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SD-WAN Fad or Future?

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is making inroads into the South African mid to large enterprise customer segment. But is this just another tech fad or is there merit to the hype? While SD-WAN is not anything new, the South African Enterprise market seems to be reaching a mature enough state to deploy it. Certainly, at Torch we have seen that among our customers in South Africa and Africa there is a readiness to make the change to SD-WAN. But why? There are two main factors. It is estimated that SD-WAN will cost up to 70% less than MPLS and there are claims that you don’t need be an IT expert to deploy it. Time will tell if this is true.

What is SD-WAN?

CTC Technologies defines SD-WAN as: “…the newest capability in the world of WAN. Software-defined networking capabilities can be applied as a virtual overlay to a company’s current WAN connection, which would typically be MPLS-based today”. For full details, have a look at https://www.ctctechnologies.com/sd-wan-for-dummies/SD-WAN

Why should SD-WAN be on your radar?

  1. If your organisation uses Perimeter-less Networks. SD-WAN allows you to meet the demands of increased workforce mobility and data accessibility and it enables you to serve your organisation’s extensive footprint across remote places within Africa. SD-WAN gives you the ability to have a top-notch WAN, touching all access points using a broadband connection, both fixed and mobile, without the expense of the point to point links.
  2. You require network flexibility. SDWAN allows for a hybrid solution and vendor diversity:
    1. You are able to cherry pick the providers in the data network, both fixed and mobile, providing services which could be harnessed using the SDWAN orchestrator to pull in tandem.
    2. Where you have a number of business units dictating what technologies and providers they want to use, SDWAN allows for all vendors and technologies across your business to be married together seamlessly. Essentially, this gives the organisation the illusion of choice whilst returning the visibility and control to the CIO.
    3. Its scalability means that SDWAN and an MPLS working in tandem, or cooperatively whilst you roll out – it doesn’t have to be a big bang approach.
  3. Ensures High Visibility and Control without the heavy People Overhead. There are companies offering SDWAN as a managed service. Brilliant! You can select the amount of support you want based on your company’s internal skill sets. The expensive network engineers are no longer a critical requirement on your pay roll.
  4. Rapid Deployment and Business Agility. SD-WAN allows for the rapid deployment of WAN services (such as bandwidth and firewall). As a result, business can distribute operations to branch sites without the need to send IT personnel. Also, bandwidth can be easily added or reduced as business requirements evolve. This gives your business valuable agility.
  5. Security is another big selling point. Many modern businesses and companies tend to prefer network systems that integrate security, policy, and orchestration. Through unifying secure connectivity, SD-WAN can offer this. Your business will also benefit from end-to-end encryption across the entire network – including the internet.
  6. Supports the growing move to the Cloud. MPLS circuits were great when the organisation’s datacentre held all of its apps, but in a world where Microsoft Exchange is increasingly becoming Microsoft Office 365, the data that was previously held in that datacentre is now in the cloud. With MPLS, even though you are using cloud apps, you are actually backhauling all of your cloud traffic down to your centralised firewall on premises. While this is of course very secure, it does slow the network down, contributing to latency issues and complicating the architecture. What your network should be doing (and what SD-WAN does) is simply ensuring that data travels from branch to cloud securely.

Our Conclusion

SD-WAN can make it easier and cheaper for an organisation to connect branches or set up new offices from anywhere, but it is important for any IT leader to assess the needs of their enterprise before doing so. The size of your business, its locations, and the way you want to manage the network is very important to determine before embarking on a SD-WAN deployment.

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