Now is the time to kick-start your SD-WAN transformation

The response to the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years, according to a recent McKinsey report. Network stability, security and performance are central to digital transformation, which is where the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) comes in.

As companies move their workloads and applications to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) suppliers, traditional WAN architectures are no longer fit for the purpose. Digital businesses are choosing SD-WAN for the access flexibility, increase in bandwidth, end-to-end security and enhanced user experience to support their multicloud ambitions.

However, moving to SD-WAN is more than just performing a network upgrade. It requires a complete transformation as it addresses various parts of the infrastructure, from application performance to multicloud connectivity. Furthermore, SD-WAN transformation requires full commitment throughout the organization from the outset.

Last but not least, SD-WAN comes in many guises. Choosing the right provider and solution is imperative to avoid orchestration and compatibility issues down the line.

A compelling reason for businesses to upgrade

IDC’s recent SD-WAN technology spotlight suggests continuing strong momentum for SD-WAN, with almost 95% of enterprises saying they expect to use SD-WAN within 24 months. Adoption could be even higher as enterprises look to shore up their business resilience and address opportunities in a rapidly evolving digital economy.

The analyst suggests that any enterprises looking to transform to SD-WAN should fully explore the benefits they expect to harvest from its deployment as part of a broader assessment of their WAN for future business needs, including connectivity.

Early SD-WAN adoption focused on SD-WAN savings because it allowed enterprises to balance and arbitrate budget allocation between MPLS and more economical broadband connectivity.

SD-WAN pathfinders, however, report other significant and possibly more transformational benefits in line with IDC’s survey. These include more reliable business application access improving overall productivity and greater flexibility in business opportunities, which can promote new revenue streams. Others include improved multicloud application access by allowing users to access cloud services from anywhere and lower IT network management staffing costs through software-defined automation.

The ability to partition mission-critical assets and traffic and protect them is also appealing to many prospective customers. For example, Cisco SD-WAN is known for its WAN segmentation capabilities both on premise and in the cloud, making it an ideal solution for complex global organizations.

Siemens AG celebrates major milestone in global SD-WAN migration project

Siemens has put SD-WAN at the heart of its Siemens Digitalization Network (SDN), which is designed to strengthen its’ IT infrastructure and increase network performance across the organization. It provides centralized cloud control with combined communication capabilities, enabling customers to increase flexibility and performance alongside cost efficiencies. SDN will also allow the multinational to take advantage of advances in digitalization to enhance Industry 4.0 processes.

Flexible SD-WAN also provides the foundation of the Siemens “zero trust” security framework, which improves security by authenticating and authorizing every device wanting to connect to the network irrespective of its location. This will enable Siemens to effectively mitigate, detect and respond to risks across its entire infrastructure.

The Siemens locations that have been connected to the SD-WAN network are already seeing the benefits of this new approach, including greater business flexibility and agility. They can use bandwidth more efficiently, helping ensure high levels of performance for critical applications without forfeiting on security.

Greater network visibility also makes it easier for Siemens to see where upgrades are necessary to ensure that its connectivity is always optimized.

Planning your SD-WAN transformation

Today, SD-WAN is a critical enabler of digital transformation, and enterprises should build the business case for its adoption on this premise. However, before you start on your SD-WAN journey, we recommend that you consult with your stakeholders to ensure that your strategy aligns with business outcomes and broader digital business goals. This means understanding the needs of business units and users, as well as the IT teams.

You will need to define your SD-WAN solution’s scope, including drawing up a baseline for application performance. It may be necessary to deploy discovery tools to find out exactly what you are running on the network.

Finally, security plays a crucial role in enterprise networks and should be an integral part of the SD-WAN design. IDC advises enterprises to consider the security capabilities of potential SD-WAN providers in their selection process. In this respect, Cisco offers a fully integrated security stack for SD-WAN, including Cisco Umbrella Secure Internet Gateway cloud security to help customers gradually implement a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture.

A smooth-running transition

Moving any network can be time consuming and risky, with the potential to seriously disrupt business. A pilot encompassing a range of different site types will allow you to test the impact that SD-WAN will have on both your network sites and applications. The more detail you have at the testing stage, the more confidence you will have in rolling out SD-WAN. It also gives you a chance to iron out any issues that may arise before the wider deployment.

The network is the spine of digital business, so migration needs to happen as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. Not all SD-WAN solutions are the same, however. IDC, therefore, advises that enterprises evaluate SD-WAN providers in terms of their product portfolio, deployment models, track record and sourcing strategy to ensure it is fit for purpose and supports migration requirements.

Once SD-WAN is deployed, the work doesn’t stop as the technology is highly dynamic. To live up to its promise of greater resilience, agility and flexibility, SD-WAN requires end-to-end monitoring and complete lifecycle management to maintain the technical integrity of the solution and enhance its performance over time.

Now is the time

If you haven’t initiated your SD-WAN transformation, now is the time to start. No SD-WAN migration happens overnight, and depending on the size of your enterprise, you will probably have SD-WAN and WAN sites running side by side for a while. But, SD-WAN will provide the backbone for your cloud-native strategies going forward and deliver the multicloud architecture your business needs.

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Pierre-Marie Binvel
Pierre-Marie Binvel

Pierre-Marie is the Head of the Connectivity Business Unit for Europe at Orange Business Services. His team is responsible for accompanying Orange Business Services customers in their business digital transformation through the development of innovative, versatile and future-proof, global connectivity solutions.