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What is SD-WAN and why is it important?

This blog can offer you a better understanding of what SD-WAN is, why it is crucial for the future of your enterprise, the capabilities it offers, and strategies for choosing the right SD-WAN provider for your organization.

If your enterprise hasn’t already adopted SD-WAN technology, chances are good that you’ve at least heard of it.

Businesses of every size and across every vertical are integrating this adaptable network platform into their long-term strategies. However, it’s crucial for any interested enterprise to first build an understanding of this platform and its capabilities before deciding to transition toward it.

What is SD-WAN, and why is it the answer to your evolving business needs?

A software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN for short, simplifies the delivery of networking resources to disparate locations through the use of advanced software and cloud technology. Through this method of software virtualization, enterprises can streamline and abstract their network operations, letting IT experts deploy and manage web-based connections efficiently and safely.

Even though SD-WAN is rapidly becoming a key component of contemporary business operations, not every enterprise has the infrastructure necessary to keep up with this new wave.

Also read: SD-WAN: Roadmap for Software-Defined Networking

At particular risk of falling behind are organizations that still use outdated MPLS networks that offer high-latency and low-performance software, which limits the effectiveness of their remote employees. Additionally, these MPLS architectures tend to involve stricter security and management requirements and higher staffing expenses.

The time might be right for these companies to start over with SD-WAN.

Also read: Key Factors of Building a Remote Network with SD-WAN

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What are it’s strengths and weaknesses?

SD-WAN is primarily known for its ability offer speedy and reliable access to a variety of cloud applications across disparate networks. In contrast, MPLS networks typically route data from remote locations to a data center—which compromises on performance and speed.

MPLS and SD-WAN architectures

With more and more enterprises leaning into the remote/hybrid work model in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this platform offers a variety of helpful features:

  • Firewalls and bandwidth improvements can be launched quickly and remotely with SD-WAN, making provisioning easier and saving on IT resources. This bandwidth can also be scaled up or down as needed.
  • Through SD-WAN, various types of Internet connections, from cable and ethernet to DSL, can be deployed quickly and inexpensively compared to MPLS networks.
  • While MPLS connections can incur backhaul issues and other complications, SD-WAN ensures powerful, secure branch-to-cloud connections delivered via Internet. This is especially useful for remote workers needing access to cloud-native applications.

Also read: CIO’s definitive guide to cloud managed solutions

The business world is starting to realize that as applications move to the cloud, network functions will soon follow. By migrating their networking processes to the cloud, these businesses can reap the rewards of greater visibility and more actionable analytics without the hassle of maintaining local communications.

This also means that applications critical to long-term goals can be integrated into a cloud-delivered network. SD-WAN makes this transition possible and improves the experience of accessing these applications and network functions.

Also read: SD-WAN delivers better cloud app performance

It’s possible SD-WAN could solve many of your networking challenges. However, it:

  • Does not inherently feature WAN optimization for MPLS links.
  • Is not a stop-gap gateway solution for application caching roadblocks.
  • Is not simply a multilink WAN that includes path control.
  • Does not offer multilayer packet/optical network integration in a telco framework.

Is not a private workaround for dodging telco service providers.

Also read: Rethinking enterprise networks for Canada’s distributed, mobile workforce with SD-WAN

By harnessing SD-WAN, companies can:

  • Design and deploy virtual networks.
  • Create security frameworks.
  • Streamline service delivery.
  • Enhance the interoperability of network functions.
  • Lower hardware upkeep expenses.
  • Enable a greater degree of automation.
  • Provide greater insight into network performance.
  • Empower open networking between disciplines.
  • Support provider-managed services.

How does it compare to SDN?

Enterprise networks have been adopting computer virtualization and cloud networking models over the last few years, as new mobile devices and applications come online—yet these networks are still having difficulty meeting the demand. The issue is that traditional architecture and dated technology are creating bottlenecks.

One fix for these bottlenecks is software-defined networking (SDN), which leverages an advanced platform that allows organizations to move away from proprietary hardware to more versatile software-defined networks. SD-WAN—acting as an extension of SDN—is changing the face of the traditional branch office.

By embracing software-defined wide area networking, enterprises can extend the strengths of SDN beyond the data center. SD-WAN transforms networking hardware into virtual control panels and data planes, which can be automated and accessed through the cloud to streamline the delivery of services to branch offices. This allows for the speed, performance, and convenience that modern professionals need.

Info sheet: OnX managed services overview

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How SD-WAN ensures network safety and security, even in remote environments

A common issue facing remote employees is inefficient wireless networks with limited bandwidth. By partnering with an experienced managed service provider like OnX, organizations can meet this and other remote networking challenges, whether they seek to address on-premises, cloud, or hybrid network models.

Watch: OnX operational intelligence

These solutions can be built upon with Check Point Harmony Connect from OnX. Check Point Harmony Connect is a cyberthreat management solution hosted on the cloud that can secure SaaS, IaaS, and branch assets with intelligent provisions, easily-scaled capacity, and convenient controls across networks.

Extra safety features

Security is paramount for modern enterprise networking, and SD-WAN makes security simple with a transport-independent secure overlay that works across any circuit combination. This allows for connections to internal data centers and managed solutions alike.

An updated cloud security solution can also be integrated with other cloud services to expand this protection and guard against a variety of threats, from scammers and viruses to bots and phishers. This can give your organizations peace of mind even as remote employees access your data center.

Also read: Giving SD-WAN the specialized security solution it needs

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Which industries can benefit most from this technology?

No matter what slice of the economy they operate in, a broad range of enterprises can see significant benefits from adopting SD-WAN.

One example is the retail and food service sector, which often contends with tight profit margins that leave little room for network infrastructure investment. SD-WAN offers lower infrastructure costs without sacrificing connection quality, making it ideal for this vertical.

SD-WAN also lends itself well to the healthcare industry by allowing these agencies to build mission-specific networking policies and purpose-built routing protocols for their crucial healthcare applications.

Lastly, government organizations on the local, provincial, and federal level that receive thousands of phone calls each day can also see significant return on their SD-WAN investment. This technology provides a single pane of glass interface that can manage network environments of any size, even those that are distributed nationally.

Also read: Building a better network to empower Canada’s mobile workforce

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How to develop and deploy an SD-WAN solution

After the call is made for your enterprise to start the migration to a cloud-delivered software-defined wide area networking environment, a number of considerations must be made.

How to develop and deploy an SD-WAN architecture: Research leads to Set Goals leads to Get Buy-In

First of all, your organization must decide whether or not to seek out and partner with a managed service partner to deliver your SD-WAN architecture. This partnership involves several benefits, but caution must be exercised to ensure the right provider is chosen; expect full transparency from your provider and do not give up total control over the transition process.

To successfully deploy this solution, it’s necessary to have full commitment and complete buy-in from your enterprise leaders. Your C-level officers must be aware of the goals of this SD-WAN transition, which requires productive conversations early on in the process.

Also read: Key Factors of Building a Remote Network with SD-WAN

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How to partner with the right SD-WAN provider

Selecting the right partner for your SD-WAN solution is vital for the long-term health and success of your network, especially as you lay the groundwork for your strategic business goals. Your provider must demonstrate experience in transitioning legacy MPLS network environments into cloud-enabled SD-WAN architectures across a variety of industries.

The provider you choose to work with will also need to work with your IT staff to:

  • Point out weaknesses and gaps in security.
  • Thoroughly plot out your existing network.
  • Outline a comprehensive transition roadmap.

Partnering with the right provider for your needs not only means less work for your in-house IT resources; it can also mean solutions such as Check Point Harmony Connect can be integrated throughout the managed solution deployment. Choosing the right partner means that your network will be in safe hands and that your enterprise will be well-positioned for the future of cloud-native networking.

Also read: Six questions you should ask a prospective SD-WAN partner

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The rapidly growing relevance of SD-WAN can be intimidating, but working with a knowledgeable expert can help you make sense of and get the most out of this powerful tool.

Contact OnX Canada for more information on how SD-WAN can modernize your network and threat management strategy.