The benefits of SD-WANs, Software-Defined Wide Area Networks, are well documented. That helps explain why enterprises are moving so quickly to adopt an SD-WAN strategy.

The analyst firm International Data Corporation projects that companies will be spending $4.5 billion on SD-WANs annually within just a few years, about five times as much as they were spending as of 2017.

Clearly, gaining far greater visibility into their networks and their applications, improving performance, and paving a streamlined highway to the cloud, are attractive to organizations of all sizes.

Advantages of SD-WANs

Let’s just briefly review the top reasons why an enterprise should embrace SD-WANs as the foundation for an agile, innovative, always-on workplace. This approach:

  • Reduces network outages by as much as 95 percent (according to a Nemertes Research study)
  • Enables rapid, cost-effective deployment of high-speed connectivity to branches
  • Ensures consistent high performance for business-critical applications
  • Simplifies and centralizes visibility and control of the network
  • Provides a granular view of app performance and usage
  • Automates routine network management tasks
  • Reduces the time and complexity of deployments
  • Improves network efficiency and scalability

 Don’t forget optimized traffic routing, which makes for a faster, more agile network. Or the ability to budget for the network on an as-a-service, pay-as-you-go basis. Also, flexibly adding capacity as needed along with reduced management and troubleshooting responsibilities for the IT staff.

Making the move

Now that you’re convinced about the benefits, what do you do? As with any network deployment or major change, proper planning and communication are the keys.

A good share of that planning should be done with a partner who can help you analyze your entire enterprise network and determine how and where to move to SD-WAN with minimal disruption.

The IT department is the one most affected by a move to SD-WAN, so communicating the impact of the changes is critical there. The staff needs to be prepared to change their focus, from hands-on management and maintenance of network equipment to thinking more creatively about how IT can drive strategic change for the company.

Lessening the burden of network management for IT doesn’t necessarily mean that less staff is needed. Providing relief for what is typically an already resource-constrained organization is a positive change allowing IT to play a valuable role and drive success in other areas of the business.

Other departments should be made aware of the changes, so they know the positive things to expect, such as faster response time for their applications. But most of the network changes will be invisible to them, and that’s good; it’s a change, but not a disruptive one since it requires no retraining on equipment or changes in processes for other departments.

Evolution, not revolution

The beauty of SD-WAN is that your company can gradually evolve to a new network if that better fits your needs, rather than ripping out all the old equipment and putting in new.

If your company made a major router investment in the past year or two, for instance, you can keep that equipment operating as is for as long as you need, and restrict your migration to SD-WAN to other offices or branches where the equipment is older and nearing its end of life.

You can’t beat SD-WAN for outfitting new branches or other new facilities, since you need essentially two things: broadband connectivity and a single SD-WAN device. You don’t have to spend months arranging circuits, deploying routers and firewalls, and other prep work. Using SD-WAN, you can reduce the timetable to a few weeks or less.

But even with existing facilities, SD-WAN can easily work in tandem with legacy gear, in a hybrid approach that an enterprise can leverage to ease into its new network architecture.

That’s where a solid partner proves its value, by looking over your entire network with your needs in mind, determining what is best to migrate now and what is best to work on later, and preparing a comprehensive network design plan.

You can also work with that partner to gain a broader understanding of your company’s growth and what that means in terms of your future network needs. Such as how rapidly the company is growing and expanding, which affects the decisions about implementing SD-WAN since it is so much faster when it comes to getting new facilities connected and operating.

If you haven’t given a lot of thought yet to SD-WAN, it’s a good time to start, especially as you look to bring on more and more cloud applications. The evaluation process for SD-WAN is not just a technology discussion; it is about application performance and the user experience and how that can be improved.