Connectivity that accelerates digital transformation.
Modern enterprises are complex organisations, often operating from multiple locations in a country or around the world. A typical enterprise can span many locations, from branch offices to manufacturing facilities, warehouses, data centers, or retail outlets. These are enmeshed by an invisible network of digital pathways, as pervasive digitalisation means that connectivity is now an essential component of doing businesses.
Yet the increased reliance on digital systems such as video conferencing and ERP systems means that an outage at a single location can have unexpected repercussions to business processes across the organization. And as the company grows, additional nodes only add to the complexity of this vital network.
The Next Evolution in Network Management - SD-WAN
The critical nature of connectivity and low tolerance for failure has culminated in the rise of expensive and often incompatible WAN equipment. It is no wonder that a quiet revolution is underway in the form of software-defined wide-area network, or SD-WAN. A specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology, SD-WAN was designed specifically to support WAN connections over large geographic distances.
Instead of relying on proprietary WAN hardware to prioritise network traffic and keep them flowing securely between branch offices, SD-WAN adopts a software approach to do the same. Notably, the delineation of control and data planes in SDN means that provisioning of connectivity and services can be done through the cloud, offering enterprises a level of responsiveness, centralised control and flexibility they never had.
Much like how server virtualisation left a lasting impact on the IT industry, SD-WAN looks set to eventually rewrite the rules for enterprise networks. From less than 5 percent of the market share today, Gartner predicts that up to 25 percent of users will manage their WAN through software within two years – and with 59 percent compound annual growth to become a US$1.3 billion market by 2020.
Putting SD-WAN to work
How does SD-WAN work, and how can it benefit the enterprise? A key appeal of SD-WAN is how it can be deployed without having to overhaul the existing infrastructure. A typical deployment is performed by swapping out existing branch routers for an SD-WAN appliance, which can be shipped preconfigured to remote offices and plugged in.
Once in place, the appliance is managed centrally through a cloud dashboard, allowing the network administrator to remotely monitor the performance of multiple office locations. Crucially, this opens the door to improving application performance and quality of service (QoS) for remote and branch offices, which can be tweaked to support cloud-based apps while prioritising line-of-business applications or mission-critical network traffic.
The move away from proprietary WAN hardware is a shot in the arm for higher reliability, while complexity is also reduced by consolidating network services into an integrated software-driven appliance. Management and security policy are also centrally orchestrated and pushed down to individual branch offices, greatly reducing the opportunity for outages or security misconfigurations stemming from human errors.
Empowering digital transformation
Despite its flexibility and prowess, the cornerstone to SD-WAN’s appeal really revolves around its ability to empower digital transformation and help businesses pull ahead of their competitors through its flexibility. For a start, enterprises can also react more rapidly to changes in their business: IT teams can make the decision to briefly increase network bandwidth during a festive season or product launch, or lower it during off-peak periods.
Moreover, SD-WAN can be implemented without sacrificing control and security; indeed, the ability to enforce the use of robust encryption across all branch offices means that security is arguably better. In addition, the availability of real-time analytics can help businesses keep a close eye on their organisation, and ensures that there are no surprises in terms of bandwidth requirements or gradually deteriorating QoS.
With the ability to rapidly and remotely tweak the network and provide additional bandwidth as necessary, the business can now focus on its core competency better instead of grappling with technology. The ability to reconfigure large swathes of the enterprise network through a unified console also opens the door to innovation and experimentation with the ability to quickly test out proof of concepts.
SD-WAN provides organisations with a clear view of data flows across their WAN, allowing them to optimise traffic to suit business needs while balancing performance and cost. The improved control reduces risk when migrating applications and data to the Cloud. It is built on StarHub’s orchestration capabilities, including a full range of network services and the expertise of a dedicated team to help customers design, deliver and evolve their SD-WAN.
Ultimately, the greater flexibility and control means that enterprises can stay agile and as they transform their infrastructure for today’s digital-centric business environments and tomorrow’s business innovation.
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