Software defined WAN (SD-WAN) is fast becoming the new standard in wide-area networking, with rapid adoption driven by improved flexibility/functionality, accompanied by cost reduction and simplified management.
However, SD-WAN is far from all or nothing. It frequently complements other network technologies such as switched Ethernet, wavelength services, and dedicated cloud connectivity to deliver hybrid solutions that can best meet specific enterprise needs. For example, many organizations opt to deploy SD-WAN to remote locations as a low‑cost managed service, while retaining private networking at data center locations for lower per-bit cost at high speeds.
Still other enterprises layer SD-WAN over existing IT infrastructure to create competitive advantages. An enterprise going through intensive M&A activity may have standardized on a platform designed for easy migration of acquired networks. In this scenario, SD-WAN can provide secure, public connections to cloud service providers while leveraging the existing platform for continuing streamlined migration.
The path to a satisfying hybrid implementation
There are many more hybrid networking options for aligning infrastructure with business strategy. The key, however, is to enlist a technology partner that can effectively match and consolidate those options for an optimal solution. One size does not fit all networking scenarios. Below are some of the considerations.
The technology partner should first begin with an accounting of the enterprise’s unique operating, financial, and performance requirements. Then, the technology-agnostic network design should consider the following areas:
- Routing vs. switching. While each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, switches excel at reducing delay and latency; however, some customers would prefer to outsource their router support (see service management below), while others opt for utilizing Layer I transport wavelength services and deploying their own MPLS-routed network.
- Are there latency targets? Such as for high-speed connectivity to a data center for applications running in public clouds such as Google, Azure or Amazon Web services or for data backup applications.
- Bandwidth needs at each location. Would the enterprise benefit from prioritizing applications for each location, or is high-bandwidth across the entire enterprise essential?
- Privacy and security. Are private, secure connections required for regulatory or internal operating requirements? Industry standards such as HIPAA and PCI DSS require compliance through multiple network elements.
- Simply put, does this need to be the lowest-cost solution that can provide enterprise-wide service? If so, what functionality can be eliminated while ensuring the satisfaction of key enterprise requirements?
- Service management. If the enterprise does not have sufficient in-house expertise to manage all network elements from MPLS to SD-WAN, consider a provider of fully managed services to ensure peak ongoing performance.
- Is access diversity needed? Consider diversity and technology as two potential points of failure, using a mix of fiber, fixed wireless and other networking alternatives. Network uptime is paramount to enable businesses to operate.
Many enterprises will have additional, specialized needs that must be taken into account. Fortunately, hybrid WAN provides an exceptional level of flexibility that a provider’s professional services group can leverage to satisfy all requirements discovered during a needs assessment.
If stepping up to hybrid WAN seems a bit complicated, the rewards – entirely new levels of network diversity, scalability, and security, all delivered at a low price point – are well worth the assessment and planning efforts. The key is to partner with a service provider that can deliver a custom hybrid WAN solution that fully satisfies the enterprise’s unique requirements today and in the future.
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