The SD-WAN wave surprised many with its depth and penetration into the network circles of enterprises and service providers.
I guess it will go even deeper due to its ongoing integration with the software-defined branch (SD-Branch).
Current trends in cloud services, service provider networks and corporate networks are moving in the same direction – managing more agile networks that can be managed and protected by the cloud and scaled on demand. Innovations in both SD-WAN and SD-Branch will continue to drive this functionality in corporate networks.
At the same time, the physical core technologies of cable and wireless technologies will have to be further used through software-defined technology. The advent of Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and private wireless technologies, such as Citizens’ Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), offers unique opportunities to increase corporate and end-user access to the network.
As Wi-Fi has taught us, why should you care where you are and what network you are on? Users should be able to find a seamless, secure bandwidth on demand – wherever they are.
SD-WAN and SD-Branch are ready to deliver all this – with SD-WAN focused on the branch outwards and SD-Branch focused inwards. Corporate network managers and end users receive a new range of flexible, diverse services.
I recently had an interesting discussion with David Hughes, founder of Silver Peak and senior vice president of WAN business in Aruba, about the edge being essential to digital transformation. He said moving from an MPLS WAN-based data center to an initial cloud-based WAN that uses the Internet will allow businesses to move to where they want to go tomorrow.
The network is becoming cloudy
Whether you have SD-WAN or SD-Branch, in the end it doesn’t matter. Importantly, both are supported by the same important concepts of software-defined network (SDN). That is, networks are not defined by physical devices, but by a software-managed management model that can be managed centrally through cloud services.
This is important because SDN technology can be used to quickly manage or adopt any combination of basic transport technologies – such as MPLS, DIA, broadband, Wi-Fi, 5G or even fiber, for example. The nature of SDN means that these technologies can be quickly assimilated and closed to deliver value to end users.
The software-defined convergence of wireless and cable functionality is becoming a standard feature of leading enterprise network platforms. Businesses want to consolidate the capabilities of LAN, WAN, 5G and Wi-Fi in a number of topologies, including hub and speaker, partial network, dynamic full network or direct corporate and cloud connections.
They want to use features such as local internet drilling to optimize their networks and provide the highest quality user experience. At the same time, they want to use new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate the management and security of these networks.
For some time, SD-WAN and SD-Branch have been evolving in a similar way in parallel markets – embracing SDN capabilities, cloud security services and AI-managed centralized management. It is time for these parallel developments to merge to better meet the changing requirements of geographically distributed enterprises.
There is no reason for an SDN platform not to control network functionality and security over WAN, branch, and LAN. Wireless features such as LTE, Wi-Fi and 5G will become part of the standard branch connection options, as well as services managed by SD-WAN. This will allow end-users, such as retailers or industrial users, to distinguish specific users, devices, and applications in a cloud-based network based on their role rather than their location.
Another development that should not be overlooked is the automated orchestration of leading cloud security services, while achieving a balance with unified local WAN edge protection features. This allows businesses to implement and enforce a consistent security policy in thousands of remote locations, whether connected to the cloud or to a traditional data center.
End users have their say
From the discussions we have had with corporate IT organizations, it is clear that they want further integration of SDN on the edge. There is a great demand for SD-WAN integration with SD-Branch and wireless connection.
In a recent survey, nearly 90 percent of the 120 corporate end users surveyed said that SD-Branch’s wireless and cable management features are important in SD-WAN-managed services. He revealed that network and IT managers are looking for more flexibility in connecting branches with a software model that allows them to quickly introduce new branches online.
Whether a global Fortune 500 company managing hundreds of bank branches or a regional chain of stores looking for easy-to-manage WAN connectivity, network and IT managers are focused on improving the ease of use and management of branch offices. The convergence of SD-WAN and secure SD-Branch provides the way forward.