Industry Voice: Why SD-WAN is key to help enabling the future of enterprise connectivity

clock • 4 min read

The importance of data and connectivity to the enterprise has never been greater. A majority of businesses are engaged in a long-term strategy of unlocking the value in their data and turning raw data into actionable insight.

Connectivity is a crucial part of this strategy because it directly affects how data is collected, shared and analysed across applications and across organisations as a whole. Connectivity also determines a great deal more than simply how businesses connect with the wider digital world. It plays a significant role in determining how well organisations communicate and collaborate internally - more so now than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how millions of people work every day.

In short, connectivity is a defining aspect of how businesses are adapting to the demands of the digital marketplace and their ability to compete.

Recent research undertaken by Computing, in partnership with O2, examined the types of enterprise connectivity solutions currently in play and asked businesses to share their plans for connectivity infrastructure for the years ahead. One of the standout findings from the research was that the number of organisations focusing on connectivity technologies such as office based wi-fi, MPLS WAN and VPN WAN is growing relatively slowly. For example, the proportion of businesses telling us that they used MPLS WAN stands at 33 percent today and the proportion expecting to do so in three years' time is 36 percent. However, the proportion focusing on a SD-WAN (hybrid) jumps from eight percent today to 26 percent in three years' time - an increase of more than 300 percent.

New World - Old Technology

A network architecture that was designed for the enterprise environment of nearly two decades ago is fundamentally unsuited to the way we now operate. Traditional networks were designed for a world where most employees were office based and that office needed to be connected to one datacentre. That world no longer exists.

The huge growth in SaaS and IaaS has placed the traditional model of corporate connectivity under phenomenal strain. Research by Computing over the last year has consistently found that most organisations are working towards workload dependent hybrid or multi-cloud strategies, whereby workloads move seamlessly between clouds and are run in their optimal environment. This creates a number of challenges for traditional networks.

One of these is the increased need for mobility. Remote workers traditionally connect via VPN, but this is far from ideal. If remote workers connect via VPNs, by definition they can't access cloud applications directly as they're being backhauled via the principal network. This can lead to performance and productivity issues and it's very difficult to scale quickly - as a lot of network managers can probably testify given events over the last few months. As the use of video conferencing has gone through the roof, this very bandwidth heavy content has created quite the challenge for connectivity. 

In addition to the likely detrimental effect on SaaS performance from traditional networks, businesses are also finding cost pressures due to demands on bandwidth. The rise in businesses subscribing to cloud services has increased those demands. As has the greater use of bandwidth intensive video conferencing, driven by remote working.

In summary, traditional connectivity just isn't flexible enough in terms of performance or cost to be able to deliver the agility that businesses need - agility that they are seeking via the use of cloud applications and platforms. For many enterprises, limited connectivity is obstructing the benefits that cloud can potentially deliver. 

SD-WAN Solutions

SD-WAN is perfectly suited to hybrid and multi-cloud strategies because it enables direct cloud access for remote workers, so these individuals do not have their productivity compromised by having all their activity back hauled via a central location. Network traffic and applications can be prioritised and directed to the means of transport they are best suited to. This makes SD-WAN the perfect connectivity match for a workload dependent multi-cloud strategy.

This flexibility and enhanced performance compared to traditional connectivity means that SD-WAN can significantly improve the working experience and productivity of remote users and keep costs down by utilising public internet when feasible.

As businesses spend the next three years transforming their infrastructures into flexible, smartly orchestrated multi-cloud hybrid estates and continue to unlock the value of their data, SD-WAN is going to provide the connectivity platform for an increasing number. The agile digital infrastructure of the future cannot be optimised when it's delivered via a network belonging to a bygone era.

Find out more about why consolidating your connectivity needs will lead to a more flexible and secure business, with our dedicated white paper.

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