How SD WAN is evolving to support the future network landscape

Initially launched as a form of optimising traffic across MPLS and IP-based connectivity, SD WAN has assumed a rapid pace of evolution. Its swift evolution is being driven not just by the growth of cloud and need for secure access at a fast-changing network edge, but by the continual change in enterprise network architectures.

The result is SD WAN 2.0, or next-generation SD WAN. These offerings go well above and beyond the basic capabilities of the initial software overlay service, to meet the increasing demands of the enterprise market.

Over the past two decades, business networks have had to adapt to many changes in data flows. From reliance on on-premises equipment, to centralisation in data centres and migration to the cloud, to decentralisation towards the network edge. Most recently, this change has taken the form of a mass movement to home working. The impact is most evident at the service edge, where end-users connect over multiple devices and various locations, often over public internet. This presents a challenge to businesses who need a quick and secure way for these users to continue to connect over their enterprise network.

This challenge has made it abundantly clear that an adaptive network that can enable its users secure access regardless of device or geographic location is non-negotiable. This is where SD WAN 2.0 provides a sustainable, long-term solution.

In addition to its capabilities in intelligent routing based on usage and traffic flows on traditional MPLS and Internet, the latest SD WAN services integrate other types of connectivity, including 3G/4G/5G and LTE – ensuring sites can be added regardless of how they’re connected. Some providers also offer a range of options for onboarding new sites – from provision of service over a universal CPE (uCPE), to which new virtual network functions (VNFs) can be remotely deployed, to self-install CPEs which can be set up in any location without the need for technical expertise on-site. Some SD WAN 2.0 services also integrate a secure access service edge (SASE) offering, enabling businesses to quickly provide secure access to employees connecting over new devices or from new locations.

SD WAN and the cloud

Reliance upon cloud-based applications has also grown significantly, accelerated by the movement to remote working. SD WAN, in its most simple form, was able to alleviate some of these issues of internet connectivity to the cloud through native dynamic traffic routing to find the optimal path for data in transport. However, growing reliance upon cloud-based applications mean that enterprises today demand more to ensure the best possible end-user experience.

Today’s SD WAN services offer additional functionalities aimed at improving application experience, including application-based traffic steering and conditioning. An SD WAN 2.0 user could, for instance, choose to enable Voice over IP (VoIP) optimisation, where mission-critical VoIP traffic is identified and prioritised for improved reliability, performance and overall experience. SD WAN 2.0 also integrates cloud prioritisation capabilities for traffic over public Internet, providing greater experience to users of cloud-based collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams.

The scale of evolution of SD WAN has become more pronounced than ever, where external factors, in particular the global pandemic, have driven the pace of development of new features and functionalities to help enterprises succeed through large-scale unexpected change.

As we look to 2021 and beyond the pandemic, companies need a long-term solution to address the needs of their growing remote workforce. This includes optimisation of cloud applications, securing the dynamic network edge, comprehensive insight of network activity, and the ability to scale quickly and efficiently.

Since its launch in 2016, Colt SD WAN has led the way in innovation in managed WAN services. Combining the scale and reach of the Colt IQ Network with an expansive set of features, Colt’s SD WAN 2.0 introduces a series of enhancements that align SD WAN to customers’ evolving network landscape. Find out more about SD WAN 2.0 here.

Find out more about Colt SD WAN here. 

Mohit Manral, SD WAN Product Manager 

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