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Resolving Legacy Network Limitations with SD-WAN

Legacy wide-area network (WAN) architectures are ill-equipped to accommodate the connectivity demands of today’s workforce. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions have rapidly emerged as exceptionally efficient alternatives.

Traditional networks simply weren’t designed to handle the intensified traffic and connectivity demands of modern organizations. The need to connect countless objects, devices, people and applications compels a new approach to network design.

Flexible SD-WAN technologies address these new realities by reducing or even eliminating the need for expensive fixed circuits, proprietary hardware and significant management overhead. Applying software-defined networking principles at the network edge, the technology enables IT organizations to dynamically mix and match connectivity options to optimize traffic, improve application performance, and control expenses.

Shifting to an SD-WAN doesn’t necessarily involve expensive forklift upgrades. Very often, traditional networks with complex architecture can be easily upgraded and simplified with SD-WAN design, lowering operational costs, improving performance, and reducing IT staff management overhead. For example, Cisco’s solution allows you to establish an SD-WAN overlay fabric to connect data centers, branches, cloud services and colocation facilities.


Connectivity Choices

A key feature of SD-WAN is its ability to blend multiple transport types, such as MPLS, broadband Internet and cellular in an active-active configuration. Software-based intelligence provides automated, policy-driven routing of traffic over the optimal connection based on the current network conditions. This enables organizations to leverage cost-efficient broadband Internet links and reduce their reliance on expensive MPLS.

In traditional WAN environments, the configurations required to differentiate and segment traffic in the WAN would have to be applied manually to devices at each location. Additionally, these devices would have to be updated regularly as application profiles and business needs changed.

SD-WAN automates all of that with a centralized, application-based policy controller and a secure software overlay that abstracts the underlying networks, with analytics for application and network visibility. These technologies provide intelligent path selection across WAN links, based on the application policies defined on the controller and the current state of the network. Administrators simply define and prioritize various types of traffic, and the WAN adapts to changing network conditions.

This versatility is a game-changer. Shifting traffic to secondary links based on bandwidth requirements and other application characteristics ensures remote sites can be agile and responsive to changing network conditions. This is particularly critical for interactive applications such as voice and video conferencing that are sensitive to jitter and latency, as well as for organizations in which branch and remote workers are heavily dependent on cloud-based services.


Enhance Security and Reliability

Additionally, SD-WAN improves network resiliency by eliminating the need for the hub-and-spoke architectural model. Forcing branch office, remote, and mobile employees to connect to the main office for Internet connectivity and application access can waste bandwidth and create a single point of failure.

Of course, enabling local Internet access affects cybersecurity by creating dozens or even hundreds of new points of vulnerability and putting sensitive data at risk. Many SD-WAN solutions use IP-SEC encryption to protect data but don’t provide robust security.

Cisco’s SD-WAN solution takes a layered security approach. Cisco recently updated its Meraki and Viptela SD-WAN devices to integrate an application-aware firewall, intrusion prevention and URL filtering. Additionally, Cisco integrates its SD-WAN portfolio with Cisco Umbrella to make it easier to block malicious web destinations before a connection is established.

As new technologies drive new demands on our data networks, traditional WAN architectures are being pushed beyond their limits. Cisco’s SD-WAN solutions offer a new way to ensure remote and branch offices have reliable access to the applications and data they need.

Cerium’s seasoned engineering team has more than a decade of experience in the design, construction and deployment of business network infrastructure. As a Cisco Gold Partner, we also have demonstrated expertise in Cisco’s entire portfolio of network solutions. If your existing WAN isn’t meeting evolving business needs, give us a call to discuss your options.

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