Organizations are transforming their corporate networks for a number of reasons. Therefore, Exploring the Most In-Demand Capabilities of SD-WAN Solutions. In the past, digital transformation initiatives – designed to improve their ability to provide a good customer experience – were the major driver. However, in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting push to remote work have added incentive and urgency to companies’ desire to redesign how their IT infrastructure functions.

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A major component of redesigning an organization’s IT infrastructure is performing upgrades to the corporate-wide area network (WAN). Traditional WAN solutions often do not meet the needs of the modern business, prompting a widespread push for the deployment of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions.

What Organizations Are Looking for in a WAN

A recent survey by Masergy asked companies about their major priorities when selecting an SD-WAN solution. Based on their responses, seven capabilities stand out as important to potential SD-WAN customers.

#1. Multi-Cloud Connectivity

Almost all organizations are using cloud computing, and 93% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy. This enables them to take advantage of the individual benefits offered by different platforms and providers. However, a multi-cloud infrastructure can make network connectivity and security more complex. With SD-WAN, which can optimize routing between an organization’s deployed SD-WAN appliances, this complexity can be decreased.

#2. Variety of Transport/Access Options

Most organizations’ IT infrastructure now uses a variety of transport media. Some of this is due to necessity, with remote devices having limited options for network connectivity. Another major driver is resiliency and business continuity, using multiple transport media to ensure that operations can continue even if a particular transport medium is unavailable or offers degraded performance.

SD-WAN provides the ability to easily aggregate and route traffic over multiple transport media. SD-WAN appliances are designed to connect to multiple transport media and optimally route traffic over them. This optimized routing is designed to be transparent to the applications using the network, making it possible to build in resiliency and business continuity without complex network upgrades.

#3. Embedded Security

Expanding networks composed of a wide variety of different devices introduce new cyber threats and attack vectors. Many organizations address these threats by deploying standalone, specialized security solutions; however, these solutions often do not work across all platforms and are complex to monitor and manage.

Some SD-WAN solutions address this problem well. Secure SD-WAN solutions incorporate an integrated security stack into the SD-WAN appliance. This provides security at the network level, eliminating some of the complexity of securing a diverse set of endpoints without forcing an organization to rely upon a perimeter-based security model.

#4. Rapid Remote Connectivity

Over the past few years, organizations have been slowly increasing their support for telework, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this transition. Companies now highly value the ability to provide secure, usable remote connectivity to their remote workers.

SD-WAN speeds and simplifies remote network access. Instead of the multiple virtual private networks (VPN) connections that an employee may need to choose and switch between to connect to various networks, SD-WAN can offer a single connection to the most convenient SD-WAN appliance. From there, an employee’s traffic can be optimally and securely routed to its destination.

#5. Centralized Policy and Configuration Management

The complexity of security management has grown with the evolution of the corporate network. Cloud computing majorly contributes to this as each of an organization’s cloud environments has its own security settings that have to be properly configured and managed. Adding in the organization’s on-premises infrastructure and mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices makes it difficult for security teams to keep up.

SD-WAN offers the ability to more consistently define and enforce security policies across the corporate WAN. Since all traffic passes through at least once SD-WAN appliance, security inspection and policy enforcement can be performed there, and policies and configurations can be managed from a single console.

#6. Real-Time Analytics and Service Control

Even slight deviations in network performance can have a significant impact on an organization’s business operations. The Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that are used for a growing percentage of business operations is often very latency-sensitive.

The ability to monitor and respond to network issues in real-time is essential for any organization. This is why many companies require real-time analytics and service control functionality of their SD-WAN appliance.

#7. Embedded UCaaS Applications

The use of unified communications solutions has grown as the Internet has proven a useful and reliable platform for corporate communication systems. Rather than deploying a phone line for each employee, organizations only have to provide Internet access, making telecommunications more scalable and portable.

The availability of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is an important feature of SD-WAN for many organizations. Integrating such a solution into the SD-WAN appliance itself reduces the burden on the in-house IT team and can improve service reliability and performance.

Why Most Companies are Looking Beyond SD-WAN to SASE

SD-WAN is a popular choice among organizations looking to upgrade their corporate WAN. However, by itself, SD-WAN only provides improved network performance. SD-WAN is designed to optimally route traffic over the corporate network, not secure it.

For this reason, 91% of organizations are interested not only in SD-WAN but in secure access service edge (SASE). SASE takes the capabilities of SD-WAN, incorporates an integrated security stack, and deploys as a virtual appliance in the cloud. This enables an organization to achieve full network optimization without compromising security since SASE appliances can be deployed anywhere. Traffic can be optimally routed between these appliances since each SASE appliance performs complete security inspection and policy enforcement.

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