Is your WAN capable of supporting your move to the cloud?

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Last week, I took to the stage to discuss how the increased adoption of cloud is changing the way networks are deployed and why this is forcing a fundamental re-architecture of the wide area network allowing it to evolve from a commodity into a business enabler.

Many customers I speak to have been seduced by the benefits of cloud, and while the promise of scalability, reliability and potential cost savings may be attractive, I can’t help but turn my attention to how these organisations plan to actually reach these cloud services. This may be the boring bit (for some) you can’t expect your relationship in the cloud to flourish without solid network foundations to support this.

Back in the days when my hair was less grey, and I had more of it, a virtual private network on top of MPLS technology was the favoured solution for enterprise connectivity. But more recently, with the increasing consideration of internet as a viable enterprise WAN solution and the move of applications to either the public cloud or hybrid cloud, customers find themselves at the cusp of a WAN evolution.

My attention is now drawn to delivering un-compromised application performance and availability regardless of the application type and how it is consumed. Customers are expecting that the evolving landscape of WAN solutions will incorporate more and more of the WAN optimisation capabilities available on the market, even better if they are designed specifically for application and cloud-access optimisation.

Crucially, the focus should home in on user experience, application performance, visibility, control and security because at the end of the day, the success of a cloud service will strongly depend on how well and easily users will be able to connect to it through the WAN.

So where does Software Defined WAN come in, I hear you ask.

The cloud WAN movement, or to give it it’s proper name, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), is designed to make WAN services easier to consume and manage.

The idea is to push as much of the functionality into the cloud, including the networking box or branch-office router. Many of the newer cloud services are software only or offered as a Network as a Service. There’s also a big move toward customer self-provisioning on the Web, to enable a business, say a branch office, to set up a secure, optimised WAN connection in the cloud in minutes.

With SD-WAN, you can say goodbye to the land of proprietary lock-in and eccentric CLIs. The technology aims to make securing your WAN technology as simple as possible.

The ease of consuming and managing SD-WAN reflects what’s happened in the consumer world. Over time, home-based broadband services have become easier to provision and more automated. It’s rare that you need a truck roll to install broadband or cable anymore- often the home is prewired and the service provider can send you a router in the post, or you’ll simply have you buy industry standard hardware, and provision and deploy the service via the internet.

This is exactly what enterprise IT managers want, fewer truck rolls, faster provisioning, and easier management.