Q. What are the emerging hot (technology) topics for CIOs and why?
A. The digital transformation is fully upon us and CIOs are increasingly embracing virtualisation and cloud services to enhance business responsiveness and agility. Connecting users to applications across geographically distributed organisations is introducing new challenges that traditional wide area networks (WANs) were never engineered to address. Unpredictable application performance impacts user productivity and, ultimately, holds companies back from fully embracing and maximising their return on digital technology investments. Indeed, while the rest of the infrastructure has become more fine-tuned for a cloud and virtual world, the WAN continues to be subject to the limitations associated with traditional private MPLS networks and branch office infrastructure.
CIOs are increasingly evaluating the promise of building a Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) along with the potential cost advantages of incorporating broadband and the Internet to address their changing connectivity requirements. Growing frustration with the rigidity and complexity of MPLS networks is why SD-WAN technology is critical to helping companies make the move into the digital space.
Q. What gap/challenge are the trends addressing?
A. CIOs are facing a growing trend; traditional WAN architectures introduce performance bottlenecks and impair productivity when connecting users to cloud-based applications from branch and remote offices. Simply put, they are no longer adequate to address the changing requirements of the business. Indeed, there is an overarching need for increased responsiveness and agility in today’s enterprises, particularly as we enter the realm of digital technologies. If a new office needs to be opened, an existing office needs to be relocated, or if IT resources need to be moved, the process to add, move, or change MPLS connectivity takes too long and is too disruptive to the business.
For example, establishing private link MPLS connectivity at a new site, or increasing the bandwidth to an existing one, can take 30 days or longer to implement. To make matters worse, MPLS today does not accommodate new methods of automation – which is key to a digital business – and typically requires on-site IT expertise and configuration of networking equipment.
Lower-cost broadband and Internet connectivity is increasingly emerging as a viable option, but only if CIOs can be assured it can deliver the performance, security and reliability required. If Internet connectivity was purchased, it typically sits idle until needed for backup or fail-over. It’s like buying a plane ticket from London to Scotland, and also buying a non-refundable bus ticket in case the flight gets cancelled.
Q. Do they help with digital transformation and, if so, how exactly – please give examples
A. SD-WAN technology is a key enabler for the digital transformation, not least because it promotes increased flexibility, visibility and control, along with the performance required to deliver a high quality and consistent user experience when accessing cloud applications. There is a strong economic incentive for businesses, as well with reduced connectivity, equipment and administration costs – up to 90% in some cases. When implemented correctly, an SD-WAN can enable enterprises to flexibly and securely connect users to applications by the most economical source of connectivity available. This enables enterprises to augment or replace MPLS networks with secure broadband Internet connectivity.
Companies will benefit from added flexibility for a much more dynamic and responsive environment – a key factor in digital transformation. For example, when it comes to real-time traffic, such as voice or video, companies can easily direct it towards the connection with the least packet loss of latency. To put it simply, SD-WAN architecture is the only way companies will be able to fully embrace virtual and cloud technologies, and fully embrace the digital world.
Q. How do you see the situation evolving, and why?
A. While there is pressure on companies to embrace digital technologies, CIOs will want to do it at their own pace, while at the same time keeping on top of trends such as cloud and virtualisation. With SD-WAN, the ultimate goal may be a 100% broadband WAN, but most companies will take incremental steps by deploying a hybrid WAN. As MPLS upgrades arise, businesses can evaluate lower-cost broadband Internet services as an alternative path for connecting users to cloud-based applications.
This provides an opportunity to gradually reduce reliance on MPLS bandwidth or preserve that connectivity for remaining data centre applications. Enterprises can then begin to migrate additional applications from the data centre and into the cloud as desired, and do so in an optimal way. As such, branch and remote office users will be experience consistent performance, as well as secure and efficient connectivity.