As the pace of digital transformation has accelerated, so too has the use of digital technologies. Key among them is the use of software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technologies, which decouple networking hardware from their control mechanisms, making traditionally rigid IT infrastructure easier to manipulate using software. In general, SD-WAN is more flexible than traditional private wide area networks. Instead of using dedicated circuits for data exchange, it uses software to create encrypted tunnels over the Internet.
SD-WAN is one of the most popular, fast-growing segments of the enterprise network market.
But who really needs SD-WAN, when, and why? Here are the five most common use cases for SD-WAN and how its network modernization capabilities can benefit your business.
With remote work cemented as status quo, companies are deploying SD-WAN solutions to address some of these needs. This use case relates to remote users who need uncompromised service availability, which requires SD-WAN’s advanced service optimization tools for superior network performance and reliability. Examples include executives, financial traders, contact center agents, and telemedicine professionals.
These solutions are often called SD-WAN at Home, SD-Mobile, SD-Remote, and the like. The usual approach is to deploy a lightweight, low-cost SD-WAN hardware appliance in the home office that’s easy to install and manage. The device enables dynamic connectivity across multiple public network services or transports, such as consumer-grade broadband or cellular. To improve performance, it has protocol capabilities like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or virtual private network (VPN) to improve performance.
Solutions also cater to mobile users with a software-based solution delivering VPN connectivity with enhanced, cloud-native security.
For some midsize-to-large companies, securing the WAN and branch offices are high priorities. Examples include financial services, healthcare, government, and regulated industries. In these cases, procuring security and network services together in one solution is far simpler. SD-WAN and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions are particularly beneficial because they are considered converged solutions uniting WAN connectivity with several overlapping security capabilities.
Typically, security-focused enterprises enjoy SD-WAN services that integrate well with network firewalls, intrusion protection systems (IPS’s), antivirus software, and URL and content filtering solutions. In addition, buyers may consider advanced SASE security solutions, e.g., secure web gateways (SWGs), cloud access service brokers (CASBs), sandboxing, Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), and data loss prevention. (DLP).
Cloud-based technologies like SaaS and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) are so common today that networks must serve as an on-ramp to the cloud. This is where SD-WAN can help.
Sometimes referred to as a cloud-first approach to SD-WAN, these use cases include organizations where users, workloads, and resources are primarily in the cloud, but some are still on-premises.
The cloud-first SD-WAN solution aims to support flexible, easy, automated, and high-performing cloud access. In some cases, companies won’t always want to accept the performance of the public Internet to connect their cloud resources.
The SD-WAN solution employs a direct connection to the cloud to realize this objective, accessing cloud service providers and SaaS applications, along with automation, orchestration, and optimization capabilities.
SD-WAN is an effective solution for deploying WAN services to small branch locations because it enables scalability by standardizing and therefore accelerating deployment processes. This use case typically involves a large-scale deployment of similar, if not identical, “cookie cutter” WAN instances across anywhere from 10 to over 10,000 locations. Companies managing many branches recognize the ease of use and automation but also find SD-WAN helpful in allowing remote network management, as most companies prefer not to have on-site IT staff.
Examples include fast food restaurants, convenience stores, franchises, or banks where the small branch office leverages SD-WAN to access primary business applications, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. The underlying connection for small branch SD-WANs is usually the Internet, often using xDSL, Ethernet, cable, LTE/5G, or very-small-aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite links.
Large organizations, such as multinational businesses, may find deploying SD-WAN as their global WAN helpful. These WANs may span as many as 100 or more sites, often across multiple continents. With such geographic dispersion, customers need more WAN reliability as well as SaaS performance improvements in some cases. SD-WAN’s optimization technologies are critical for these companies to increase business continuity and enhance the quality of the digital service experience.
A large global SD-WAN usually comprises sites with private circuits coupled with less-critical sites that run only on Internet circuits. The use case involves routing traffic to on-premises data centers as well as the cloud.
It’s clear why SD-WAN is an IT infrastructure technology fit for many of today’s purposes. Everything from small cloud-first businesses to global enterprises increasingly uses SD-WAN and SASE services to connect remote users, cloud resources, and enterprise locations. Comcast Business and Masergy are helping businesses of all sizes leverage SD-WAN to be prepared for today and tomorrow.
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