One of the major misconceptions around SD-WAN is that it requires a re-architecting of the network, and seeing the benefits will take anywhere from 6 – 24 months.
It’s completely possible to have all the power of application-aware SD-WAN in as little as two months without re-architecting the network, and to start seeing digital ROI in less than 6 months.
The secret key? It starts with understanding hybrid WAN architecture, and how it can bridge the gap between your current WAN and the capabilities you need to support new technologies at your sites and deliver digital ROI for the business.
While there is a lot of push in the industry to leverage Internet-based WAN connectivity to reduce bandwidth costs and enable direct Internet connectivity at the branch, most global businesses are continuing with the hybrid approach. The market is moving rapidly from an MPLS-only to hybrid WAN (Internet + MPLS) networking models – to reduce cost, enhance productivity, and drive engagement closer to the customer while maintaining the network performance required for mission-critical applications. Per Gartner, hybrid WAN architecture will gain prominence among enterprises with 70% of them deploying by 2020.
What does “hybrid WAN” really mean?
Hybrid networks consist of a mix of network connectivity such as MPLS IP VPN, Switched Ethernet, IPSec VPN, and 4G/ 5G to connect the data center, branch offices, and cloud applications. This type of network architecture comes into play when enterprises move to a ‘cloud first’ or ‘all cloud’ model with their applications, which is typically driven by a need to modernize the business, improve employee productivity, enhance customer experience, and/or control costs.
For businesses to manage hybrid network environments effectively, they need to understand the performance needs of applications across the network, as well as the bandwidth consumed. They also need a way to ensure the performance of applications, in alignment with business objectives.
The challenge is that legacy hybrid WAN deployments use static approaches to segment application traffic across available connectivity links. For instance, mission-critical applications such as unified communications and collaboration, payment processing, video surveillance, order management, etc. are configured to use MPLS or private transport links, while lightweight and less critical branch applications run on public Internet links. Unfortunately, a static approach can’t meet the digital demands on today’s cloud-enabled business, where application priorities, quality of experience, and bandwidth demands are dynamic and unpredictable. Further, when deployed at scale, it becomes error prone and expensive to guarantee application performance. You need traffic steering that is intelligent, dynamic, predictive and automated. Additionally, it’s essential to deploy these networks in an agile and simplified manner – reducing the strain of manual intervention and time-intensive configurations. Connecting branches in a speedy way is a critical requirement for today’s global enterprise.
SD-WAN, traditionally viewed as a cheaper way to deploy Internet-based WAN, is a transformational approach to simplify hybrid networks. SD-WAN separates the control plane from the data plane, enabling remote control and management of the network. The software enabled operation drives agility and flexibility in the WAN, with fewer errors and the ability to implement business intent policies. At the same time, new branches are added to the network with zero-touch deployment, reducing physical resources at the site.
SD-WAN, when coupled with deep application intelligence, brings key advancements to prioritize application traffic with dynamic queueing. IT managers can set policies through a central controller, enabling the SD-WAN to perform real-time orchestration of the network, through visibility and control, and optimize network resources for each application, based on its priority. Similarly, dynamic WAN selection (DWS) capability automatically routes applications over multiple networks.
Some of the critical characteristics of a successful SD-WAN solution for hybrid WAN are:
You can have application-aware SD-WAN functionality today without re-architecting your network, as long as your solution meets these requirements, especially with respect to application intelligence. The best road to SD-WAN for your WAN edge runs through Hybrid WAN and empowers enterprise CIOs to maximize their returns from digital investments.