Connectivity Without Complexity: 3 Key Advantages of Using SD-WAN to Transform Your Network

By Phil Mogavero, VP HDC & Collaboration PCM & Jim Warman, Director HDC Engineering PCM

When software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) solutions first entered the market, they were seen largely as a way for enterprises with many branches to simplify connectivity as applications moved to the cloud.

That remains true today. However, SD-WAN solutions appeal to a much wider audience – those with as few as a single remote site to those with hundreds of thousands of them.

Growth in SD-WAN adoption can be attributed in large part to the fact these solutions make it much easier to deliver cost effective, secure, fast connectivity than with a legacy private network, such as an MPLS.

On top of this, SD-WAN provides a number of advantages that make it an obvious choice to drive network transformation. Today, I want to explore some of these advantages to help those of you still leveraging a private network understand why so many are happy with their move to SD-WAN.

Clear path to ROI

To understand how much money SD-WAN can save your business, it is first necessary to discuss how companies are charged for private networks. In this scenario, to give end users access to corporate applications and data, you must establish connectivity from your remote sites to your private data centers with a permanent virtual circuit (PVC).

If, for example, you were running two private data centers (one primary and one secondary) and operating 25 branch offices, you would need to establish a private connection from each branch to both data centers – 50 total connections.

PVCs not only require a large upfront sum for the proper hardware, but organizations must also pay a monthly fee for the entirety of a contract, whether they are in use or not. For many, these monthly fees can grow to six figures and beyond and the introduction of cloud applications only add to the costs and complexity. That’s because organizations are forced to establish additional connections to the public clouds in use. Considering that it’s not uncommon to use public cloud resources across different geographic regions (or even multiple cloud providers), the connections and their associated costs can grow rapidly. Alternatively, businesses can backhaul traffic from the cloud to their private data center before serving end users. The problem, however, is that this creates significant latency that can ruin the end user’s experience.

With SD-WAN, you can simplify network connectivity and massively alleviate these costs. Public cloud providers already run many SD-WAN appliances in their data centers. As such, you can establish encrypted tunnels from your remote sites and data centers directly to the public cloud. Because SD-WAN traffic typically runs over the public internet, as opposed to forcing you to establish private connections, you can significantly cut costs – we’ve seen customers save as much as 70 percent on monthly fees.

This level of cost savings alone makes SD-WAN worth it. In fact, we’ve seen customers pay off upfront investments in network infrastructure with the savings provided by SD-WAN in as little as 6 months. SD-WAN cost savings are amplified, by a significantly more competitive market for connectivity and not getting locked into a single carrier solution. Furthermore, SD-WAN eliminates traffic backhaul, which (among other capabilities) helps optimize the end user’s experience.

Secure application traffic

Another advantage of using SD-WAN in place of a legacy private network is stronger security. In a private network, security is enforced within each individual router. For those of you with many remote sites, this can mean configuring hundreds of routers to enforce the proper security measures. This level of scale not only introduces significant complexity for network engineers, but it also creates many vulnerability points – if a single device is configured incorrectly, malicious traffic can enter the network.

In addition, encrypting network traffic can be a massive undertaking in a legacy private network. It requires the use of advanced security protocols and routing capabilities that require a senior network engineer to implement and manage. As a result, many businesses opt not to encrypt traffic, either because:

  • They lack specialized resources
  • They are unable to pay for these resources
  • They want to avoid network complexity

Jim Warman, PCM Director of Hybrid Cloud Architects, estimates that as many as 75 percent of businesses running legacy networks fail to encrypt their traffic.

SD-WAN provides an elegant solution to these challenges. First, all security logic is handled centrally and pushed out to edge devices. This makes it much simpler for a network engineer to implement the proper security measures consistently across all routers and significantly reduces the chance of misconfigurations. Additionally, SD-WAN traffic is encrypted by default when it traverses the network. As such, you can enforce stronger security measures without the need to leverage specialized labor or introduce additional complexity to your network.

IT simplicity

As you’ve probably noticed in the previous two sections, a common theme when discussing SD-WAN is simplicity. This point can’t be stressed enough, as SD-WAN solutions can streamline both day-to-day operations and long-term company growth.

For example, in legacy private networks, companies often lacked visibility into what applications were traversing their network. As a result, many would prioritize audio and video applications in their best effort to support critical applications. Given the variety of enterprise applications, such broad prioritization rarely sufficed and thus, businesses were forced to leverage additional third-party solutions for app prioritization. SD-WAN solutions, on the other hand, provide built-in real-time visibility into application traffic. This makes it easy for businesses send their most critical applications over the best network link at any given time to ensure a quality end-user experience.

This example shows how capabilities that previously required additional resources (whether software, money, or personnel) often come pre-configured, helping eliminate network complexity. Earlier in this article, I touched on centralized security management and tunnels encrypted by default, which reinforce this point. Additionally, some vendors are moving towards point-and-click interfaces to further boost simplicity and ease-of-use.

As organizations add branches, scaling the SD-WAN solution is simple as well. We’ve seen businesses fully on-board and connect new remote locations in a matter of days. Using a legacy private network, this process could take weeks or months.

Not all WANs are created equal

Now that you understand the advantages of SD-WAN, you must be thoughtful in picking the right solution for your network transformation. Over the past year or so, the SD-WAN market has been flooded with products from firewall and legacy network vendors alike. While all of them are promoted as enterprise-grade solutions, we’ve found that some fall short in what our customers need. To avoid picking a sub-optimal solution, here are three enterprise-grade solutions to recommend (listed alphabetically):

  • Cisco’s Viptela or Meraki SD-WAN
  • Citrix SD-WAN
  • VMware’s NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud

As you are exploring the SD-WAN market, look for providers who offer services to help upgrade your network, including:

  • Assessing your existing network and how it helps achieve business initiatives (both present and future)
  • Designing a future-proof network that optimizes costs and end-user experiences
  • Evaluating and assessing existing circuits and providers to find the most suitable solution for your needs
  • Working with our national team of certified engineers to design, implement, and even manage your network

Phil Mogavero, VP HDC & Collaboration PCM

Phil Mogavero is responsible for PCM’s HDC vision, strategy and execution in order to grow the revenue and associated PCM Services for PCM strategic HDC Partners; including Dell/EMC, among others. Mr. Mogavero has direct management for marketing, presales, delivery, certifications, customer success and vendor operations. He has been key behind the overall PCM success. Mr. Mogavero is an industry veteran with experience in leading edge technology from building the first networks, intranet applications, managed services and IoT solutions. He has served on numerous advisory boards for leading manufacturers and is able to articulate how strategic technology improves the efficiency and profitability of organizations. 

Jim Warman, Director HDC Engineering PCM

Jim Warman has over 15 years of experience with technology implementations from server implementations, network, data center build out and migrations, systems and software development. He was the lead architect building, managing and maintaining data center operations for one of the nation’s largest hospitals. He has been the lead design engineer for numerous nationally regarded hospitals, school systems, and a major cellular provider.  He has worked on countless atypical WAN designs and implementations. Warman is certified in VMware VCP 5, Cisco CCIE R&S, Cisco UCS and Nexus, EMC VNX & VNXe and Palo Alto Network Security Engineer

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