SD, or software-defined WAN, also promises a much simpler process for branch office WAN operations. This comes at a time when organizations are doing everything they can to limit bloat in their labor forces. The overall goal is to improve operations and support for branch office networking functionality in general.
Bottlenecks in operations usually occurs because most IT companies network their branch offices in a very compartmentalized way. For example, the common branch office keeps separate appliances for wired, wireless and external networks. Each of these separate networks has a completely separate policy for implementation, some of which may not even be compatible with each other.
There are major catalysts and disrupters in networking that are complicating the process of branch office security and management. Many new solutions are being proposed, most of which involve a software-centered approach to network functionality. These solutions have been given an umbrella class of “Software-Defined (SD) Branch Office” solutions.
Below we will discuss some of the major reasons that more and more branch offices are looking into SD Branch solutions moving forward.
Branch Offices and the Cloud
The number one barrier in the majority of branch office network operations is an inability to manage cloud environments. Within this general new framework, a number of factors are becoming individually problematic, including:
- A loss of visibility into the performance and use of cloud-based solutions
- A corresponding inability to troubleshoot related problems the cloud may create
- A growing number of evolving security challenges associated with mobile branch office workers and arrival of IoT Devices.
- Increased complexity due to a highly compartmentalized approach to branch office network and management
The Cloud Is the Future
Forbes detailed, and others have corroborated, that cloud computing is the trend that we can all depend on for many years to come. The cloud simply offers more benefits than traditional in-house hardware data storage and application administration. Yet fears still abound that severing data from a physical headquarters will erode data security.
This is great for the cloud, but IT companies will have a few challenges to overcome.
The New Remote Workforce
Labor is a global force in the modern business landscape — savvy companies are creating remote teams from the best-qualified people across the state and even the country. These employees are adhering to a BYOA policy — bring your own application. The labor force is bringing its personal apps into the workplace on smartphones and tablets. These employee apps are fast becoming a central part of the infrastructure that companies use.
While it can increase productivity to allow your staff to use apps they are already familiar with, the downside is an uncontrollable level of security vulnerabilities. As remote employees grow into the norm around the world, company infrastructures will need to grow to accommodate the varying devices of 1.87 billion people (42.5 percent of the worldwide workforce by the year 2022).
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT is growing — from 8.4 billion connected appliances in 2017 to 20.4 billion connected appliances in 2020 — and it will soon become a vitally important part of many business verticals. Retail, healthcare and financial services are just a few of the industries that are already being affected.
The functionality that IoT connectivity offers is truly transformational. However, with every increased connection comes an increased risk of security. For instance, the financial services industry can benefit greatly by using the IoT to automate common functions in bank branches, shortening wait times and speeding up overall productivity. The downside is that if one system is hacked, all of the systems that are connected may be hacked as well. One mistake can compromise the entire system instead of that breach being quarantined to one section of the network.
Powerful Reasons Companies Are Using SD-WAN
The traditional method of backhauling online traffic through a centralized hub before taking it through to the Internet is relatively slow. Requiring MPLS access at each branch office is also an operational bottleneck. The growing interest in the SD-WAN solution comes from a competitive necessity. If everyone else is moving at lightning speed, your business must as well. Here’s what we are seeing for the reasons people are turning to SD-WAN
Centralized and Simple Management:
- Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) allows multiple WAN links to balance traffic dynamically, which is the linchpin to cutting costs in a network organization. It allows centralized control while allowing forwarding functions to be separated. From here, you can route data based on policy while centrally managing the entire operation from a single location.
Additionally, you can easily add new users, provide more accurate metrics for real-time applications, create more sophisticated security, and divide access down to individual devices and users. Wouldn’t it be nice to allow access based on importance of the application and the user?
Better Support for a Cloud Centric World:
- Users, especially those joining the workforce after 2010, are used to accessing new cloud applications to be more efficient in their careers. The problem is that legacy WAN architectures simply were not built for this. They were designed to direct all traffic back to a corporate data center, today that invites unnecessary overhead costs. SD-WAN architectures create a new avenue by allowing use of the internet to create a direct path to cloud applications backed by necessary security needed by corporations.
More efficient use of Bandwidth:
- An SD-WAN solution allows you to leverage your broadband connection for more bandwidth. This allows quicker and better access to the applications branches need to be productive. One cautionary tale however is that companies must be aware that this connection is not as secure so they should use intelligent routing decisions, so you can maintain the required level of security needed for the data sets.
Greater ability for growth:
- Setting up a branch location has traditionally created a challenge as you needed to create network configurations with WAN optimization to get the office up and running. SD-WAN offers the ability to arrange access via the cloud, accelerating branch operations with quicker more cost efficient connections.
Organizations today have a need more than ever before to ensure that their remote workers and branches have a secure network that is compliant within their particular geography, especially knowing that they are living outside the traditional corporate protections. SD-WAN can deliver better network security and more visibility and control over who has access to that network.
With all of the value provided by SD Branch Solutions, most companies are moving in that direction. Whether that means minor solutions or completely rehauling the system, software-centric office functionality is the wave of the future.
Author: Bill Flatley, Field CTO for Healthcare
Bill is responsible for technical strategies and recommendations for Comport’s Healthcare clients. His extensive experience includes four healthcare systems in leadership roles supporting Clinical Applications, Digital Health, and Office of the CIO as the primary liaison between IT and the business.