Starting down the path of digital transformation? Begin the journey with software-defined WAN.

By Michael Moore, Practice Development Manager
10/1/2019

Organizations considering the migration of a portion of their data, applications, and infrastructure to the cloud as part of a digital transformation strategy should be asking some key questions:

  • Which critical data and applications should be in the cloud?
  • Will moving data and application workloads to the cloud optimize the overall user experience while increasing productivity?
  • Are the investments we’re making in our infrastructure today hindering productivity or helping to create agile IT?
  • Which technologies and processes can help us on the path to digital transformation?
  • How can we consume new technologies to migrate to a modernized operations model while maintaining or even strengthening security?
Keeping these questions in mind, organizations need to stay focused on two main areas: the data and applications themselves, and the optimized (and let’s not forget secure) delivery of services to end users.
 
One way to achieve this is by moving away from traditional Wide Area Networks (WAN) to a modern solution that focuses on data and applications — Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN).
 
With cloud adoption being a key factor in digital transformation, organizations need higher levels of connectivity — not only from branch-to-branch or branch-to-data center but in many cases branch-to-cloud. This presents big challenges for traditional WAN technologies.
 
Looking at traditional WAN, typically traffic is backhauled through a main campus or regional data center for all branch and remote offices. This can introduce significant amounts of latency, which in-turn slows access to systems, negatively impacts the performance of applications, and leads to poor user experience and a potential decrease in overall productivity. In addition, traditional WAN also suffers from a lack of agility and affects IT’s ability to quickly roll out new services to users.
 
Also, circuits are expensive, and having those circuits redundantly deployed at branch offices is an added cost for organizations; especially when paying for a redundant connection that remains idle until a failover situation. Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) can cost up to three times the price of broadband internet, and circuit provisioning can take months depending upon the location and carrier.
 
Other downsides of traditional WAN infrastructure include: a lack of centralized management; no visibility and control of who or what is consuming bandwidth on the WAN; time-consuming troubleshooting, with each branch in its own silo; the need for manual configuration of routers at each of the remote locations; and a lack of secure and reliable WAN transport other than MPLS.
 
SD-WAN is the modern networking approach that addresses the shortcomings of traditional WAN. These solutions are designed to securely support the shifting of networking traffic patterns to the cloud, alleviate bandwidth concerns and bottlenecks resulting from growing user populations and device counts, and ultimately reduce the level of complexity that’s become inherent with traditional WAN and the co-existence of multicloud environments.
 
SD-WAN simplifies the management and operation of the WAN infrastructure. It achieves this by decoupling the networking hardware from its management and control mechanisms, allowing organizations to create a higher-performing WAN that leverages orchestration and automation. This is key because it allows an organization to focus on the delivery of new services to their customers rather than investing time in maintaining and troubleshooting the legacy network in place today.
 
By enhancing or replacing legacy branch routers with virtual or physical SD-WAN appliances that can control application-level policies and provide a network overlay, less costly internet links can act more like dedicated circuits, making it easier to set up connections for branch offices and remote personnel. This provides the freedom to partially or completely replace more costly private WAN technologies such as MPLS.
 
One of the biggest benefits of SD-WAN is the flexibility and agility of its security, enabling secure communications over any transport. Not only does it give an organization the ability to leverage existing security investments through features such as service-chaining, but also allows for the use of cloud security features which help to consume the cloud at a much greater scale.
 
One of our customers, a global construction company, provides an excellent example of how a shift to SD-WAN can deliver these types of benefits. The company was having issues with routing applications over its entire infrastructure — which encompasses 500 sites worldwide with more than 15,000 endpoints. This led to high costs and poor quality of experience for users.
 
The company asked us to conduct a network assessment to find the shortcomings. After examining its local area networks, WAN, and wireless networks, we presented a list of suggested fixes, including a move from traditional WAN to SD-WAN. We provided a migration strategy, including a roadmap to deploy SD-WAN at all of the company’s locations.
 
The company has begun the transition to modern technology and is already seeing benefits such as improved application routing, enhanced user experience, zero-touch provisioning at remote locations, and stronger security.
 
Moving to the cloud has become inevitable for many businesses, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Ensuring that applications are delivered securely and efficiently is a challenge. With solutions such as Cloud + Data Center Transformation (CDCT) from Insight, companies can gain the networking and integrated security they need today as they continue on their cloud journey.