In the race toward business transformation, there’s one fundamental element that organizations may overlook: the network. IT networks need to be simpler and more automated to meet the demand for anytime, anywhere service.
“The network is crucial to digital transformation,” says Evan Frith, director products and services, business and network solutions at TELUS. “Organizations need extra bandwidth, security, and self-serve flexibility to support real-time applications and meet customer expectations. To fully realize the benefits of digital, you need a network transformation as well.”
According to an IDC survey, a fast-growing number of organizations are implementing software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) to support the new demands imposed on enterprise networks. Dynamic self-serve networking made by possible by cloud-based SD-WAN services “heralds the ability to select, manage and provision WAN, just like buying a plane ticket on Expedia,” says Laurence Surtees, vice president at IDC Canada.
It’s all about the software
Traditional networks have become complex infrastructures, using a variety of routers and hardware components, to connect central and branch offices. They are complicated and expensive to buy, maintain and manage.
SD-WAN uses software to manage the network, not routers. With the intelligence in the software, organizations can dynamically setup, change and manage their networks with the push of a button. Entire networks can be configured in days rather than months. “It’s all about the software,” says Charles Ferland, vice president of business development, Nuage Networks from Nokia. “It is the biggest and most important change to support digital transformation.”
SD-WAN will be a game changer for those seeking the flexibility and speed needed to compete in the digital economy, says Surtees. The IDC survey shows that reduced complexity, price and consistent security are the top drivers for organizations considering SD-WAN adoption.
One of the biggest advantages of SD-WAN is that it’s easy to adapt to support changing needs. “Since the service is based on cloud software, not anchored in boxes, the customer has the ability to self-serve,” says Walter Miron, director, technology strategy with TELUS. “It’s really simplified for users. Business drivers can make changes at a moment’s notice.” It also means that IT teams can spend more time on implementing innovative transformation strategies, rather than day-to-day network operations.
In the digital economy, organizations are increasingly under pressure to provide a flawless customer experience. Eighty per cent of users say they will abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. “The network is critical to enable application performance,” says Miron. He’s seen some organizations run into trouble when they forge ahead with transforming applications and tools like unified communications, without making sure the network can support it.
SD-WAN provides a high degree of reliability to support applications as they’re introduced into the environment. Latency is reduced because SD-WAN provides direct access to cloud applications from any customer location, rather than requiring a connection through the head office. Resiliency is “drastically increased” through the use of multiple, diverse broadband accesses including cost-effective wireless LTE, says Miron. As well, organizations can easily customize application priority policies to ensure that mission-critical traffic is always routed over the best path.
As new applications come on board, SD-WAN is more cost-effective than traditional networks because hardware expenses are lower and organizations will only pay for what they use. As a managed service, SD-WAN is “future-proofed” by the service provider, eliminating software upgrade costs. The IDC study estimates average savings of 20 per cent from SD-WAN and a 67 per cent drop in capital costs.
By moving networking elements into software, the ability to integrate security into the network becomes much easier, says Ferland. Organizations can deploy security parameters to each location using the Internet. “If there’s a breach, the organization has total control to block the traffic from any location to contain the problem,” says Ferland. In the enterprise environment, encrypted VPN tunnels ensure that traffic remains private.
The IDC survey reveals that planned adoption of SD-WAN is moving in tandem with the growth of cloud computing and other third platform technologies. Seventy per cent of Canadian organizations say they will have SD-WAN in place within two years. Among global firms, more than two-thirds say they will adopt it by the beginning of 2018.
In Canada, TELUS is the only Canadian provider to offer a full SD-WAN solution. TELUS Network as a Service, powered by Nuage Networks, is ideal for enterprises with large distributed networks by providing greater security and management flexibility, says Frith. It’s also very appealing for mid-market organizations that have smaller IT teams to “significantly enhance what they have today at less cost,” he added.
Ultimately, says IDC, software-defined networks will be “liberating for organizations as today’s static networks are transformed into flexible, programmable platforms that also accelerate application deployment and business innovation.”
Interested in a self-serve SD-WAN Network? Learn more about TELUS Network as a Service here.