Digital transformation is the need of the hour for almost all enterprises globally. Many companies are embracing the mobile, video, cloud and IoT technologies in order to stay competitive and relevant with the ever-growing demands from their customers and partners. Most CEOs, CTOs and CIOs agree that the risk of going out of the business is definitely high without incorporating digital strategies in their portfolios. Accordingly, we see a good amount of investment in the budget going towards the research, deployment of new digital methodologies and up skill of their workforce in this direction.
Enterprises are now planning to implement multiple new services as part of the digital transformation strategy across their LAN, WAN and DC. In this blog, we will mainly focus on the requirements like Multi-Cloud, Bandwidth hungry Apps, Security, IoT & Edge Computing requirements and the challenges that needs to be resolved on the WAN segment in particular. There are a good amount of developments happening the enterprise LAN and DC space and we will focus on them in another blog.
Today, given the economics of cloud computing, it is a no brainer today for most CIOs to comfortably move their workloads on cloud providers like AWS, Azure and GCP and leverage other SaaS applications. While few enterprises are going with a single cloud provider, majority of the enterprises are embracing multiple cloud providers to avoid vendor lock-in. Apart from vendor lock-in, it is becoming more evident that few workloads seem to perform well or integrated better with an ecosystem of tools in one provider cloud compared to others. Hence, in order to get the best of breed services for a wide variety of application requirements, enterprises are looking to have their workloads spread across multiple clouds. It is worth to be noted that many of these cloud services might have their own application SLA requirements to perform better.
Enterprises typically used the Data center as the central wall of defense where they hosted many security appliances to inspect the traffic that was going in and out of the organization. While the architecture worked well so far, this approach may not work for the multi-cloud strategy many enterprises are planning to implement. Cloud applications that reside on the Internet need to get the best SLAs to ensure a great experience for the employees. Back hauling all the traffic for cloud applications from branches to data centers and from there to the Internet increases the latency and accordingly a poor experience.
For example, an enterprise with 70K employees who plan to move their email application server from in-house to Office 365 need to carefully think of the dependencies on the network characteristics so that the O365 application to perform better without compromising the quality and poor user experience for their employees
Bandwidth Hungry Apps
In an enterprise, the demand for the WAN bandwidth is clearly very high now-a-days. This can be attributed to the growing number of wide variety of bandwidth hungry applications and end-points used by the employees, partners and customers. In order to ensure an overall quality experience, the underlying BW has to increased so that the applications are not starving. While the enterprises typically used MPLS as the primary way of communication across the network for all applications, procuring more MPLS bandwidth for growing bandwidth needs is not a long-term scalable cost-effective solution. Hence, enterprises are looking to have other alternative links like low cost Broadband Internet as the primary vehicle for communication along with MPLS.
However, given the best effort and less secure behavior associated with broadband Internet & 4G, IT teams are facing challenges in setting up needed secure tunnels, managing the application traffic into respective tunnels and ongoing changes to the deployment. Additionally, the complexity increases as well with the ever changing IT policy decisions by the management as per new business interests. Hence, there is a need for efficient WAN management to support applications with less operational complexity to ensure IT teams are adding significant value to the business.
While the enterprises are marching towards the digital transformation journey, many elements needs to be addressed in a right way to ensure they are still compliant with the auditing and regulatory standards. Given that the data has to be secured before, during and after the transaction has happened, security has to be treated as high priority and lookout for solutions from vendors who helps them in accordance with their principles.
If an enterprise that moved the documents to an AWS cloud and an engineer incidentally opens the S3 document permissions as public or allowed a complete access to an important application, it can be a serious situation for the company and brand recognition. The complexity manifests even more if the enterprises has multiple cloud providers in place and the engineers need to be trained and certified on multiple domains. Hence, the right skill set, monitoring and visibility tools, network and security policies should be in place to avoid any breach of security.
IoT and Edge Computing
Many IoT end-points like electrical/mechanical/medical sensors, video surveillance cameras etc are being deployed in enterprises to support various use-cases. It is expected that 5.8 billion IoT devices will be deployed overall by 2020 in enterprise and automotive markets.
Given the huge deployments of IoT devices in the enterprise, it is nearly impossible for IT teams to manage them manually and hence there is a need for automation, analytics and assurance of policies that govern the IoT deployment in an agile manner. Additionally, in specific IoT deployments, it is also not possible for IoT devices to send all the data remotely to a cloud or data center which are many miles away to take critical decisions to turn-off or turn-on certain devices. Hence, enterprises are exploring the option of edge computing to collect the IoT data, process, store and take the decisions locally and periodically transfer the data to remote centers for backup of data.
In order to help with better local decision process at the IoT edge, machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithms can be used at the remote data center and the resultant schema can be pushed periodically to the IoT edges across the enterprise.
SD-WAN at the rescue for Enterprises
SD-WAN is the new framework that is widely used to solve these challenges along with many other business critical challenges. Abstracts SD-WAN the underlying transport links/characteristics at every branch and views them as a single logical link for management purposes. It automatically sets up the secured tunnels in a zero touch fashion and dynamically adjusts the paths based on network conditions. This completely eliminates the need for manual setup of tunnels.
SD-WAN operators can define the traffic policies along with pre-defined conditions or SLAs for the entire network at a centralized location. This greatly simplifies the operational complexity and based on the policies defined, traffic moves accordingly on any of the underlying transport link that satisfies the pre-defined conditions. Operators can additionally fine tune policies at every branch as needed to accommodate any local conditions or needs. SD-WAN provides the freedom of choice for enterprise operators to now choose any underlying transport from a wide variety of choices without worrying about the complexity associated with them.
Since the Internet based SaaS/Cloud applications prefer lower latencies, traffic can now be directed to the Internet from the branch directly without back hauling the traffic to a DC and exiting from there. This will greatly improve the user experience as needed for Multi-Cloud applications. Another important aspect to achieve this is the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) capability on the SD-WAN edges where most of the applications for the enterprise can be detected and right treatment can be provided to them as defined by the policy. Since we are now exposing the branch directly to the Internet, one might wonder on the security implications and compliance/regulatory considerations in such implementation.
SD-WAN Security offers a set of choices to secure the network completely. Today, we see many Internet cloud security solutions like Cisco Umbrella, Zscaler etc being available and enterprises can centrally define to redirect the traffic to these security cloud providers from their branches before reaching Internet SaaS/Cloud applications. More importantly, the SD-WAN routers at the branches are being enhanced to support security capabilities like Zone Based FW, IDS/IPS, URL-Filtering, Advanced Malware Protection. Together with these inbuilt security features, connectors to Cloud security and Service Function Chaining capabilities to insert any other security appliances along the traffic path, SD-WAN has great things to offer to the end-customers.
5G is a Game Changer
As mentioned earlier, SD-WAN abstracts the underlying transport links like MPLS, broadband Internet, 4G and decreases the complexity for operators without worrying about the internal implementations. From that perspective, 5G can be thought of just another new form of communication that provides high bandwidth to an enterprise and SD-WAN manages the traffic across all the available links (MPLS, Broadband and 5G) in an efficient way as per network conditions.
However, 5G has the potential to address many use-cases ranging from mission critical applications that require extreme low latency to big data/VR/AR applications that need higher bandwidth. Service Providers are investing a lot in 5G transformations to reap the benefits in front of them by serving the enterprises, end-users, IOT devices and their applications. Enterprises are looking to leverage this opportunity to augment their existing services with the next generation applications to stay competitive and relevant to their customers and partners. Retail end-users are looking to have better connection speeds to enable them with a great video quality experience, downloads of large files at the click of a button, immersed in a brand new AR/VR applications while on the move.
IOT devices are expected to reach 20 billion by 2022, it is very important for them to stay connected at every moment to transfer the mission critical, higher bandwidth data to other locations for processing, analysis and storage and 5G is seen the reliable technology to make the IOT deployments successful.
Given the capabilities of 5G technology like greater throughput, lower latencies, enhanced security, ultra reliability and energy efficient networks for businesses, SD-WAN policies can be fine tuned to achieve the best possible output for specific use-cases and next-generation enterprise applications.
We will explore more on what is 5G and how it can work along with SD-WAN to address the enterprise digital transformation in this whitepaper.
About Criterion Networks
Founded in 2013, Criterion Networks provide cloud-based solutions for network transformation. Criterion Networks provide SaaS based sales enablement solutions for service providers, value added resellers and vendors as a result, accelerating their sales process for next generation networking solutions. Criterion’s cloud based solution acceleration platform, Criterion SDCloud® tailored for customized network solutions enables on-demand customer demos and PoCs of network virtualization and automation use-case solutions such as SD-WAN, SDA, SDDC and Kubernetes.