Four takeaways from our Cisco SD-WAN event

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Our recent Cisco SD-WAN test day sparked much debate about the network architecture challenges our customers are looking to solve with next-generation connectivity. While it’s clear that more organisations are looking to SD-WAN to support new IT initiatives, execution is proving to be a challenge. And they risk making mistakes.

So this event was all about the SD-WAN strategies that deliver on the promise of game-changing technology. The four main things we learnt?

1. Match your network to your needs

You need to align network requirements to the critical applications you’re looking to deploy.  SD-WAN gives you a level of application visibility and control that you won’t get with legacy networks, so you can plan accordingly.  It also offers the flexibility to be able to choose how traffic passes across hybrid networks – mission critical voice services over MPLS, for example, and less critical email over a broadband internet connection.

Take time to choose the right SD-WAN product and partner. Get it right and you’ll manage and operate your WAN more efficiently, and improve application performance using less bandwidth. Get it wrong and you could end up down a technology cul-de-sac with something that’s not fit for purpose. There are different products for different use cases so be sure to align the right one to your needs.

Need help deciding which SD-WAN product and partner are best for you? Download your complimentary copy of: ‘2019 Trends to Watch: Network Services’ here

2. Deploy simply and securely

SD-WANs provide a single pane of glass that simplifies application deployment, and analysis of business application performance. The trick is to harness the simplicity without compromising security. Unless you work with a provider who can tie the overlay and underlay networks together, you could find it expensive to protect against increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

Hybrid networks that involve different service providers across public and private clouds are particularly challenging to secure. You need an infrastructure partner who is circumspect and capable of managing the complexity. It’s all about having the right SD-WAN solution in the right place. One size definitely doesn’t fit all.

To help you secure your SD-WAN implementation, download our security whitepaper: ‘The CISO and CIO’s guide to securing networks in a digital age’ here

3. Make a business case

A common claim is that SD-WAN will deliver 30-40 percent cost savings over traditional network architecture. But like all technologies, successful implementation and ROI depends on the strength of the business case you wrap around the project. The good new is that there are many use cases for SD-WAN, from branch sites looking to consume more cloud services over internet connections, to company HQs or data centres wanting high availability and performance across hundreds of applications.

A more generic use case is speeding up digital transformation journeys by enabling the faster adoption of more virtualised services. With SD-WAN you can get to value straight away and try out new ways of working with pay-as-you-go services. Use SD-WAN to road-test them cheaply with minimal risk. If the sums don’t add up, move on.

For help with planning your SD-WAN implementation, download a complimentary copy of Gartner’s 2018 report: ‘Fact or Fiction: Does SD-WAN Really Save You Money?’ here

4. Get ready for the future

We’re seeing an increasing appetite for bandwidth driven by the cloud and hosted applications like Microsoft Office 365. All the signs suggest that more IT services will be migrated, so the onus is on every organisation to be cloud-ready. The appropriate SD-WAN service from the right provider will help optimise investments. You need to explore first and secondary connections that strike the right balance between capacity and performance.

The next-generation network journey should start now. Begin with a future network discussion, move to a demo, set-up a proof-of-concept pilot, accelerate your understanding to show how an SD-WAN can manage the complexity and give you visibility across multiple networks and access types wherever your sites are, globally.

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Steve Coakley