Using software to solve a hardware problem
With SD-WAN, businesses can now effectively take control of their network
Karl McDermott, head of 3Connected Solutions at Three Ireland, says that by next year 83 per cent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud
Irish businesses are migrating their applications to the cloud quite rapidly and, according to Karl McDermott, head of 3Connected Solutions at Three Ireland, by next year 83 per cent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud. “Successful migration to the cloud requires a robust, flexible infrastructure, but with increasingly complex demands and bandwidth requirements, traditional networks are struggling to keep up with those needs,” he says. “Software defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a technology that could make all the difference to businesses that want to embrace the cloud and take the next step to a more efficient way of working.”
McDermott explains that cloud software users need a resilient, fast, always-available connection and this is where SD-WAN comes in. “With SD-WAN, the burden of traffic management is removed from physical devices and is instead centrally managed by software. It is a simpler and easier way for network administrators to use available bandwidth more efficiently and to prioritise network traffic so that critical applications receive the highest levels of performance. The technology is available to companies of all sizes and can bring additional cost savings especially for those with locations overseas.”
Resource management is greatly simplified. “Traditionally, requests for bandwidth increases required advanced notice, interaction with an engineer and a waiting period,” McDermott notes. “With SD-WAN, bandwidth boosts or traffic reprioritisation becomes as simple as pushing a button. This gives businesses the ability to react faster to market trends, company needs or unexpected events. It can also cleverly make use both primary and back-up connections simultaneously to provide a useful bandwidth boost where necessary.”
Previously if an enterprise wanted to improve their WAN, they had to invest in dedicated links, hardware and of course expert engineers to set it up
Network outages and failures are also managed better. “An SD-WAN has the capacity to understand each connection’s performance," he points out. “It quickly identifies any issues and re-routes all traffic instantly if a connection goes down. It provides application-aware routing which will dynamically route traffic between dedicated backup circuits and secure Internet connections to drive constant delivery of business-critical applications. Conversely, once the issue has been fixed, traffic is directed back to the primary link.”
Costs are lowered too. “Previously if an enterprise wanted to improve their WAN, they had to invest in dedicated links, hardware and of course expert engineers to set it up,” he adds. “This could take time, and that’s even before all of this equipment was configured correctly. With an SD-WAN, enterprises can combine different access technologies – DSL, 4G, microwave, fibre – at specific locations to build a network fit for their purpose.”
But for most enterprises, their core business isn’t running a network, it’s providing a service or a product. In this complex environment they are struggling to keep up with these new demands on their network.
“This is where SD-WAN is making a difference,” says McDermott. “It sits on top of the underlying infrastructure, takes sites on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) or any other access technology, and other sites using SD-WAN, and presents them as one network via a centralised control panel. This single pane of glass gives enterprises ultimate visibility into the inner workings of their network connections.”
Integrating an SD-WAN with an AI application helps the virtual WAN to make decisions and react to scenarios
From this easy-to-use management dashboard, enterprises can control and manage their infrastructure. “Any adjustments, from bandwidth boosts to application prioritisation, can be done through the SD-WAN’s simple user interface,” says McDermott.
Enhanced security is another important feature. “Naturally, as an enterprise’s network grows and adds connection points, this increases the avenues for malicious attack,” he notes. “Thanks to the improved network visibility available with an SD-WAN, businesses have better control over the security on the network. They can instantly see what’s happening and if anomalies occur. Many SD-WANs can also protect application traffic from threats within the company and from outside by leveraging a full suite of included security solutions, such as next generation firewalls, intrusion prevention, URL filtering, malware protection and cloud security.”
SD-WANs also play well with other technologies and applications. “Integrating an SD-WAN with an AI application helps the virtual WAN to make decisions and react to scenarios,” McDermott explains. “By tying it into Windows Active Directory, the SD-WAN identifies users and their associated permissions, allowing it to detect any changes in behaviour and take immediate action.”
Understandably, these features and benefits are leading to increased interest in SD-WAN among businesses of all sizes. “Aside from the cost benefits, where international sites can be inexpensively connected back to the main hub through a simple internet connection, the ability to prioritise applications will deliver incredible productivity benefits,” McDermott concludes. “With SD-WAN, enterprises can effectively take control of their network. In this digital age, this power is going to become more and more important.”