Agile networking for unpredictable business landscapes

Issue 2 2021 IT infrastructure

Software-defined networking in a wide-area network (SD-WAN) has seen significant growth in recent years and this is set to accelerate. A study of the SD-WAN market by 360 Market Updates found that the market size is expected to reach $2784.5 million by 2026. The biggest reason for this growth is the number of benefits a properly implemented SD-WAN architecture can deliver, particularly in an unpredictable business landscape.

Sarthak Rohal.

lthough the events of 2020 may have put SD-WAN implementations on the back burner, the agility, resilience and performance it offers are actually the ideal solution to many current and future business challenges. As the technology matures and evolves, we can expect to see greatly accelerated adoption in the South African market.

A host of benefits

In a constantly shifting landscape, where networking infrastructure needs and capabilities are evolving, SD-WAN enables agility, resilience and performance. In the right use case, it also enables cost savings. However, the real value proposition is in its ability to make the network smarter and optimise the assets that are already in place. This is done by reducing manual change management burdens, as well as by vastly improving visibility of network performance, ensuring a consistent experience.

SD-WAN offers the economy of an Internet application for business networking, replacing expensive connections like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) with broadband services to connect applications. It also offers zero-touch provisioning and rules-based optimisation, which can reduce operational expenses as well as the requirement for expert implementation and maintenance skills.

In addition, it offers improved performance for on-premises applications and predictable performance for cloud-based applications. The addition of deep application intelligence allows IT to align application priority and performance, with edge-to-edge security and policies adapted to segmented traffic based on application characteristics.

Solutions for pandemic problems

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations to rethink their business models and continuity plans and SD-WAN has emerged as an ideal solution for many networking challenges. A software-defined approach to WAN enables organisations to accelerate the adoption and delivery of new services, dramatically improve network performance and reduce costs. SD-WAN reduces cost, improves the user experience and strengthens connectivity to and from the cloud, while keeping pace with the requirements for huge volumes of data throughput necessary for modern apps, devices and data centres.

SD-WAN not only significantly cuts bandwidth and operational costs, but also allows IT and security teams to gain greater visibility and control. Security is improved by unifying the management of routers, firewalls or proxies. In a world where enabling a substantial remote workforce has become the status quo for many businesses, these benefits can help to ensure continuity of operations and a better experience for those who are working from home, or other locations outside of the business premises.

SD-WAN for Africa

The pandemic has shifted CIO priorities; in fact, a recent survey in 2020 of CIOs found that just 21% of CIOs believe network infrastructure and SD-WAN are a major tech investment driving budget increases, down from 67% in 2019. In the same survey, however, remote work solutions are driving the vast majority (74%) of technology spend and enabling a digital workplace was the top priority of respondents. SD-WAN plays perfectly into these goals, supporting both remote working and digitalisation and is expected to see exponential growth: IDC forecasts that the SD-WAN market will exceed $8 billion in 2021, growing at a 90% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the next several years.

Successfully implementing SD-WAN is key and this requires firstly identifying a business case and analysing it to discover the most suitable solution. Above all else, businesses want agility to achieve their objectives. The assistance of an experienced system integrator can help businesses to evaluate the multiple SD-WAN choices and determine the best solution.

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