Communications Reimagined
Industry insights for 5G evolution and transforming digital experience.

SD-WAN Reduces Cloud Risk Now and in the Future

Zeus Kerravala
Founder and principal analyst with ZK Research

In my previous blog, I highlighted five SD-WAN multicloud challenges to consider when leveraging multiple cloud providers. The need to efficiently manage and navigate traffic to and from the cloud, as well as between clouds, has become essential during the current situation. With companies accessing an average of five clouds and spending more than $1.2M on cloud services, according to Flexera, many have accelerated their cloud deployments to accommodate all the employees who are now working from home.

IT heads are under immense pressure to have extensive visibility into the networks they must troubleshoot and manage, while delivering on the expectations of remote workers and customers. The burden on IT was significant before now, but with so many working from home this ascends to an entirely new level. Productivity and responsiveness have never been more dependent on the WAN infrastructure than in a time of crisis.

Whether a company is connecting many remote locations or just a few with bandwidth constraints, the need is the same: high availability and predictable quality of experience (QoE) and this need to now extend to people’s homes as “good enough” is no longer good enough. Wherever fast, reliable networks are demanded for critical and real-time applications, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) are needed to manage the complexity of hybrid and multicloud environments. SD-WANs securely and reliably direct traffic to cloud-based apps by automatically adapting to changing network conditions.

Unlike traditional WAN deployments involving costly multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits, a company has flexibility in determining how a SD-WAN is deployed—such as the physical edge, the virtual edge, or in the cloud. But not all SD-WANs offer businesses comparable performance, as some are more basic, while others are more sophisticated.

Businesses that want to reduce cloud risk during the crisis should look for these “must-haves” when choosing the right SD-WAN:

  • Flexibility to support all transport types. To intelligently support a distributed network/cloud architecture, an SD-WAN deployed for hybrid and multicloud environments must perform over MPLS, broadband, cellular, satellite, or any other transport. This is especially critical for nationwide and global companies that expect a consistent experience, whether connecting urban New York to rural Arkansas or faraway London. All apps have to perform consistently, and user experiences have to be uniform, regardless of location or geography.
  • Failsafe-level performance. The most basic SD-WAN offerings do not include the “failsafe” capabilities that truly improve network reliability and application performance and predictability. Failsafe means both non-real-time applications (like email) and real-time apps (like UC and videoconferencing) work as well as, and often better than, they would on a private MPLS WAN—even if the SD-WAN is built on the public Internet or a hybrid MPLS + internet.
  • Superior QoE. Performance relies on four key pillars: application fluency, security, failsafe network automation and multicloud capabilities. The result should be both site-to-site and site-to-cloud application access that goes beyond just reliable access with exceptional connections that deliver a premium customer experience.
  • Reduced overhead via Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP). Improve visibility through centralized controls that allow administrators to set high-level policies and eliminate the need for IT to fiddle with difficult thresholds that determine when sessions are steered toward different network paths—and back.

If a SD-WAN meets all the above criteria, there is one more important aspect to consider: the solution must be easy to deploy in multicloud environments. When SD-WAN vendors and cloud service providers have strong partnerships, businesses can more easily manage a complex blend of multicloud resources. That’s one less pain point for IT leaders, who are already dealing with many challenges during these troubled times.

To find out how the right solution can ensure a risk-free multicloud migration, read the Economist Intelligence Unit report and download this new whitepaper.


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