The networking environment is changing rapidly, and businesses are under more pressure than ever to deliver high-quality, reliable services that can cope with the explosion of data traffic that's been seen over the past few years - and is showing no signs of slowing down.
According to Cisco, global IP traffic will reach 4.8 zettabytes a year by 2022. This is 11 times higher than in 2012 and will be driven by the use of a much wider variety of devices and services. For instance, machine-to-machine communication will account for 51% of connections, while video will make up by far the largest traffic type by data volume.
Meeting these huge demands will put great strain on business networks. To cope with this, a growing number of businesses are adopting software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology to support their digital activities.
Why use an SD-WAN solution?
SD-WAN is essentially a virtualized architecture that allows businesses to use a combination of multiple networking services to connect users and applications depending on their specific requirements.
This may include MPLS, LTE and broadband services, with a centralized software solution determining which option will be the most appropriate for a certain traffic type and directing it accordingly.
SD-WAN promises benefits including improved bandwidth, better visibility into your network and a single, centralized management solution for controlling all your traffic.
7 features you should be taking advantage of
SD-WAN offerings have come a long way in recent years, and today's tools come with a wide range of additional features you can use to further boost your performance and make sure your network is working as efficiently as possible.
Yet many IT pros may not even be aware of what these tools can offer, or what their chosen SD-WAN vendor can provide them. This may be because they aren't documented effectively, or due to a reluctance to experiment.
However, firms that do take advantage of the advanced features of SD-WAN will be in a much better position to make the most of the technology. Therefore, here are a few of these tools you should be aware of:
1. Multiplexed VPNs
Large companies will often want to keep traffic separated between divisions or locations, for reasons such as compliance or security. Multiplexed VPN features allow you to do this while still using a single overlay and across the same physical devices. This means you can set policies centrally and remove the need to manage multiple sprawling VPNs.
2. Application-aware routing
Advanced SD-WANS are able to identify thousands of distinct applications and determine their unique requirements. By constantly monitoring KPIs such as latency, delay and jitter, applications can be moved to the most suitable transport method. This isn’t only based on performance, but also by which will be the most cost-effective option, thereby not only saving time, but also money.
3. Encryption key rotation
Security is a top concern for every business today, and for many - especially those in highly regulated environments - part of this is ensuring encryption keys are changed regularly. This can often be a tedious manual process, but SD-WAN services often provide for automated key rotation, ensuring this activity doesn't cause any disruption or downtime and IT pros are freed up for other tasks.
4. Zero-touch provisioning
Getting equipment up and running is often one of a networking pro's most tedious and time-consuming jobs, requiring manual configuration, testing and installation for every location within the network. For large firms with dozens or even hundreds of branches, this can quickly add up. However, SD-WAN services can streamline these processes, with most devices able to be configured automatically out of the box with no manual intervention, providing they have an internet connection.
To further enhance the security of your network, microsegmentation provides business pros with greater control over east-west traffic within their network. This means that should a hacker breach your perimeter, they’ll find it much more difficult to move around laterally within the network. SD-WAN services allow you to create centrally-defined policies that can automatically isolate affected branches from the rest of the network.
6. Cloud breakout
Improving access to the cloud is one of the main benefits of SD-WAN, but many firms may not even realize what's possible. Cloud breakout allows firms to bypass traditional routing architectures that’ll require traffic coming to and from the cloud to be backhauled through a central data center. Instead, this feature allows branch offices to connect directly to cloud applications, making it quicker and easier to connect to these mission-critical services.
7. Advanced analytics
Data analytics is a common part of many firms' strategies today, but many don’t realize just what SD-WAN can offer in this area. These services can provide a wealth of information about the performance of your network, allowing you to troubleshoot any issue, understand what your traffic looks like, identify where any bottlenecks lie and better plan for future capacity demands.