The following is a guest article from Ed Fox, VP of Network Services at MetTel.
How many hats do you wear each day? I'm sure most people would say a lot but there's one person in the C-suite who keeps getting more and more every time I talk to them: the CIO.
As cloud initiatives become the norm, CIOs are in the hot seat to reevaluate their wide area network (WAN) requirements.
The adoption of cloud services and virtualization across traditional WAN architectures (e.g. MPLS), has led to performance bottlenecks, which impair user productivity when connecting to things like cloud applications while in a branch or remote office location.
Enter software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), one of the hottest networking technologies that is rapidly permeating all WAN discussions.
IDC predicts that the SD-WAN market will reach $8 billion by 2021, so it's no surprise that we've seen a dramatic spike in demand for the technology. Even at MetTel, we've seen up to a 70% increase in the first two months of 2018 alone.
This growth is part of a larger trend where organizations are transforming their legacy networks to more dynamic — and complex — digital infrastructures that can scale to meet sudden shifts in workload demands and support the new team collaboration norm in the enterprise.
To that end, here are three key points that CIOs need to consider when it comes to evaluating and understanding the benefits of SD-WAN:
- Somebody, call security! With SD-WAN, there's end-to-end encryption across any network type (e.g. the internet) where everything needs to be completely and securely authenticated. It can drive segmentation and do it in a much more secure manner than MPLS because MPLS doesn't encrypt any traffic at all.
- What a great performance. SD-WAN doesn't necessarily mean more bandwidth. When implemented properly, it can help enterprises connect to applications in a flexible and secure manner by utilizing a combination of underlying technologies that don't slow application performance, allowing operators to easily prioritize application traffic in a point and click manner.
- It makes more cents. SD-WAN can improve centralized WAN management capabilities, therefore cutting the need for physical visits to branch locations and expensive engineering resources to make edits ("soft dollars"). In addition, bandwidth rich internet circuits are significantly cheaper than high bandwidth carrier-grade MPLS connections ("hard dollars").
CIOs have to constantly bridge the gap between technical know-how and business acumen, which has put them in a unique position (and I'd argue an invaluable one) when it comes to making sure their organizations run smoothly.
This can mean dealing with anything from digital transformation (DX) and tackling Big Data/analytics to keeping the rest of the C-suite up to speed while managing the latest technology trends, such as the IoT. Oh, and don't forget about dealing with the reality of a mobile workforce and the network to support it — and making sure it's secure, of course.
Those are a lot of things to juggle but it's important to try and take a step back when it comes to WAN because there's a need to think more holistically.
While SD-WAN is central to building a better WAN, it's critical to address key aspects such as performance, visibility and control, security and extensibility to realize the full potential that SD-WAN can deliver.
Most CIOs are leaning towards Network as a Service (NaaS) today, hoping to remove the complexity and management of the details of networking out of their daily routines, and SD-WAN is empowering them to do so.
In short, there's no proverbial walk in the park for today's CIO. There are new challenges — and hats to wear — every day.So while there's an onslaught of technology to consider, evaluate and manage, it's vital to do the necessary amount of research and education to find the technology (and partners) that are right for you and your organization.
I'm obviously a bit biased when I say that networking infrastructure is the lifeblood of an organization but, if you're going to do it, make sure you do it right the first time.