Stronger Security

Ensuring the well-being of an enterprise’s network is becoming increasingly difficult.

Users are demanding access to applications and data beyond the traditional security perimeter, the cybercrime environment is becoming increasingly hostile, and there are more endpoints to protect than ever before.

A study from Gartner estimates worldwide spending on information security will reach $90 billion in 2017, an increase of 7.6 percent over 2016, and top $113 billion by 2020. 

While traditional WAN solutions handle security through multiple appliances at each branch office, SD-WAN has inbuilt security protocols. SD-WAN solutions have built-in encryption capabilities, ensuring that only authorized users are able to access and view assets connected to the corporate network.

SD-WAN also facilitates granular control and enables companies to create policies to inform the network how certain types of traffic should be treated, keeping high-risk traffic from ever entering the network in the first place.

5. Higher Quality Transfer

As IT environments grow more complex, network performance is becoming increasingly critical for the effective handling of latency-sensitive and mission-critical workloads. 

Not all applications need the same levels of service from the network. Some can get by quite happily without taxing it, but others require high performance, high reliability, and high quality in order to deliver the expected user experience.

An SD-WAN solution supports dynamic path selection, meaning the SD-WAN controller can select the most appropriate path for specific application traffic. This ensures congestion points are spotted quickly and traffic is diverted along alternative less-utilized routes.

The result is optimized load balancing and congestion management, so high-quality data transfer is maintained.

The SD-WAN Marketplace

Increasing amounts of data are being transferred among data centers, cloud environments, branch offices and other remote locations, driven by data analytics, media traffic, storage demand and data backup. This increase in traffic is driving enterprises to optimize and enhance the performance of their WANs and the applications that run on them. 

Interest in SD-WAN has surged dramatically, as enterprise need for more responsive, flexible, and available networks rises.

SD-WAN technology is emerging as a networking approach that can deliver multiple performance and cost benefits, including high-quality data transfer, increased provisioning and uptime, and embedded security features.

This post is the second in a 6-part series that will explore everything an enterprise needs to know about SD-WAN, and how leveraging an SD-WAN solution with existing infrastructure can provide substantial business benefits.

In part three, now available here, we examine the differences between an SD-WAN and MPLS solution, exploring which is best suited to an enterprise's ever-changing requirements. To gain up-to-date insight into how to extract the maximum value from your SD-WAN deployment, while smoothing the transition process, download: The Complete Guide to SD-WAN Deployment.

Implementing SD-WAN: The Complete Guide to Enterprise SD-WAN Deployment

Topics: SD-WAN

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