Software-defined networking, otherwise known as SD-WAN, is emerging as a compelling alternative to the traditional WAN, especially among heavily decentralized organizations with lots of branch offices.
The Problem with Tradition WAN
Traditional WANs are rooted in independent box configurations, where IT teams must physically deploy, manage, and monitor each router in each location. Few organizations today have enough IT staff to dedicate to that kind of upkeep – either with an on-site administrator or a traveling IT member.
Additionally, wide-area networking has become so complex at the network’s edge and now requires some combination of intrusion detection/prevention systems, VPNs, firewalls, load balancers, and monitoring. If one aspect of this dynamic setup is misconfigured, the entire enterprise can suffer through dropped packets, delays, vulnerabilities, or outages. These challenges only worsen as your business grows and the network scales.
Another issue with traditional WANs is the expense – the gear it takes to optimize and secure the network edge in a competitive manner has become cost-prohibitive. What’s worse is faster and more capable equipment comes to market rapidly, outpacing an organization’s ability to achieve a respectable ROI.
Complexity and far-flung offices make managing a WAN a heavy lift for most IT organizations and can significantly delay an organization’s ability to expand its reach to new branches through growth, mergers, and acquisitions.
SD-WAN: The Solution to WAN Problems
SD-WANs help drive a strong positive ROI because the software-based approach moves the category of WAN networking from a capital expense to an operating expense. SD-WANs, although they involve an on-site edge router, are sold as a fully managed service. Gartner reports that SD-WAN can be up to two and a half times less expensive than a traditional WAN architecture.
Some SD-WANs, including West’s, are cloud-based, enabling them to always be at the leading edge of features and functionality without the agony of deployments, updates, and patching. IT simply logs on to a centralized dashboard and creates a gold standard configuration that includes the critical tasks of load balancing, redundancy, and security. That configuration is then automatically deployed to boxes at each branch office. This zero-touch provisioning / deployment means there is no need to have an IT staff member on-site and hands-on. All reporting, alerts, and troubleshooting are fed through the dashboard. Early estimates show customers spend 50% to 90% less time configuring branch equipment vs. traditional routers.
The lessened hardware requirements and better allocation of personnel is a win for any IT department. The ability to carry out real-time management and monitoring of all corporate network services also puts organizations at an advantage over competitors burdened by one-off WAN deployments. Fast-growing companies – whether you have broadband or dedicated circuits such as MPLS – can stay apace with SD-WAN without overburdening IT resources. Want to acquire a company and quickly onboard them to your network? Easily accomplished with SD-WAN.
SD-WAN is often a superior choice for companies looking to aggressively move more applications to the public cloud. SD-WAN is designed to reliably and securely handle even the most latency-sensitive applications such as real-time voice and video. Some companies have seen savings because IT is able to better utilize WAN connections and balance between high-cost and low-cost lines based on the priority and characteristics of certain traffic.
What West Offers for SD-WAN
As you consider moving to SD-WAN, think about what West can offer, including a state-of-the-art NOC for 24/7 maintenance and support staffed by Cisco-certified professionals. West also can support the agnostic nature of SD-WAN, which can take advantage of MPLS, Internet, 4G/LTE – a must, according to Gartner. With West services, you can bring in multiple WAN transport lines and manage them within a single dashboard, providing traffic prioritization, failover, and high availability. We also have strong network protection services that can be seamlessly blended with your SD-WAN service. Because SD-WAN is so steeped in networking principles, our deep networking expertise will be essential to your overall success.
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