Software-Defined WANs and their Contribution Towards Stronger Network Infrastructures in Cloud-based Industrial Landscape

June 5, 2020 Saloni Walimbe, Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights (GMI)

Productivity is one of the most important considerations of the digital age. In order to maintain optimum productivity levels, businesses are having to accommodate rapid evolutions in technologies, systems, platforms, and even network models.

Software-defined models are set to emerge as prominent entities in the networking landscape across the industrial spectrum. Keeping this in mind, many organizations are seeking nimble and efficient network architectures to help streamline network offerings. A notable example of such an architecture is software-defined wide area network or SD-WAN.

SD-WAN technology is referred to as virtual WAN architecture, designed to enable enterprises to employ a host of transportation services, such as LTE, MPLS and broadband, in order to create a secure link between users and applications.

A software-defined, wide area network directs traffic safely across the WAN, using a centralized control feature. The system offers multiple benefits, including enhanced application performance, better user experiences, augmented productivity, and lower IT-related costs.

The modern software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market is the latest in a series of transformations and evolutions in the WAN landscape.

Taking a step back to where it started

The first WAN stage came into being in the 1980s when the use of PPP (point-to-point) lines to link different LAN (local access networks) gained prominence. These connections further evolved in terms of efficiency and price points, when ‘frame relay’ was introduced in the early 1990s.

This was followed shortly after by the second stage in WAN evolution: The emergence of MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching). MPLS enabled the transmission of video, voice, and data on the same network, via IP, giving rise to SLA-protected reliable network connections.

SD-WAN emerged in 2013, as a potentially viable and economical alternative to MPLS technology. SD-WAN has brought on tremendous progress for the WAN landscape, by abstracting away network layer. Instead it routs traffic by means of centrally managed and defined policies, in turn enabling the prioritization and optimization of myriad application traffic types. In the present scenario, especially, where the digital age is being increasingly characterized by the usage of mobile and cloud users, the flexibility offered by the technology is rapidly establishing software-defined WAN as an ideal solution to cater to the evolving network needs of enterprises worldwide.

A gist of the SD-WAN architecture 

Software-defined wide area networks employ an abstracted architecture for their network solutions. Essentially, abstracted architectures comprise networks bifurcated into two parts, control plane, and forwarding plane. SD-WAN architecture allows for more seamless remote management of the network, without the need for on-premise IT staff, by moving control planes to centralized locations, for instance, a company’s headquarters.

SD-WAN architecture comprises three main components: the edge, which is where the network endpoints are located; the controller, which is responsible for the centralization of management, allows operators to view the network through a single glass pane and establishes the policies that are to be executed by the third component; the orchestrator, also known as the virtualized network manager, which monitors traffic and implements the protocols and policies set by the controller.

The edge, the controller, and the orchestrator and the pillars of a basic SD-WAN structure. SD-WAN architectures can be of three distinct types, cloud-enabled, on-premises, and cloud-enabled with a backbone.

The role of SD-WAN in cloud computing, security, and enterprise networking

As enterprise dependence on the evolving cloud technology rises, so does the pressure to implement a digital transformation of daily operations, to make them more user friendly and efficient.

Legacy network architectures, however, are largely incompatible with modern digital transformation initiatives. This is why the integration of security and networking into the cloud platform provides the required operational efficiencies and agility required by IT sectors to accommodate evolving business requirements.

The onus on IT leaders in the present scenario is to offer seamless customer experiences whilst ensuring optimum management of their internal operations. As the prevalence of the Cloud increases across the global landscape, enterprises seek more opportunities to expand their business horizons, which in turn proliferates the requirement for a robust network infrastructure. SD-WAN technology serves as a lucrative solution for this purpose, allowing centralized management of networks across geographically diverse locations.

Network security is among the most important considerations for SD-WAN solutions. The emergence of cloud-based applications such as AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Office 365 has shed light on the importance of secure remote network access. Software-defined WAN allows for the setup of secured regional zones and other customer requirements and enables the safe direction of traffic based on the company’s internal security policies.

In verticals such as finance, healthcare, and retail, particularly, the implementation of SD-WAN facilitates the partitioning and safeguarding of mission-critical assets and traffic, against potential vulnerabilities in the enterprise. It also protects application traffic from internal as well as external network threats to the organization by means of a complete security solutions suite, including URL filtering, IPS, cloud security, and advanced firewalls, among others.

Another important driving factor for software-defined wide area networks, apart from security and reduction of conventional WAN costs, is the need to tie in cloud services quicker and more securely. Users are rapidly shifting their focus towards SD-WAN technology as a solution to tie in cloud resources to data centers. Prevalence of private data centers and the adoption of public cloud services will grow simultaneously, as organizations focus on innovation, implementation, and management of applications at an expedited rate, through the establishment of centralized management and policy-based governance across multi-cloud environments.

What will the future of SD-WAN technology look like in the wake of the ongoing global crisis?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on a global scale, driving workforces into bandwidth-intensive remote working environments. This unprecedented and massive shift to a remote platform has asserted a significant impact on network infrastructures worldwide and has necessitated an acceleration in IT modernization, as organizations shift their focus towards optimizing the scalability and agility of their networks.

In the wake of the nationwide lockdowns and social distancing protocols being enforced by myriad local governments, networks have begun to feel the building pressure. Studies show that video conferencing has increased over 3 times the normal rate, while employee working hours have also increased profoundly, as a result of widespread partial and complete shutdowns of offices.

However, coronavirus pandemic has also been touted by many as the epitome of a real-life use case for cloud computing and sophisticated software-defined networks, with studies revealing that organizations with an established SD-WAN architecture in place were much more prepared to handle the onslaught of network impact brought on by the crisis.

With flexibility becoming a highly prized IT asset in the wake of the global crisis, more and more applications will move to the cloud environment, leading organizations will turn to enterprise networking services like SD-WAN, rather than juggling multiple cloud network services. To that end, Cisco Systems and Google have recently extended their long-term collaboration, integrating their cloud platforms and SD-WAN offerings more tightly, in order to expedite DevOps and NetOps convergence. The extended partnership will facilitate further implementation of Cisco’s SD-WAN technology on Google’s Kubernetes-based cloud platform Anthos, which can be deployed on any IT environments, both cloud-based or on-premise, by early 2021.

Meanwhile, Momentum Telecom has chosen 128 Technology’s Session Smart™ Router as an effective solution to bring forth a new era in software-defined networking services. Through the Session Smart™ Router, Momentum will be able to deliver efficient cloud-native managed network solutions, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and UC (Unified Communications) to enterprise partners and customers, outperforming legacy network functions and delivering new levels of agility, performance, simplicity, and savings.

Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to SD-WAN, available at:

https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/software-defined-wide-area-network-sdwan-market

About the Author

An avid reader since childhood,Walimbe is currently following her passion for content creation by penning down insightful articles relating to global industry trends, business, and trade & finance. With an MBA-Marketing qualification under her belt, she has spent two years as a content writer in the advertising field. Aside from her professional work, she is an ardent animal lover and enjoys movies, music, and books in her spare time.

 

Previous Article
Renesas Releases Four I3C Bus Extension Products
Renesas Releases Four I3C Bus Extension Products

Renesas released four new I3C Basic bus extension products for control plane designs across a variety of ap...

Next Article
Dev Kit Weekly: Microchip AVR-BLE Development Board
Dev Kit Weekly: Microchip AVR-BLE Development Board

In this edition of Dev Kit Weekly, Perry breaks down the AVR-BLE Development Board from Microchip.