Having debunked some of the myths surrounding SD-WAN’s money-saving properties in part one, and having provided some hypothetical examples of how it can actually save you money in part two, in the final part of this series I want to really ‘get real’ about SD-WAN.
Because once the hype has died down, and the ‘magical box’ myths are a distant memory, SD-WAN will still be there, generating tangible benefits for businesses across all industries and making them real money. A Google search will show you that SD-WAN is already a trend – there’s no getting ahead of that. But even though everybody’s talking about it, relatively few businesses are actually making the most of it. But some are – and here are three ways in which they’re doing it.
For businesses, globalisation is a wellspring of opportunity, but it also creates new challenges. Many businesses have international offices that they need to connect-up - securely, reliably and cost effectively. And of course, it’s the cost effectiveness that often presents the biggest problem.
Why? Because security and reliability costs. Historically, those wishing to connect an international site or sites with full resilience have had to shell out for not one, but two international MPLS circuits (the second acting as a backup). Given the cost of international MPLS circuits, doing this isn’t exactly cheap.
Thanks to SD-WAN, though, businesses can now take a hybrid WAN approach to connecting international sites. This means using an international MPLS circuit backed up by an Internet circuit – and saving a pile of money in the process.
Before SD-WAN, running an MPLS circuit backed by an Internet circuit would have meant compromising your service. By cleverly using SD-WAN, however, we can now guarantee as good a service as an all-MPLS set-up, with as much resiliency, across a lower cost-based setup.
We do this by taking advantage of the application steering SD-WAN enables. This functionality allows us to put priority applications on the main MPLS circuit – thereby retaining the SLA and quality of service required – while mapping non-critical stuff onto an Internet line – thereby saving money.
With threat vectors multiplying as the Internet of Things emerges and businesses move more and more of their operations into the Cloud, cyber security has arguably never been so important to get right - or so challenging. And for businesses in possession of more than one office or site, there are obviously additional challenges; security can be extremely complex and expensive to set-up and maintain across multiple sites.
If you’ve got twenty offices, for example – that’s twenty physical firewalls that need to be installed and supported, with twenty different support contracts. And even once those firewalls are set up, if you want to roll out a new policy or software upgrade, that’s twenty separate upgrades you need to devote money and man-hours to. It’s making me tired just thinking about it! By the way, twenty offices might sound like a lot to some businesses, but could actually be quite a modest number by the standards of (for example) some retailers, some of whom have hundreds of sites to oversee and secure.
Transferring to a cloud-based security service will eliminate many of these headaches, and SD-WAN is arguably the best way to go about it. With SD-WAN, you get single-pane-of-glass visibility and control over your entire network, including all devices and endpoints (which SD-WAN networks authenticate with scalable key-exchange functionality and software-defined security). You’ll be able to roll out updates, configurations, patches and policies at the touch of a button, and - what’s more - you won’t even have to set-up physical firewalls in the first place!
For many businesses, there are times when sites need to be set up so quickly that connecting them up to the business’s main network isn’t an option. For construction and retail businesses, this is an increasingly familiar challenge: both routinely have to set up a porta-cabin site or pop-up store without access to fixed-line connectivity. In these situations, there’s unlikely to be space for hardware. Very likely there’s no IT staff on-site. It could also be a short-term implementation, making it difficult to install hardware in time to make it cost effective.
Once again, SD-WAN comes to the rescue! Because SD-WAN can be accessed through just about any access mechanism – from Ethernet to 4G data – you can use it to get up and running in no time at all. A retailer armed with SD-WAN can set up a pop-up shop and connect via 4G, and can switch to a more robust access point – at which time 4G becomes the backup as and when it becomes available.
Supplementing the savings in hardware costs will be the increased revenue businesses can expect to generate by eliminating delays in setting up. The agility SD-WAN’s flexibility gives to businesses also means they can set-up in a wider range of locations – and that equates to even more potential revenue.
So there you have it – three examples of how businesses are proving that SD-WAN is more than just hype, and that the savings you can make using it are real and tangible. And these are only three examples, and this is only really the beginning. Ultimately, the control SD-WAN gives businesses over their network management means that the only limit to the ways in which it can save them money is the limit of network experts’ ingenuity.
Thanks for reading this blog series. We would love to hear your feedback on the blogs, any questions you might have, and any thoughts you yourself have on SD-WAN and its capacity to positively impact a business’s bottom line. Please leave comments below this blog or on social media, and let’s get the conversation started!
In the meantime, you can learn more about SD-WAN on our website
"SD-WAN is an exciting, transformative technology that can do a lot of amazing things for your business – but it needs to be used correctly."
Software Defined WAN, or SD-WAN for short, is the new big thing in business networking. Everybody’s talking about SD-WAN, and about what it can do for businesses.
Well, there’s no doubt that SD-WAN can do a lot for your business; in fact, we’ll be talking about exactly that in part 2 of this 3 part blog series. But before we do that, we need to talk about what SD-WAN can’t do.
Right now there’s a popular misconception among businesses concerning SD-WAN – a misconception fed and sustained by headlines and marketing hype - that could lead them to take damaging shortcuts in incorporating SD-WAN into their business.
SD-WAN is a technology with great potential. It allows you to monitor and manage network performance, for example, while you can use it to centrally control policies and prioritise applications - and that’s just for starters. What SD-WAN isn’t is an adequate replacement for good networking in of itself.
But here’s the thing: private, business-grade WAN/MPLS is expensive (or at least is perceived to be). And – since the headline on the typical SD-WAN article will be something like: ‘Save 40% on your networking with SD-WAN!’ – SD-WAN is perceived as cheap.
It’s no wonder that for SMEs, the ‘SD-WAN is a magic box!’ myth is an attractive one, since – unlike larger enterprises with resources to burn – SMEs are less inclined (and able) to pay for full SD-WAN integration.
... that's an attractive prospect for any organisation. However, while large enterprises can afford to fully integrate SD-WAN with their network infrastructure, SMEs are easily tempted by the myth. No big surprise, either, that some SD-WAN vendors are telling these SMEs not to waste money on an expensive MPLS when you can get something just as good by buying a cheap broadband connection and plugging it into an SD-WAN box.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Bingo!
Think about your broadband router at home. Silently running in the hallway, green signal-light flashing inconspicuously. Seems fairly harmless, doesn’t it? You basically forget it’s even there.
Most of the time, it will run fine; the lights will remain green. Sometimes, it will slow-down, or even stop working. This happens maybe once or twice a week. You don’t ring up your service provider because it’s unlikely to cause too much damage.
But imagine that humble, harmless home router sitting, not just in your business but at the centre of your business. Suddenly, seeing a light go red instead of green will send a shiver down your spine. A drop in speed now has real financial repercussions. And an outage? Even worse.
And then there’s security…
If plugging the internet into SD-WAN really did make consumer-internet as secure as business-internet, business-internet would become obsolete. This isn’t going to happen, however: a pseudo-MPLS service running on the Internet will never be able to replace a good network.
Yes, it’s true - business-grade internet is expensive. But it’s expensive for a reason. Unlike consumer-internet, it’s fully managed, with SLAs in place to ensure against latency and packet loss, and underpinned (if you pick the right service provider) by intelligently designed networking using nothing but the best technology.
SD-WAN can compensate for some of these shortfalls, but not entirely – or even adequately.
Will you save money in the short term by opting for an SD-WAN box over a business-network with an underlying physical bearing? Sure. But in the long term, going for the cheaper option might end up costing you a lot more.
When you truly understand what SD-WAN is (i.e. not a magic box), you can save money in the long term, too. At Exponential-e, our approach to SD-WAN is to take good, solid network underpinnings and insert SD-WAN into them, using the technology intelligently in order to make networks more efficient – which saves money and boosts revenue.
I’ll demonstrate some of the ways we might use SD-WAN to improve a network in the next blog in our series. In the third part, we’ll look at some real-world instances of SD-WAN being applied intelligently to networks.