Improving Connectivity for Multisite Organizations

Improving Connectivity for Multisite Organizations

Software-defined WAN provides greater network agility and resilience for organizations with multiple locations.

The vast majority of organizations are engaged in a digital transformation initiative or are planning one. Organizations need to fully leverage technology to meet changing customer demands and respond to competitive pressures. However, technology is often the primary impediment to greater business agility.

The challenge is particularly acute for organizations with multiple locations. Ensuring connectivity means assembling a wide-area network (WAN) from multiple carrier services. This requires an array of network appliances in each location to handle routing, traffic management and security functions. IT staff in headquarters must manage all of this remotely, creating significant operational overhead.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions reduce this complexity and make it easier to maintain a highly available and resilient WAN. SD-WAN also makes the WAN more agile, improving the organization’s ability to meet digital transformation objectives and respond to changing requirements.

The Problems with Legacy Infrastructure

According to a survey conducted by Hanover Research, 93 percent of enterprises are undergoing some kind of digital transformation, and 71 percent are doing so to improve the customer experience. Yet 42 percent of those surveyed are struggling to achieve success as their efforts fall behind schedule or stall altogether. Two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents cited infrastructure as a big part of their digital transformation strategy, but 36 percent said legacy systems posed challenges that are difficult to overcome.

That’s because many legacy IT environments were built “box by box,” creating an overly complex infrastructure that is hard to manage and slow to change. Simply maintaining aging IT infrastructures requires significant time and effort, making it difficult for IT teams to focus on growth and innovation. Administrative tasks are often performed manually, and organizations are hesitant to make changes that could create unexpected problems across multiple dependencies.

These issues can be especially challenging when it comes to the network infrastructure. Many organizations have a complex array of routers, switches and appliances that must be managed at the device level. In multisite organizations, this equipment is distributed throughout the extended enterprise, exacerbating management headaches.

In addition, organizations traditionally “backhauled” Internet traffic from branch locations to headquarters over multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) services. The hub-and-spoke model of legacy WAN architectures creates a “single point of failure” and causes latency that can impact application performance.

The Benefits of SD-WAN

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions address these challenges by separating control of the WAN from network devices. Administrators can manage the WAN through software using a centralized control function. Organizations can aggregate multiple WAN links in an active / active configuration — the software constantly monitors network conditions and makes routing decisions based upon application priority, Quality of Service requirements and security policies.

This is a real boon to multisite organizations. The WAN becomes more agile and responsive and requires less administrative overhead. A hybrid WAN that incorporates broadband Internet and cellular services as well as MPLS also offers greater resilience at lower cost. Traffic destined for the cloud is routed over direct Internet connections while traffic bound for the corporate data center takes the MPLS route. The single point of failure is eliminated, and cost-efficient Internet links reduce reliance on expensive MPLS circuits.

Of course, when branch locations connect directly to the Internet, they need robust security. Best-in-class SD-WAN solutions incorporate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) and other security controls. They can also establish and configure virtual private network (VPN) connections automatically, simplifying data protection.

The Hanover Research survey found that digital transformation is 36 percent more likely to be successful if IT infrastructure is part of the initiative. What’s more, organizations are more likely to see success in their digital transformation if they leverage monitoring, automation and integrated security. SD-WAN plays into all these areas, enabling a more agile and resilient network for multisite enterprises.

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