The stepping stones for a successful SD-LAN transition

SD-LAN will ultimately provide enterprises with more automated, agile, scalable and easier to manage networks. But transitioning to an evolving technology is a challenge, so it is imperative to have a robust strategy that plans how it will be used in advance of deployment.

The European software defined networking (SDN) market, including SD-LAN, is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 40% to 2025, according to Global Data Insights. This is being driven by the increased use of cloud-based applications and advanced networking technologies across industries coupled with a surge in data traffic, growing adoption of IoT devices and the arrival of 5G.

Among its many benefits, SD-LAN provides centralization and orchestration of the network that hasn’t previously been possible. But, it is important to see SD-LAN as more than a technology. Yes, it is a strategic change to the networking infrastructure, but it is also a methodology that demands careful planning for a successful migration. Every enterprise is set up differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all SD-LAN.

Know where you're going

SD-LAN may still be developing, but it offers a great opportunity to design a flexible, scalable and secure network that will provide your business with added resilience.

By taking a few simple steps, you can make your SD-LAN journey a smooth one. First, it is important to set out exactly what business outcomes you want to achieve by adopting SD-LAN. Second, look at how your network is operating at present and identify any changes you would like to make. Knowing exactly what is driving your transformation will enable you to better put a strategy together and implement according to business needs now, and in the future.

Carry out due diligence

Third, perform due diligence of your current LAN, correlating relevant data about the volume of traffic, application landscape and current security policies and solutions in place. This will allow you to enhance the overall user experience and identify branch offices that have specific demands, especially in more remote locations. This information will enable you to prepare your SD-LAN migration plan.

Network innovation is essential to digital transformation

Migrating to SD-LAN is a complex process. The technology utilizes an advanced underlying infrastructure. This will necessitate infrastructure changes as most enterprises will not have continuously updated their networks. As a result, networks will need to be modernized and patched to avoid any glitches in the deployment phase. This will require investment to ensure the network is SD-LAN ready.

It is important to run proof-of-concept (PoC) projects and pilots to identify the sites that will most benefit from a software-defined approach. A phased approach to SD-LAN roll out is essential to ensure minimal disruption and continuous availability of business processes. The work necessary for application migration is very dependent on the size and complexity of the network, for example.

While SD-LAN processes are largely automated, enterprises must realize that they will need greater network capabilities. These include automated translation of the security and compliance policies, which are an important part of an enterprise’s overall transformation.

Opening the doors to intent-based networking

Another advantage of SD-LAN is that it provides an entry point into intent-based networking. Cisco’s solution, for example, allows enterprises to replace their legacy hardware in their LANs with intent-based networking appliances.

Intent-based networking augments SDN by delivering additional network agility. Cisco Software-Defined Access (SDA) is a solution within Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA), which is built on intent-based networking principles, adding context, learning and assurance capabilities. SDA can be offered as an on-premises solution and as such makes it particularly attractive to large enterprises who do not want to put all their network management in the public cloud.

This provides network administrators with greater visibility and flexibility in applying group-based access policies and traffic segmentation. This reduces risk for wired and wireless network devices in a zero-trust security environment.

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Making the leap

For any enterprise looking at SD-LAN, integrating the technology into its current structure will be top of mind. SD-LAN, as we have said, is continually evolving, so it is important to partner with a skilled network integrator with experience in software-defined networking, such as Orange Business.

Transitioning from a traditional network to one based on SDN is a major leap. Maintaining service continuity is obviously a top priority. But, with the right planning and partner, it can be achieved with minimum disruption, enabling you to benefit from the openness, agility and flexibility of a software-centric network.

Co-innovating for the next-generation SD-LAN

Building on its collaboration with Orange around intent-based networking, Cisco is offering SD-LAN to deliver multidomain segmentation, automation and analytics.

Orange and Cisco are working with customers to develop SD-LAN solutions in our Open Labs program, tailored to address individual customers’ business challenges. The Orange Open Labs provide a unique global mix of physical and virtual resources for innovation and development. This helps companies explore their future connectivity and performance possibilities in a safe and secure environment.

Understand how Orange and Cisco are co-innovating to help customers transform their enterprise local area network (LAN) into more flexible, powerful software-defined LANs (SD-LAN).

Julian Benfield
Julian Benfield

Julian is Product Manager for International Flexible LAN Services at Orange Business and has been with Orange Business since 2001. He has worked on a number of significant transformation projects at Orange with a focus on improving customer experience and driving change. He is a keen cyclist and cross-country hiker and produces homemade, experimental charcuterie to mixed reviews from his family.