The move to working from home and remote access to corporate systems and data, coupled with the increasing use of public and hybrid cloud environments has complicated network infrastructure design and network management.
Up till now networks have been mostly manually designed, implemented and managed, but their increasing complexity has made it increasingly costly in resources, both warm-blooded and network hardware.
At the same time, the increasing dependence on network availability and high levels of service has put increasing pressure on IT. When service levels drop or fail entirely, users demand a quick identification of the fault and a speedy corrective response.
Networking equipment suppliers, both hardware and software have recognised this and have developed solutions to address the problem.
This is the development of Software Defined (“SDN”) and the newer, more comprehensive, Intent-Based (“IBN”) Wide-Area Networks. They both split networks into physical and logical levels and in essence, manage the physical level automatically. They create self-configuring, self-managing, and self-healing networks according to policies set out at the upper logical level. If a device fails, both an SDN and IBN will automatically alert network management, and if possible, re-route traffic to avoid the network break.
The major benefit of SD-WAN and IBN technologies is that network staff no longer sit configuring devices or glued to screens watching traffic patterns, instead concentrating on the wider issues of network organisation, security and user support and management. This has provided major improvements in the costs and efficiency of network management.
At the lower levels, the new and improved protocols have improved network speeds and responsiveness, while at the same time enhancing network security.
As noted above, a SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is a technology that allows organisations to simplify and optimise their network management by abstracting the underlying hardware and the SD-WAN software controlling network traffic centrally. With SD-WAN, businesses can gain more visibility and control over their network, enhance performance, and improve security.
Here’s how SD-WAN helps in taking back control of your network:
Centralised management: SD-WAN enables centralised management and control of network policies and configurations. Through a centralised management console, administrators can easily define and enforce network policies, prioritise traffic, and manage network resources across multiple locations. This simplifies network management and eliminates the need for manual configuration at each individual site.
As an example, you no longer need to manually configure a switch. Simply add a new or replacement switch to the network and the SD-WAN automatically configures it.
Intelligent traffic routing: SD-WAN utilises intelligent routing capabilities to optimise network traffic. It can dynamically select the best path for data transmission based on real-time network conditions, such as latency, packet loss, and congestion. This ensures efficient utilisation of available network resources and improves application performance.
Application-aware traffic prioritisation: SD-WAN allows organisations to prioritise critical applications and allocate bandwidth accordingly. By identifying and classifying different types of traffic based on application signatures, protocols, or user-defined policies, SD-WAN can ensure that important applications receive the required network resources and deliver consistent performance.
Increased network visibility: SD-WAN provides enhanced visibility into network traffic and performance. Administrators can monitor real-time network statistics, identify bottlenecks, and troubleshoot network issues more effectively. This visibility allows proactive monitoring, faster problem resolution, and better capacity planning.
Improved security: SD-WAN includes built-in security features to help protect the network and data. It can encrypt traffic over public or untrusted networks, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of data in transit. SD-WAN also enables the implementation of security policies consistently across all branch locations, reducing the risk of security breaches and simplifying security management.
Simplified branch connectivity: With SD-WAN, organisations can simplify branch connectivity by utilising multiple transport options, including MPLS, broadband, LTE, and more. SD-WAN intelligently routes traffic across these connections, leveraging cost-effective options for non-critical traffic and maintaining reliable connections for business-critical applications. This flexibility reduces dependency on expensive dedicated links and improves connectivity resilience.
Scalability and agility: SD-WAN enables organisations to easily scale their networks and adapt to changing business needs. New branches or locations can be quickly onboarded into the SD-WAN fabric, and network configurations can be easily replicated across sites. This agility allows businesses to expand their network footprint rapidly and efficiently.
Cost optimisation: SD-WAN can help optimise costs by leveraging multiple network connections, including lower-cost broadband links, without compromising performance. It allows organisations to choose the most cost-effective transport option for different types of traffic, reducing reliance on expensive dedicated links. Additionally, centralised management and automation reduce operational costs and streamline network administration.
Cloud integration: SD-WAN facilitates the integration of cloud services and applications into the network. It can provide direct and secure connectivity to cloud service providers, optimising traffic flow and reducing latency for cloud-based applications. SD-WAN also simplifies the management of cloud resources by extending network policies and security controls to the cloud environment.
Analytics and reporting: Many SD-WAN solutions offer advanced analytics and reporting capabilities. Administrators can gain insights into network performance, application usage, and user behavior. These analytics help identify trends, plan network improvements, and make informed decisions for network optimisation and capacity planning.
Implementing SD-WAN can empower organisations to regain control over their networks, improve performance, enhance security, and streamline network management. However, it’s essential to carefully plan the deployment, consider factors like network architecture, scalability, security requirements, and select a reputable SD-WAN solution that aligns with your business goals and network needs.