By: Brian DeVault

If the cloud computing and mobility revolution have shown us anything, it’s that the limitations of the traditional enterprise network can severely handcuff an organization’s digital transformation and focus on growth. It also reveals that the conventional boundaries of the enterprise network will continue to fade, soon becoming a distant memory. In fact, IDC predicts that by 2020, 86% of all applications will be cloud-native. As companies become more distributed and remote workers rely on the internet to access Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and other resources, companies are turning to SD-WAN for a more agile and cost-effective network. SD-WAN enables network managers to aggregate several different connections and have them function like one virtual overlay network, using path selection and intelligent traffic routing to optimize the application access and performance.

SD-WAN options: managed service vs. network-based
The beauty of cloud-hosted WAN services is that combine the flexibility of a hybrid WAN with the low maintenance of a cloud-based service. For those looking at hybrid WAN networking options, there are several factors to consider. First, there’s managed SD-WAN solutions. These are perfect for those organizations that have limited IT resources. They come with remote monitoring, hardware replacement, and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). They require an SD-WAN appliance to be plugged in at every branch endpoint. Next, there’s network-based services that enable companies to take advantage of SD-WAN while maintaining dedicated MPLS circuits. These offerings allow for a more phased approach to deployment and empower the organization to install SD-WAN at their own pace, leveraging private backbone connectivity, provided by a Tier 1 broadband provider for data center and headquarters network operations, keeping data highly secure. When evaluating SD-WAN services, be sure to ask these questions of potential managed partners and SD-WAN providers:

  1. What management options are available?
    SD-WAN technologies reduce WAN management complexity and support with policy-based intelligent path selection that prioritizes network connections by application or workload. When choosing a virtualized network provider, ask about their flexibility to add and change bandwidth capacity in near real time. Most network managers want centralized control and a unified view of the entire network infrastructure. A cloud-based management console streamlines management tasks and gives network teams the ability to make changes to bandwidth class, services or policies all with the click of a button.
  2. Can I customize my networking solutions on a per-location basis?
    One of the most valuable benefits of SD-WAN is that it optimizes traffic patterns by tapping into all available circuits, including a combination of inexpensive internet services and private links, to get the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to network costs. To maximize this benefit, look for hybrid WAN services that combine MPLS network transport with internet access (i.e., broadband internet, 3G/4G, etc.) which allow for at least two connections to each site. Network managers can select connections according to traffic type and performance parameters. Hybrid WAN and SD-WAN services allow for a major hub, like the corporate office, to rely on MPLS networks and to assign the class of service and SLAs to support critical applications. Other remote branch sites, for instance, may also have some business-critical applications as well as non-critical bandwidth needs, like providing internet access for employees.
  3. What security and performance measures are available?
    As security becomes a major priority for all business, many SD-WAN providers have bumped up their security capabilities. Many offer a broad range of security-related services, including threat and incident management, firewall, highly secure mobility, and web security. Look for foundational security features like firewalls or web filtering to address requirements for direct branch-to-cloud connectivity.  More granular and robust security features may also be needed to assign extra security based on the application, location, session or user.

Most networks today are the backbone of the business. They help to support increased productivity, deliver application access and connect branch locations and employees to the resources they need. If you’d like to learn about making your WAN more productive and flexible, talk to Netrio today. As a leading AT&T Business partner, Netrio delivers comprehensive support and complete SDN and NFV network-based services, plus Managed Internet Services. One of the things we offer is SD-WAN packages (from FlexWare) with a virtual router and virtual firewall, all running in a highly-reliable AT&T integrated cloud. Save bandwidth costs and improve branch IT efficiency through automation, contact us today!