The world is returning to growth at last. According to the IMF, some 120 economies, accounting for three quarters of the world’s GDP, saw a pickup in growth in 2017 – the broadest upsurge since 2010. This trend is forecast to continue over the next two years. How can SD-WAN provide enterprises with the agility and flexibility they need in their IT operations to seize the opportunities this presents?
With the rebound in the world economy, enterprises are pursuing growth in a diversity of ways. Some are looking to expand into fast growth markets in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe to tap into new consumer demand; others, such as oil and gas exploration firms or retailers, have a regular need to set up operations in new temporary sites where data analysis shows high levels of hydrocarbons or footfall.
For many, M&A is the key driver of growth. Technology acquisition is now the number one driver for M&A, according to Deloitte’s The State of the Deal 2018 report. Acquiring new digital capabilities accounts for a third of deals being chased.
In each case, enterprises need their IT platforms to be more flexible and agile to rapidly capitalize on these market opportunities. SD-WAN can help them meet this need.
The question of M&A integration
Integrating two IT systems and organizations is highly complex with different networks, workflows, processes, applications and security policies to contend with.
When organizations merge, it is the business applications that are critical to keeping the wheels turning. For example, accounting and CRM systems often need to be joined together quickly.
Information gathering is the first task to accomplish when approaching a network merger. The traditional route is to carry out a full audit of the remote network to understand the IP address blocks, routing schemes, WAN provider contracts and hardware and software that is in use.
Normally, you would create a secure IPSec tunnel between the two networks with a firewall, while private WAN circuits, with a lead time of several months, are procured to provide a permanent connectivity solution. Such IPSec connections are too fragile for ongoing business needs.
In contrast, an SD-WAN can leverage existing Internet circuits straight away and create a more robust, capable and secure long-term connectivity solution. It enables specific traffic to be directed onto the overlay for full access, while standards-based routing and VPN tunnels provide interoperability to legacy equipment. Using SD-WAN to keep the remote company isolated as a specific business unit inside the new parent business can help maintain regulatory compliance and reduce security risks.
“SD-WAN adds a level of granularity that IP integration can’t,” explains Isch. “With SD-WAN, you can look at the integration from an application perspective so you can segment the network, isolate traffic and create groups of applications for specific users.”
Assessing security policies
During a take-over, it is not uncommon for the acquiring entity to dictate the security policies and architecture that will be adopted by the enlarged firm in the future. While in a merger of equals, the two firms will assess who has the more thorough policy or cherry pick the best security solutions to meet requirements of the new and improved entity.
SD-WAN can act as a bridge between two organizations’ WANs, integrating the networks, but isolating the security. SD-WAN allows IT to limit employee access to certain applications, while maintaining security regulations across the entire network and easing management headaches.
Many SD-WAN products perform service chaining. What this means is that it is possible to drop traffic off wherever it is needed. If you want to perform deep packet inspection (DPI) on all traffic coming from the acquired business, you could write an SD-WAN policy that tunnels all traffic back to an intrusion detection system.
However, there are potential latency issues. “Much is dependent on the design of the integration points of the network,” Isch explains. “If there is one gateway for all traffic to go through, it creates latency. The question is how much an organization wants to spend in adding gateways and complexity to make the transition easier.”
In the long term, however, this goes away as the networks are fully integrated. “The goal is to get to next generation networking during the acquisition rather than sometime after, and SD-WAN can make that a reality,” explains Isch.
Easing vendor management headaches
Multisourcing service integration (MSI) can also ease the management headaches of having to deal with many more service providers around the world during an acquisition. “With MSI, Orange provides single level management across any third-party network, so the enterprise can have a coherent approach from a performance, quality of service and incident management perspective,” says Isch.
Often the acquiring and acquired companies have used different methodologies and carriers for their networks, and moving it all to one provider may not be possible immediately, so MSI can help create cohesiveness across various accesses and providers.
Using SD-WAN in greenfield sites
Many retailers are currently going through growth spurts through greenfield store openings as well as acquisitions. Temporary pop-up stores can be set up using any available broadband, Wi-Fi and cellular connections. Cloud-delivered SD-WAN provides policy-based remote configuration to get retail branches onto the WAN and access to corporate applications without the need for an on-site technician.
With the unified management and policy-based utilization of multiple WAN circuits, as well as the application performance optimization capabilities, SD-WAN can help retail organizations improve their operations, increase application availability and reduce costs.
Whether entities are merging, separating, being acquired, or simply expanding to greenfield locations, it is the application and business requirements that should drive connectivity design and implementation strategies. SD-WAN offers the ability to meet these needs, providing the next-generation network that enterprises need to support rapid digitization while giving secure access to the cloud-based applications employees need to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Read this article on lessons for better deployment and our exclusive ebook: Meeting the challenge of the digital age with SD-WAN.