Best of both worlds

Improve network performance and speed with an SD-WAN overlay 
The explosive growth of data, together with the need for faster delivery and processing, are already causing network latency and access issues for many enterprises striving to keep up with demand. In addition, end-users are demanding a better experience from their applications, whether in the cloud or on-premise – and accessed through any device.
According to McKinsey’s IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) Cloud and Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Ssurvey, enterprises will make a major shift “from building IT to consuming IT” to satisfy this end-user hunger in the next three years. Enterprises are already looking to transition IT workloads at a significant rate and pace to a hybrid cloud infrastructure, with off-premise environments seeing the greatest growth in adoption. 
At the same time, high-quality access has become crucial as enterprises are increasingly using the internet to run applications – both in the cloud or from offnet devices, such as mobiles. According to the IDC report, SD-WAN: Guidance on WAN Transformation, in companies with over 5000 employees, 47 percent of enterprise applications are currently accessed via the internet. This trend is only going to grow.
The big problem for many enterprises, however, is their legacy networks are inflexible and often incapable of supporting multiple access methods or architectural changes. This mix needs to include secure and stable Internet connectivity, which can offer an excellent end-user application experience, without connection and delay issues. 
The use of cloud is also increasing the distance between the end-user and data centers, creating control and latency problems. The distance the data has to travel can make the difference between a great and poor user experience – even if sufficient bandwidth is available. Lifting the limitations of location makes for greater scalability and flexibility. 
An elastic solution 
Enterprises are looking for the power to combine architectures to achieve their cost and performance goals. This is where SD-WAN steps in. One of SD-WAN’s key advantages is that it can manage multiple types of connections, including MPLS, internet and LTE.

Geographically-distributed enterprises with offices across global locations are adopting SD-WAN because it lowers the cost and complexity of WANs, supports increased use of the internet, makes business operations more agile and increases overall productivity.

SD-WAN enables enterprises to create hybrid networks that combine multiple technologies, including the internet, by separating the control of traffic from the delivery tools. It routes traffic across the best path, based on rules specified by the IT department, including real-time availability. The data can be easily and efficiently controlled via a cloud-based control panel.

For the majority of enterprises, the need for WAN transformation becomes crucial as they adopt cloud services. “There is no way, for example, that your organization can cost-effectively support the delivery of cloud-based applications and services on WAN architectures that were designed and built for a client-server era in which all applications were resident in enterprise data centers,” explains IDC. The analyst firm believes that SD-WAN’s value proposition, driven by the growth in cloud computing, the need for VPN capabilities and the necessity to reduce MPLS costs, will make a compelling case to enterprises to shift to SD-WAN looking for “cost-effective cloud-era networking to branch offices and remote sites”.

MPLS and SD-WAN working together

The big strength of SD-WANs is that they can mix and match different approaches, and this includes MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching). Rather than pushing MPLS out of the picture, which was first mooted when SD-WAN emerged on the scene, they actually work well together as a team.

With MPLS alone, traffic is sent via a specified route path. SD-WAN can make MPLS more flexible by using MPLS paths and adding additional ones, such as the internet. MPLS capacity can be used for mission-critical, high-security traffic, for example, with other traffic offloaded to the internet, thereby reducing costs.

SD-WAN is already helping enterprises make branch office deployment easier and improve connectivity to both the cloud and data centers by providing zero-touch provisioning and simplified management. This has all helped to enhance performance, whilst reduce the cost of maintaining a hybrid WAN network.

Enterprises that have yet to understand the benefits of updating their network infrastructures to accommodate SD-WAN will fast do so. As IDC says: “If your WAN hasn’t changed yet, digital transformation and the cloud will soon make you cognizant of its inherent limitations.”

Find out more about how Orange Business is strengthening its hybrid network offering with SD-WAN technology along with its partner Riverbed Technology here.


Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.