What Is SD-WAN?


"Whether you are an entertainment company, an energy conglomerate or a retailer, your network connectivity needs must be met, which is why software-defined networking or SD-WAN technology is so important. "

No matter where businesses operate today they must have secure and worry-free connectivity, be it from a branch office to a head office, a temporary site that might be in operation for only several weeks or a remote location.

Whether you are an entertainment company, an energy conglomerate or a retailer, your network connectivity needs must be met, which is why software-defined networking or SD-WAN technology is so important.

Rohit Mehra, vice president of Network Infrastructure at IDC, pointed out recently that its emergence “has been one of the fastest industry transformations we have seen in years. Organizations of all sizes are modernizing their Wide Area Networks to provide improved user experience for a range of cloud-enabled applications.”

The research firm estimates that the combination of infrastructure and services will result in an $8 billion market by 2021 and much of that success is due to the fact it is uniquely optimized to meet the growing requirements of cloud computing.

“SD-WAN addresses the transformation of branch WANs and cloud connectivity, promising a cost-effective and agile alternative to conventional data network services,” says Lawrence Surtees, vice president of communications research at IDC Canada Ltd. “Network performance and agility are critical to the success of digital transformation initiatives and the effectiveness of the hybrid IT environments that underpin them.”

Keep it simple

It comes down to complexity and uncertainty vs. simplicity. Take Company A and Company B as an example, both of which have a head office in North America and each has several branch offices in Europe. Company A’s communication needs are serviced by an assortment of ISPs, which in of itself, means a true global network does not exist and should a data transmission error or outage occur, there is really no recourse until it is fixed by the provider.

Company B, on the other hand, has adopted a service from Aptum that is based on the SD-WAN 2.0 unified platform from Nuage Networks from Nokia, which offers connectivity, visibility and control at scale from a “single pane of glass” across an entire network inclusive of data centers, public clouds and branches.

It addresses the modern enterprise network’s need to connect users to applications in a secure, programmable, automated and transport-agnostic manner. It’s also the only SD-WAN platform in the industry to offer true end-to-end policy and data plane controls extending from users in branches to workloads in public or private clouds, as well as SaaS.

In one view, a customer can access an information portal in order see what is happening in their WAN anywhere in the world, knowing that it is protected and connected. That is the first aspect.

Responding in real time

The second revolves around security. All of the traffic that is being passed globally over that SD-WAN overlay is 256k encrypted, which is critical given the importance of all that data moving back and forward across a network.

Nuage has the ability to detect threats and respond in real-time, a functionality that protects against malicious unauthorized access, and monitor all network communication across and within a branch to identify anomalies and violation of policies.

The third aspect revolves around simplicity. The reason we pride ourselves on the simplicity aspect is from that portal, let’s say I have five sites and I am planning on opening up a sixth office. The beauty of the SD-WAN portal is that as soon as it is deployed all activity can be monitored there and at any other location.

The customer will see that it is active, it is live, traffic is being sent over and what type of traffic is being sent. They have access to monitoring and security capabilities all through a self-serve portal.

In the past, when it came to the tweaking of enterprise connectivity procedures, every little change that you wanted to make required a phone call to your provider. It was expensive, took up a lot of time and in the process of making those changes often things could go horribly wrong to the point where you might completely lose connectivity at a site. You can avoid all of that now.

There is also the resiliency factor that can be gained as a result of SD-WAN.

Multiple internet connections

When you are in an urban centre like Toronto or Boston, it’s easy to imagine having extremely high-speed and secure and reliable internet connections. But if you are out in an area that doesn’t have fiber in the ground – you are getting Internet through copper wires or old technology that is not as reliable -- it is not as resilient or robust.

What SD-WAN allows you to do is have multiple internet connections going into our device and it allows for link aggregation and link bonding. It also allows for link backup, which means that you can have LTE wireless backup.

The amount of control that is being returned to the enterprise over their wide area network is why this is such an important piece of technology today and will continue to be well into the future.

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