CTO and SD-WAN lead for Axians

I am often asked “what is SD-WAN, why do I need SD-WAN and what does it mean to me and my business?”

I have found that a good way to answer these questions is to use an analogy of business travel.

So, consider how delegates might travel to a Global Event in a city such as Barcelona, some will have taken the train, some a plane, some will have driven, caught the bus, or even walked.

I suspect the choice of transport would be based on specific personal factors or requirements and more than likely based on efficiencies, for example; time efficiency, cost efficiency or productivity. The point I would like to make is that many of the decisions we make are based on a set of criteria that are important to us, or our business.

Data is much like us in this respect, it needs to get from A to B and has requirements and criteria that need considering so that it can transit in the most efficient way. Imagine being told that all travel to the global event in Barcelona had to be by train, and that you also had no choice other than to travel via Paris. For some, probably most, that would be really inefficient and not deliver the best experience.

For decades we have had a choice about how we travel, data on the other hand has not had that choice. To this day many of the applications we are using to increase business productivity are being forced to catch the ‘network train via Paris’ (think traditional MPLS network architecture).

So, efficient, productive applications running on old inefficient network infrastructure… that doesn’t make sense!

So what is SD-WAN?

The software-defined wide area network SD-WAN is an application centric approach to networking. It is about decoupling the service from the underlying infrastructure (one of the key foundations of software defined networking – SDN). This means that services and applications used in a business context are not forced to run over a fixed network architecture e.g. MPLS, but instead can use any available architecture e.g. 4G, 5G, residential and business broadband. Ultimately this enables the application to be faster and more flexible by picking the best network path based on its own specific requirement.

For the user, this means improved application performance, productivity gains and a better user experience. For the business this allows for greater scalability, it means better visibility and insight in to the network performance and more control over what connectivity is used based on the individual use case.

The popularity of SD-WAN has been accelerated by businesses of all sizes looking to adopt new flexible ways of connecting distributed branch locations easily and quickly and, who also want to take advantage of the increasing use of cloud centric business applications.

So SD-WAN, in essence, is an network architecture that is designed to transport and manage modern cloud centric business applications across multiple modern transport methods, not plains trains and automobiles, but MPLS, Broadband, DIA or 4G and 5G, it effectively gives applications decision making intelligence and a choice, the same choice that we have about how we travel.

So why is this important, what changed?

It has only been very recently that SD-WAN has been accepted as a viable technology solution, and if we consider that it has only been over the past five years that digital transformation has become a serious boardroom conversation, these combined have the makings of a perfect storm.

To simplify digital transformation, lets just accept that it is the harnessing of technology to benefit an organisation and it’s customers.

So as organisations set out to reduce operational costs, increase productivity and utilise cloud solutions for the benefit of itself and customers, you have a situation where hundreds of business applications are being pushed onto the network. To use another railway analogy, as things stand now, for many organisations, it is like trying to run a bullet train on old railway tracks!

For an organisation to truly realise the benefit of digital transformation, it needs an underlying application centric network infrastructure on which to run the next generation of applications.

Digital Transformation and SD-WAN are intrinsically aligned, SD-WAN enables Digital Transformation because:

  • It improves visibility into the network, how it is performing and underpins the adoption of new technologies
  • It improves user experience because it supports new ways of distributed working
  • It supports a whole new generation of cloud centric business applications
  • It supports new and evolving connectivity models (4G/5G, broadband, DIA and MPLS) and the new method of consuming and acquiring these connectivity services
  • It supports business growth (e.g. Mergers and Acquisition) and organisational efficiencies and absolutely drives digital transformation initiatives

Digital Transformation is happening today, and so too is the deployment of SD-WAN. So in essence you could think of SD-WAN as the shiny new, and very efficient multi layered smart transport system for modern business.

As more and more organisations move to SaaS and Cloud services we have seen an increasing commonality in the networking requirements between organisations of a certain size irrespective of market vertical, SD-WAN has become more scenario or requirement based than vertically aligned, what I mean by that is, a global recruitment firm can have the same challenge as a tyre manufacturer, the solution at a high level might be exactly the same. Axians has worked across multiple organisations of varying size and has a clear understanding of how to address many of these challenges.

So, if you are considering the next steps in the evolution of your network and think Axians experience and knowledge could add value to your plans, then click the contact button and let’s start the conversation.

I would like to know more about how Axians SD-WAN experience and expertise can help develop my network

Axians CTO Chris Gilmour will call you to talk you through our SD-WAN network architecture and discuss options and applicability for your organisation.

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