By David Browne, Regional Executive at Telviva
Having a secure and efficient distributed working environment has become one of the top business priorities of 2020. With the lockdown in South Africa, many companies have had to embrace remote working as a critical tactic to remain operational. For its part, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is a vital enabler in such a cloud-rich environment and the rapid expansion of digital footprints within enterprises.
As the name suggests, an SD-WAN is separated from physical network infrastructure such as last-mile connectivity to create a virtual and secure network overlay. Fundamentally, this enables a business to have a network spanning many different mediums, irrespective of suppliers, while maintaining control over its security and application performance. It delivers greater flexibility, performance, visibility, and availability at a time when business continuity is paramount.
To simplify the concept, think of an SD-WAN as taking the principles of cloud-based management and automation and applying it to the network layer. Essentially, the hardware-led mindset of the past is replaced with a more agile and software-driven way of managing and optimising the network, thus befitting a digital environment. SD-WAN uses a centralised control function to securely and intelligently direct traffic across the network. Furthermore, unlike router-centric architecture, SD-WAN fully supports applications hosted in on-premise data centres, public or private clouds, and software-as-a-service solutions.
Alleviating choke points
An SD-WAN, therefore, ensures that the quality and security of access to these cloud environments are of such a nature that effective remote working can take place, around the clock. Given the increase of distributed workforces in recent months, the SD-WAN helps optimise how employees connect to the organisation and maintain high levels of productivity.
Typically, one of the most challenging areas where traditional networks become stuck is the ability to secure access to the application from many locations and from a variety of endpoint devices. Just imagine the increased demand on security appliances and changes to architecture which would lead to increased costs and complexity when company’s change the way their workforce operates.
It has simply become too complex to architect and implement traditional networks to adequately address the increase in adoption of cloud-based solutions. So, unlike the disparate way of managing the network across a business environment with many different branches, home users (and other connected devices, each with their own hardware specifications), an SD-WAN incorporates this into a seamless, centralised solution giving the company full network visibility and centralised control, while improving security and application performance.
Importantly, an SD-WAN provides for an architecture that supports the movement into many different application offerings. This means that the multi-cloud environment that is showing significant growth in South Africa (thanks to the arrival of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services data centres) will further deliver the business benefits and global reach that companies have been waiting for.
This software-rich approach means that not only can the organisation cater for any connection type or vendor, but it also gains complete application control over the network. In other words, whether the business relies on cloud vendor “X” for document collaboration, cloud vendor “Y” for high-performance computing data analysis, and remote workers to integrate with both, SD-WAN delivers a secure way to do so, while still aligning with corporate policies and compliance requirements.
Increasingly, organisations will embrace SD-WAN technology across their entire network from the application all the way through to the endpoint. Being able to dynamically optimise network access and connectivity, irrespective of physical location, will deliver the scalability required to fully unlock the potential of digital innovation for a business that has become reliant on its distributed workforce for growth.