1. Improves performance.
Not all network traffic is created equal. Luckily, SD-WAN can be configured to prioritize business-critical traffic and real-time services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and then effectively steer it over the most efficient route. By facilitating critical applications through reliable, high performance connections, IT teams can help reduce packet loss and latency issues, thus improving employee productivity, and boosting staff spirits. This is performance with business impact. Performance MPLS was the top dog in enterprise WAN before cloud-computing and mobile smart devices exploded in popularity. Once cloud and mobile became mainstream, a fundamental flaw in MPLS was exposed. Simply put: MPLS is very good at reliably routing traffic between two static locations but is not good at meeting the demands of cloud and mobile. With MPLS, enterprises have to deal with the “trombone effect”. Essentially, an MPLS-based WAN must inefficiently backhaul Internet-bound traffic to a corporate datacenter. The same Internet-bound traffic is then routed back through the corporate data center. This places a drag on network performance and can really hurt modern services like UCaaS and videoconferencing. As SD-WAN enables policy-based routing (PbR) and allows enterprises to leverage the best transport method (e.g. xDSL, cable, 5G, etc.) for the job, this means no more trombone effect and improved performance for mobile users and cloud services. In addition to solving the trombone routing problem, SD-WAN is a game changer when it comes to last-mile performance. The same ability to leverage different transport methods enables a more advanced approach to link-bonding that can significantly improve last-mile resilience and availability.
2. Boosts security.
Digital transformation is a double-edged sword. While it can improve customer satisfaction and extend market reach, it can also expose an organization to significant security risks. That’s a concern, given that 41% of respondents reported an increase in the frequency of cybersecurity events in 2017, according to the U.S. State of Cybercrime survey. The good news is many SD-WAN solutions offer built-in security. However, the basic firewall and VPN functions provided by most SD-WAN solutions are often not enough, forcing IT teams to try and overlay security across elastic and dynamic SD-WAN connections after the fact. A better option is to look for SD-WAN solutions that provide a wide range of integrated security features, such as NGFW, IPS, encryption, AV, and sandboxing capabilities that can help prevent data loss, downtime, regulatory violations, and legal liabilities.
3. Lowers complexity.
Digital transformation initiatives can add layers of complexity to a network. The result is not only a risk of poor network performance, but over-taxed IT teams and the need for locating onsite personnel at remote sites to manage the local IT infrastructure. Fortunately, SD-WAN can ease the IT burden by simplifying WAN infrastructure, using broadband to off-load non-critical business apps, automating monitoring tasks, and managing traffic through a centralized controller. Consider looking for an SD-WAN solution that can also integrated into the local branch infrastructure to drive security and management deep into the local LAN. As we have mentioned, the long provisioning times with MPLS can create significant bottlenecks, but MPLS management issues go well beyond that. The larger an enterprise scales, the more complex WAN management becomes. Multiple appliances used for security and WAN optimization become a maintenance and management burden as an enterprise grows. Further, gaining granular visibility into the network can be a challenge, which leads to monitoring and mean time to recover issues. Cloud-based SD-WAN adds value here by providing an integrated and centralized view of the network that can be easily managed at scale.
4. Enables cloud usage.
Organizations are increasingly adopting cloud services. The good news is that SD-WAN enables direct cloud access at the remote branch, therefore eliminating backhauling traffic. Routing all cloud and branch office traffic through the data center, this means that workers can directly access cloud applications regardless of location without burdening the core network with additional traffic to manage and secure. SD-WAN improves cloud application performance by prioritizing business critical applications and enabling branches to directly communicate to the Internet. We’ve already mentioned a few ways cloud-based SD-WAN helps magnify SD-WAN benefits, but it is also important to note that cloud-based SD-WAN overcomes one of the major SD-WAN objections MPLS advocates have put forth. In the past, it could have been argued that the lack of SLAs meant SD-WAN solutions were not ready for real time at the enterprise-level. However, with cloud-based SD-WAN, enterprises get all the benefits of SD-WAN, an integrated security stack, and an SLA-backed private backbone supported by Tier-1 ISPs across the globe.
5. Reduces costs.
As organizations deploy an ever-increasing array of cloud-based applications, the amount of data travelling over a WAN increases exponentially, increasing operating costs. Fortunately, SD-WAN can reduce this price tag by leveraging low cost local Internet access, providing direct cloud access, and reducing the amount of traffic over the backbone WAN. According to an IDC survey, nearly a quarter of survey respondents expect SD-WAN cost savings of upwards of 39%, with two-thirds expecting more modest savings in the 5-19% range. Bottom line - MPLS bandwidth is expensive. On a “dollar per bit” basis, MPLS is significantly higher than public Internet bandwidth. Exactly how much more expensive will depend on several variables, not the least of which is location. However, the costs of MPLS are not just a result of significantly higher bandwidth charges. Provisioning an MPLS link often takes weeks or months, while a comparable SD-WAN deployment can often be completed in days. In business, time is money, and removing the WAN as a bottleneck can be a huge competitive advantage. Just how big of a cost difference is there between MPLS and SD-WAN? The specifics of your network will be the real driver here.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to every WAN challenge, most modern enterprises can benefit from SD-WAN. We can expect to see MPLS hold a niche in the market for years to come, but SD-WAN is better suited for most modern use-cases. Cloud-based SD-WAN gives businesses a reliable, secure, and modern MPLS alternative that offers the agility of SD-WAN without sacrificing reliability or the peace of mind SLAs provide.
To learn more about what SD-WAN can do for your business, reach out to your experts at Akins IT for a free consultation on how you can benefit from SD-WAN.