From CapEx and OpEx savings to operational simplicity, SD-WAN has a number of benefits over the traditional enterprise WAN. Cloud connectivity, application performance and security are some of the other areas that benefit from a well designed SD-WAN solution.
The foundation of the cloud-first WAN is that it is a service, consumed rather than constructed, OpEx instead of CapEx, and aligned with the cloud consumption model. A well-integrated service will deliver most, if not all, of the capabilities and advantages outlined here. A WAN-as-a-Service cuts through the complexity of understanding the connectivity options such as Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Direct Internet Access (DIA), as well as the task of provisioning and troubleshooting local Internet Service Provider (ISP) connections. It also hides the mix of optimization, security, and cloud connectivity components, but still lends itself to the visibility and transparency required by IT.
»» Flexibility enabled by moving beyond legacy architectures and artificial service barriers
»» Simplicity by leveraging a consumption-based approach
»» Velocity with the ability to adapt to fast-changing business needs
Enterprises expect predictable end-to-end connectivity, so service-level agreements (SLAs) can’t stop at a regional border. Applications like Microsoft 365 and Salesforce are more challenging because they utilize traditional connectivity methods for accessing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and depend on the public internet, which can be unreliable and slow. Although WAN optimization techniques can mitigate some public internet deficiencies, they can’t overcome the inherent limitations of ISP peering and congestion. The path forward is a dedicated global and regional backbone, supplemented by reliable last-mile ISP links connecting SD-WAN edge appliances to the nearest Points-of-Presence (PoP). The benefits of predictable connectivity anywhere include:
»» Predictable application performance leading to greater employee productivity
»» Reduced troubleshooting because connectivity is no longer a variable
»» No indirection and lack of visibility between an underlay and overlay
WAN optimization is a critical feature in a fully managed cloud-first WAN to ensure application performance. WAN optimization techniques should include innovative techniques such as multi-segment optimization and data de-duplication, along with other standard techniques like compression, bandwidth management (such as quality of service [QoS] and prioritization), and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) acceleration. The benefits of WAN optimization include:
»» Optimized network and application performance
»» Most efficient use of WAN bandwidth: for example, using compression and deduplication to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO)
»» Helps ensure SLAs are met
Multi-cloud connectivity is never an afterthought for the cloud-first WAN. It offers direct, regionally based connectivity to the most popular public cloud platforms, leveraging high-speed access technologies such as Direct Connect for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and ExpressRoute for Microsoft Azure. For SaaS applications like Microsoft 365 and Salesforce, application traffic should be transported over a private network core to the PoP that is closest to the SaaS provider. The benefits of multi-cloud networking include:
»» Optimal application performance
»» Simplified multi-cloud deployment removes the operational burdens from the enterprise.
As the threat perimeter grows with SD-WAN and multiple cloud deployments, security can’t be an afterthought. The cloud-first WAN embraces flexibility with the choice of security vendor(s) as well as where to deploy — whether it’s at the edge, in the cloud, or both. This also includes securing remote access, a component of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionality. In all but the simplest of deployments, the enterprise will be working with a trusted security vendor. The SD-WAN service must interwork with this vendor and, if desired by the enterprise, should also provide for management of both physical and virtual security appliances. The benefits of security and SASE include:
»» Supports the best security solution at all points in the network to minimize the threat of breach
»» No lift-and-shift of existing security vendors
In the modern cloud era in which compute, storage, and other cloud resources can be provisioned on demand in minutes, it still takes weeks or months to provision new WAN circuits telco or MSP. A fully managed cloud-first WAN offers cloud-based network provisioning on par with other cloud services. This feature enables the enterprise WAN to keep up with the speed of business rather than becoming a bottleneck to innovation and digital transformation. The benefits of automation and orchestration include:
»» Quick turn-up of new locations and services, offering flexibility to the enterprise
»» Optimized allocation of regional and global SD-WAN resources
»» Facilitates troubleshooting and enterprise visibility
In the same way that navigation applications warn you of upcoming traffic on the highway, the cloud-first WAN integrates predictive analytics to help IT navigate around potential outages. The central orchestration and monitoring system maintains a real-time view into the WAN, leveraging data analytics to predict and determine any issues. The benefits of predictive analytics include:
»» Decreased Time-to-Resolution for enterprise IT troubleshooting
»» Lower TCO
»» Peak performance maintained at all times
A fully managed cloud-first WAN should offer a powerful, intuitive, web-based management and analytics portal that provides real-time, contextual insight into the network and applications. It should also enable complete configurations in real time across edge access network locations as well as well as across the private core. The provisioning model for the cloud-first WAN is just like the public cloud with a simplified point-and-click interface that hides the underlying complexity. Provisioning is the responsibility of the WAN provider. The benefits of management, visibility, and troubleshooting in a fully managed cloud-first WAN include:
»»SLA verification and state of the WAN real-time views
»»Full control over application performance
A fully managed cloud-first WAN, has no first- or last-mile lock-in and does away with the need to understand the capabilities of the ISPs in every country where branches are located. This allows the freedom to choose a service provider not mandated by the carrier. The cloud-first WAN provider can handle link subscriptions, monitoring, and troubleshooting, relieving the highly skilled in-house IT team from these more mundane tasks. The benefits of last-mile management and monitoring include:
»» Removal of the last bit of friction in adopting an end-to-end managed service
»» Eliminating the need to build ISP expertise within your organization
Last, but certainly not least, the cloud-first WAN’s service richness depends upon an architecture based on distributed service delivery Points-of-Presence (PoPs). These PoPs, in contrast to traditional SD-WAN PoPs that only support data forwarding, integrate routing, switching, compute, and storage. They are the essential middle-mile component, countering a “hollowed-out” SD-WAN offering that offers no core intelligence. A key part of the architecture is the handshake between the SD-WAN services edge appliance and the PoPs, enabling a host of advanced capabilities across the last-mile. All hardware and services are centrally orchestrated, permitting timely and consistent service enhancements. The benefits of a global PoP architecture for service delivery include:
»» Service-rich end-to-end architecture, with capabilities propagated from the core outward
»» A consistent PoPs and node codebase for quick service enhancements
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