- The Branch Is Facing a New Set of Challenges
- Introducing Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking
- Characteristics of an Enterprise-Grade SD-WAN Solution
Today, digital business is no longer an abstract concept—it’s a reality. As more applications move to the cloud, business users increasingly rely on them to do their jobs. From virtual meetings to file-sharing to collaboration through tools like Skype, Slack, and Office 365, including voice and video traffic, they require consistent, high-quality bandwidth, all the time.
But for IT organizations that are managing remote and branch offices, it can be a challenge to accommodate these needs in a way that’s efficient, secure, and cost effective. Branch office users are consuming more Wide-Area Network (WAN) bandwidth than ever, but the economics are unsustainable, and the user experience is often suboptimal.
Modern businesses have a mandate to:
- Support future growth. They want branch offices that can grow and scale, without compromising the user experience or going over budget.
- Reduce operational complexity. They want to simplify or eliminate branch complexity and the equipment sprawl that consumes so many IT resources.
- Satisfy end users. They want to provide a seamless experience to end users who are accessing applications in the cloud or on private data centers.
The Branch Is Facing a New Set of Challenges
Amid more demands from every area of business, IT has its hands full. Applications, users, data, and devices are exploding, but CapEx and OpEx budgets aren’t keeping pace.
IT teams are trying to solve for:
- Lack of visibility from branch to data center, and branch to cloud. As apps and data move from environment to environment, they can easily be obscured, leaving them vulnerable to security breaches and poor performance. To stay in control, IT teams need to see what’s happening everywhere.
- Ever-increasing branch complexity, legacy equipment drag, and point products. Traditional, hardware-based systems don’t have the flexibility needed for today’s fast-moving digital landscape. Not only is it difficult to maintain security and compliance requirements with clunky hardware, but they slow performance and put organizations at risk of falling behind competitors.
- Inhibition of new app rollout due to low bandwidth or lack of assured performance. Leased lines are cost-prohibitive, and don’t allow optimal cloud access. Public Internet doesn’t provide consistent performance. That means apps can’t get to market faster—a crucial part of staying relevant in today’s fast-paced world of business.
- Long branch network deployment cycles. Legacy solutions require IT to perform manual tasks, such as configuring and managing point products, which are both time-intensive and error-prone. Every hour or day spent on deploying a network cycle is time taken away from what the business truly needs: strategic thinking and innovation.
- Cloud migration not supported by traditional hub-and-spoke branch network architecture. Yesterday’s solutions weren’t built with the future in mind. Today’s IT teams are trying to move the business forward, but the hardware they’re working with won’t allow them to make significant progress.
Meeting these challenges is critical to the success of a modern business—and it’s going to take a modern solution to do it.
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Introducing Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking
WAN has long been an important part of the branch office infrastructure, giving workers the ability to connect and collaborate with others, and access critical services, applications, and data. But traditional WAN architectures weren’t designed to support cloud and SaaS applications. WAN traffic is carried through expensive leased lines, that drive up costs, or unreliable public Internet lines that frustrate end users.
Now there’s a better option. Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) is the extension of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) that abstracts network hardware into software. It enables enterprises to support application growth and simplify branch operations while streamlining access to cloud services and private data centers over both ordinary broadband Internet and private links, regardless of the transport mechanism. SD-WAN is critical for today’s hybrid cloud environments because it brings enterprise-level manageability, performance, and reliability across branch offices.
Characteristics of an Enterprise-Grade SD-WAN Solution
An enterprise-grade SD-WAN solution gives you the ability to realize the speed and agility you need to meet IT objectives. But with many SD-WAN options on the market, there are numerous variations to consider before you make a choice.
What should you look for in an SD-WAN solution?
- WAN Simplicity. Simplified WAN management enables zero-touch operations, which means that remote branches can be brought up by non-IT professionals. Look for the ability to enable a business outcome-driven approach to configuration and UI, which is made possible by automation and abstraction that simplify both operations and configuration.
- Assured Application Performance. Look for a solution that is transport agnostic; one that assures consistent application performance over any link, for even the most demanding applications, regardless of where they are located.
- Cloud On-Ramp. The ability to deliver optimized SaaS/IaaS performance through the Internet and commodity links in a simplified, automated manner is a must. Look for a solution that keeps costs low and doesn’t compromise on quality or security.
- SD-WAN as a Platform. A solution should enable SD-WAN as a services platform, so that you can run other network services, such as security. This will allow you to consolidate devices and reduce equipment sprawl.
Key Benefits of SD-WAN
- SD-WAN combines the economics and flexibility of a hybrid WAN with the deployment speed and low maintenance of a cloud-based service—bringing benefits across the business. In addition to cost savings, you can achieve:
- Simplicity. Take advantage of simple and intuitive deployments, streamlined operations, and a cloud-optimized network.
- End-to-end visibility. Gain visibility into applications from the branch to the data center, network, and cloudwide.
- Improved ROI through reduced link costs. Consolidate devices and reduce OpEx, with software-based operations.
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