The great trend with regards to IT over the past 18 months has been remote working, and the transformation required to enable a properly secure, performant, and effective highly distributed computing environment. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, even once office environments fully re-open, and consequently CIOs are being encouraged to re-think the network, and this is driving a new, expanding interest in SD-WAN solutions.
“SD-WAN technology helps enable next-generation edge networking architectures for enterprises, particularly the ability to dynamically manage and secure multiple WAN connection types via a centralised policy controller,” IDC senior research analyst, Network Infrastructure, said in a 2020 report. “Meanwhile, the integration of security functionality natively integrated into SD-WAN platforms continues to make this technology an important investment priority for large, distributed enterprises.”
Watch this exclusive CIO interview with Cisco Director of A/NZ Enterprise Networking, Robert De Nicolo
Due to this level of interest, Dell’Oro Group research shows that SD-WAN technologies are forecasted to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 24 per cent over the next five years, and will surpass $US4 billion by 2025. The accelerating investment noted by Dell’Oro is why Cisco has made SD-WAN one of its core pillars for delivering transformation and facilitating partner growth.
“We’ve formed partnerships with hyperscalers and SaaS providers that mean that we can extend the SD-WAN into and across the cloud providers backbone, giving us access to low-latency pathways, both from branch to cloud, and even from branch to branch,” Cisco Director of A/NZ Enterprise Networking, Robert De Nicolo, said in an exclusive video interview with ARN. “So, if you are an organisation with an international footprint, you can reduce transit times from Australia to Europe, from in the order of 600 milliseconds, down to 200 milliseconds, via your cloud providers and their high-speed backbones. So, we’re talking about some pretty big performance improvements here that will ultimately lead to a better and more consistent user experience.”
Building SD-WAN solutions that deliver next-level efficiency to enterprises was a core motivation in Cisco’s acquisition of ThousandEyes last year, De Nicolo added. ThousandEyes is a networking specialist with an Internet and Cloud intelligence platform that helps IT teams predict, visualise and control operational behaviour through the provision of deep visibility and insights into the digital delivery of applications over the Internet.
“I think this is really game-changing, because it means that we can see what’s happening at the network and at the application layer early enough to be able to minimise any impact on the user,” De Nicolo said.
Articulating the benefits of SD-WAN
While SD-WAN is relatively mature technology now, having been first introduced to market in 2013, there is still a learning curve that CIOs face in articulating the value of the technology within the organisation. As noted by CIO, three of the key considerations that CIOs have when looking at SD-WAN are still focused on understanding what they can get out of the technology, and then promoting that as an opportunity to internal stakeholders.
- Know what you’re trying to achieve by understanding and defining the business outcomes of SD-WAN before starting adoption.
- Consider the internal resources and expertise available, as SD-WAN is not “set-and-forget” and requires constant monitoring to deliver outcomes.
- Embrace managed services as a way of supporting internal teams and delivering incremental improvements over time.
According to De Nicolo, CIOs have a significant opportunity here to articulate the value of SD-WAN as an iterative opportunity to build for themselves the workplaces of the future. “There is a path for organisations to get to their end goal by putting in place key building blocks that they can build on over time, leveraging existing investments, wherever possible, to drive out cost efficiency,” De Nicolo said. “Then they’ve got a clear architecture with strong linkages to business objectives that really keep them on track.”
One final reason that CIOs are rushing to embrace SD-WAN, however, is that it helps them address the greatest on-going concern that enterprises face with distributed networks: security. With CIOs constantly being called on by the CEO and board to qualify what they are doing to protect critical assets in the new remote working reality, working with a partner like Cisco around SD-WAN can deliver that for them.
“This is one of the key reasons why Secure Access Services Edge – SASE – was actually born,” De Nicolo said. “Changes in the way that we work mean that the data centre is no longer really at the centre of what we do. Today the user needs to be at the centre. So, SASE is an approach that actually focuses on the convergence of SD-WAN and security of the cloud edge for the purpose of providing users with consistent security and quality of experience, no matter their location or what applications they are connecting to.”
We are going to hear a lot more about SD-WAN in the coming years, as enterprises and CIOs look to take their newly distributed, hybrid work environments, and look to turn those into a competitive advantage. Step one for many of them will be to drive secure efficiency across the entire networking environment, and so SD-WAN can be seen as a foundation towards future innovation.
For more information on Cisco’s SD-WAN solutions, click here.