Managing SD-WAN in the new normal

The pandemic has been a difficult lesson for some on the importance of end-user IT performance when it comes to supporting business applications, especially remotely, and delivering a better customer experience.

Organizations that had already adopted SD-WAN have harvested the benefits of its agility, flexibility and scalability in these unpredictable times. Others are fast understanding why network performance needs to be part of business continuity and why it is best delivered as a managed service.

At the back end of last year, IDC identified SD-WAN as one of the fastest growing segments in the network infrastructure market. This, the analyst firm said, was being driven by two key factors: the inability of traditional WANs to support modern business, SaaS apps and multi/hybrid cloud usage plus the need for easier management of multiple connection types throughout the WAN, both designed to enhance application and end-user performance. Collaboration applications such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Zoom, for example, which have played a key role in our daily lives during lockdown, rely on consistent performance. Delays result in distorted or broken video or audio links.

The network must change to support digitization

COVID-19 has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst to accelerate SD-WAN deployment. SD-WAN market growth is being predicted at over 60% until 2026, according to Global Market Insights. This is being motivated by an urgent need for digitization in the so called “touchless economy.”

CTOs are looking at transforming their wide area networks (WANs) to deal with the dramatic increase in cloud traffic and deliver comparable network performance across all sites. These architectures are critical in connecting locations, users and applications. They are looking for ease of management, security and visibility – all essential for robust business continuity – which will provide the agility and responsiveness they need to operate successfully in the new normal.

Visibility is an essential component on this list as enterprises look to drill deeper into what the IT user experience is like for both their internal users and customers. This means embedding applications that can track end-user experience from the user’s device through the remote connection (i.e., home/mobile broadband) and to the corporate network – even out to the cloud applications. Using Orange integrated dashboards and visibility tools, we can monitor, measure and improve the digital user experience from the home worker’s device to the cloud.

When it comes to performance and connectivity, Orange globally-distributed next-generation hubs can deliver virtualized services from the core of the network alongside software defined edge infrastructure. This means that enterprises can not only leverage the best connectivity out there, be it MPLS, Internet, Ethernet or 4G/5G, but can also easily add services that are accessible and performant.

Through an enterprise’s connectivity to the Orange SD-WAN backbone, users can get an onward connection to cloud service providers. This allows them to consume on-demand services such as Orange VPN Galerie and third-party software-as-a-service offerings, resulting in widespread capabilities and choice of services.

SD-WAN provides the safety, performance, control and efficiency that organizations are now desperately seeking to shore up their networking continuity of the future.

SD-WAN lends itself to new ways of working in the new normal. It has long been seen as an ideal solution to connect branch offices and can immediately address the challenges of remote working, especially for power users such as remote IT teams. Allowing for centralization and automation of essential networking functions, it is also seen as a fitting solution to deal with any further disruption we may see.

With more traffic pushed to the cloud, more cloud applications are being used, and SaaS has become mainstream. As a result, organizations are demanding more visibility, orchestration, automation and control of their network environments from the cloud. Those who better understand the health of their networks can optimize performance and respond to issues quickly. SD-WAN delivers on this.

The pandemic has undoubtedly underscored the need for robust security. In April alone, the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, saw a five-fold increase in cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are, as we know, quick to take advantage of vulnerable situations. Yes, SD-WAN can neatly integrate security into the network. SD-WAN, however, comes in many flavors, and one of the core value propositions any organization should look for in an SD-WAN provider is the level of security and threat intelligence they can offer.

Organizations need to take on board the fact that the threat landscape is fast evolving. Keeping up with threats new and old is essential to protect against and mitigate cyberattacks. Many IT teams, however, find that they don’t have the skills or resources to deliver on this and the other facets of SD-WAN, which is why they are opting for the managed route.

Managing increasingly complex network infrastructures

IT departments are dealing with an increasingly complex web of applications, services, deployments, advanced collaboration tools and scaled-up telecommuting. The result is that the network infrastructure itself is also getting far more complicated. This network complexity can consume IT teams, degrade application performance and have a detrimental impact on the user experience, which leads to failure in delivering on digital transformation objectives.

Determined to avoid these problem areas and quickly get back on track in the new normal, organizations are turning to strong SD-WAN partners to manage their network infrastructures. Multisourcing Service Integration (MSI) takes the complexity out of managing an SD-WAN estate, allowing the service integrator to look after the monitoring, management and performance improvement of the network service, including the underlying supply chain. This leaves organizations free to concentrate on their core business, which is paramount in the unpredictable times we are living in.

The new normal requires a new way of thinking

SD-WAN will become the new default in the new normal. Accessing applications quickly, reliably and securely will be essential for competing in the touchless economy.

The big challenge is that SD-WAN isn’t an off-the-shelf commodity. Choosing the right SD-WAN partner – one that can provide and manage security, reliability, functionality and performance, one that really does understand your business and can adapt rapidly to changing business needs in a market where agility is chief protagonist – has never been more critical.


Lorenzo Romano

Lorenzo is the Managing Director for UK and Ireland, where he is responsible for the retention and growth of the UK business while ensuring Orange Business is recognized as the trusted digital transformation partner for all its clients. Prior to his Managing Director appointment, Lorenzo restructured the sales business to focus on driving new revenue growth across the strategic services portfolio. He also successfully evolved the new logo business, which has secured new prestigious customers, such as Google, BBC Worldwide and Jaguar Land Rover.