What makes SD-WAN more than just a branch solution?

To meet the demands of a dynamic business environment in today’s rapidly changing digital world, many organizations are turning to SD-WAN for fast, scalable, and flexible connectivity between network environments. But for organizations that have scaled out SSL or IPSec VPN connections between remote workers and the core network, keeping business-critical applications running properly is an ongoing challenge; connections between these environments must be managed to prioritize critical local networks and cloud applications. This is precisely what SD-WAN was designed to address; however, the wrong SD-WAN solution can inhibit adaptability and lead to security problems.

SD-WAN solutions that were designed for specific environments and limited numbers of users simply won’t work anymore. Instead, organizations now require secure, highly flexible, and scalable SD-WAN solutions that connect home users and branch offices to high-performance data centers and distributed cloud environments.

SD-WAN as an Essential Enterprise Technology

With the right SD-WAN solution on their side, organizations can support their digital transformation goals while continuing to ensure business continuity across their expanding remote workforces, even when faced with limited IT staff and infrastructure resources. Centralized management and zero-touch deployments allow for faster configuration rollouts at scale, enabling the best possible performance of collaboration applications (i.e., voice/video conferencing), even when being delivered to a large group of remote users.

A common misconception is that SD-WAN is just for the branch. But when properly deployed, it can become an essential technology for the entire enterprise, supporting multiple use cases, including work-from-home and data center-to-cloud. Furthermore, it can be used to effectively connect clouds to enable the best possible user experience while also protecting critical applications in a constantly changing digital environment.

Security also plays a critical role in any SD-WAN deployment strategy. An overlay solution will never be able to adapt to dynamic connectivity environments, especially those that span multiple networks. With this in mind, organizations require a full stack of security embedded into each SD-WAN device, thereby enabling the home user, the branch office, and the data center to share common security policies and enforcement strategies. This allows security to adapt to dynamic changes and provide consistent protections across the entire distributed environment.

SD-WAN Use Cases

Considering these factors, an effective SD-WAN solution must come in a wide range of form factors, able to cater to large data centers while also meeting the needs of branch offices, remote sites, and even small home offices. It should also include virtual versions for cloud deployments.

  • Home Office: SD-WAN functionality provides on-demand remote access and dynamically scalable performance regardless of local network availability. An SD-WAN desktop appliance with built-in LTE ensures consistent connectivity and enables business-critical activities even when other devices connected to the home network are consuming bandwidth.
  • Branch: SD-WAN is well-known for supporting complex branch deployments with advanced routing and cloud on-ramp capabilities. SD-WAN helps organizations reduce reliance on point products that weren’t designed to manage traffic congestion across public networks. It must include a full stack of tightly integrated security to protect direct connections to cloud and internet applications and services.
  • Data Center: Traditional SD-WAN enables access to critical data center applications and resources. Ultra-high-performance SD-WAN solutions can ensure reliable and secure connectivity in environments where data centers share information with the cloud or where applications or workflows span multiple data centers.
  • Distributed Cloud: For organizations that work across multiple cloud environments, SD-WAN can enable the interconnection of cloud environments for a better user experience. By combining an IPSec VPN with native application steering and fully programmable APIs, organizations can build effective cloud integration frameworks that allow quick access to critical applications and resources across these cloud environments.

An Integrated SD-WAN Orchestrator for Enhanced Performance and Scalability

As SD-WAN deployments expand, advanced management and orchestration tools will be required to enhance performance and scalability. An integrated SD-WAN Orchestrator allows organizations to simplify centralized deployment of SD-WAN devices. The automated nature of this technology saves organizations time and enables business-centric policies by ensuring that the right resources are available when needed.

Ensuring consistent visibility across all network and application performance is another critical element of any SD-WAN solution, especially in large-scale deployments. Thus, an SD-WAN Orchestrator must include enhanced analytics and compliance tools that are essential for fine-tuning business and security policies.

Finally, an SD-WAN Orchestrator can implement and maintain flexible deployment options for diverse branch office infrastructures at-scale. Often, organizations are forced to create SD-WAN segments to support individual policies and rules for different networks, offices, applications, or users. A central orchestration tool can ensure these policies are enforced from end-to-end.

SD-WAN’s Critical Role in Dynamic Business Infrastructures

SD-WAN can play a critical role in the quick and secure rollout of new networking environments, connecting resources and users to data and applications. It can shorten deployment times by securely connecting single remote workers, branch offices spanning the globe, or even the most high-performance data centers or distributed cloud environments to the distributed network. It is for these reasons why Secure SD-WAN is far more than just a branch solution.

Take a security-driven approach to networking to improve user experience and simplify operations at the WAN edge with Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN solution.

By John Maddison, CMO & EVP Products at Fortinet

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