Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 11.23.24 AMIn my last blog post, I talked about the business outcomes customers are looking to achieve when evaluating SD-WAN solutions. However, if you are going to invest in an SD-WAN solution, it is also important to think about the trends that might impact your WAN and remote sites in the next few years. Are you prepared for trends like digital disruption or the Internet of Things (IoT), which are transforming businesses and creating new sources of competitive advantage?

Today’s leading businesses are constantly reinventing themselves to disrupt the market, and they are using the latest technology to do so. Businesses that want to accelerate their digital transformation and stay ahead of the competition need a dynamic network that enables constant reinvention, all on demand. Organizations will need fast IT capabilities that accelerate business innovation through IT simplicity and insights.

Traditional WANs have been built for static applications and are managed using multiple management tools that make it difficult for IT teams to reconfigure and troubleshoot the network when responding to business needs. Solutions for moving to hybrid WAN by augmenting your network with lower-cost connectivity like the Internet, or improving application experience and security, are a first step but still tend to be a static solution.

Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) promise to ease many of these problems by abstracting the applications and services running on the network from the physical infrastructure and letting you load-balance and shift traffic among networks in response to network conditions. But the SD-WAN landscape is changing rapidly, and not every solution will meet your most critical needs. For example, as security is pushed to the edge of the network, how do you ensure you have the visibility into all of your data without impacting application performance? As more devices and things are connected to your branch do you store the data generated by these devices locally or do you send it over the WAN to your data center for analysis? Are you taking advantage of virtualization to consolidate your branch infrastructure?

Consider this ten-part “WAN Bill of Rights” a guide to evaluating your overall strategy and deciding which SD-WAN solutions will improve your digital business transformation and help you win against the competition.

  1. The Right to Monitor and Tune Application Performance. Getting the best user experience from your applications requires that you know what is on your WAN. Look for solutions that can identify applications passing over your WAN and allow you to prioritize your most mission-critical data and then optimize to save bandwidth.
  1. The Right to Never Visit a Branch Again. No network manager should have to waste countless hours on routine drudgework like managing security and compliance controls, unlocking features, and travelling to remote offices to patch or reconfigure hardware. Look for solutions that let you automate the delivery of business-critical applications from a single location by using templates to deploy new locations quickly and reduce complexity, cost, and the risk of human error.
  1. The Right to Choose Your WAN Connectivity. You have the right to choose the WAN transport that best suits your ever-changing needs for bandwidth, security, and performance. The lower cost of business-class Internet and fourth-generation (4G) LTE can make them compelling alternatives to traditional Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) links. SD-WAN solutions should enable applications to choose the best path based on business policy and the cost and quality of the link for improved reliability and lower management costs.
  1. The Right to Experience Rich Media. An increase in users and devices in the branch office can increase network costs by streaming huge amounts of data over the WAN. Look for SD-WAN solutions that let you cache content locally, especially high-definition video and visual content. You can reduce latency and increase bandwidth savings when you combine caching with other features, such as policy-based configuration, automated prioritization of bandwidth, and the ability to reroute traffic across your network.
  1. The Right to Secure Your Applications and Infrastructure. You have a right to the same security on public Internet and 4G LTE connections as on your private WAN through a consistent, layered security approach at all points of the network infrastructure. Look for SD-WAN solutions that provide policy-based security using advanced threat defense such as VPN, firewall, intrusion detection, network segmentation, and strong cryptography.
  1. The Right to Use Third Party Applications and Services. No one vendor can provide all the applications, features, and services you need to make the most of your software-defined network. Rather than being limited to what a single vendor offers, look for solutions whose open application programming interfaces (APIs) allow IT and technology partners to develop applications that improve how you operate, manage, enhance, and secure your SD-WAN infrastructure.
  1. The Right to Embrace the Internet of Things. Getting maximum benefit from the IoT requires analyzing and acting on the data gathered from IoT devices at the edge of the network. To support IoT applications that require real-time insight into the network, look for SD-WAN solutions that support automated traffic management and cost-effective servers and network devices at branch offices and remote locations.
  1. The Right to a Scalable Architecture. You have the right to automated and efficient provisioning of business applications across your network using centralized policies for application performance, security, and monitoring. Take advantage of SD-WAN solutions built on a common, open architecture that can scale across your branch office, data center, cloud, and campus.
  1. The Right to Flexible Deployment Models. Across the IT industry, cloud-based delivery of IT infrastructure, development platforms, and applications has reduced costs and made it easier for businesses to meet changing priorities. Look for SD-WAN solutions that give you the freedom to be deployed on your premises or consumed as a service from your managed service provider. This “as-a-service” model not only frees your staff for more strategic work, it also helps you scale your WAN as your business grows.
  1. The Right to a Return on Your Investment. The technology and business worlds are changing far too quickly and your IT budget is under too much pressure to do a complete equipment upgrade of your network infrastructure whenever you need more performance or security. Look for SD-WAN solutions that combine flexible consumption models with physical and virtual form factors and the ability to port software across platforms. This model gives you the freedom to purchase only the software you need when you need it, and to protect your software investment as your hardware infrastructure changes.

Breaking the link between network software and network hardware opens new opportunities for agility, flexibility, cost-saving and business effectiveness. But remember your essential rights as a customer to make the most of this emerging technology frontier.

Learn more by visiting http://www.cisco.com/go/sdwan.

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Jason Rolleston

Sr. Director of Product Management

Cisco's Connected Mobile Experience (CMX)