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Moving your network to the cloud? SD-WAN can help (Reader Forum)

Enterprises are adopting cloud-based services at an astounding rate. The numbers tell a story of explosive industry growth — Amazon Web Services recently reported $4.6 billion in revenue, up from $3.2 billion last year. Microsoft’s cloud business exceeded the company’s goal of $20 billion in annualized revenue in the quarter just completed.

According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud report, respondents now run 41 percent of their workloads in public cloud and 38 percent in private cloud. Accordingly, AWS and Microsoft have developed agile, resilient cloud networks to support cloud services.

Unfortunately, enterprise networks have not kept up. They are still largely run using a hub-and-spoke model that was designed for the client-server era when most applications resided in the corporate data center. This model is simply inefficient and too expensive in the cloud era, in which much of the traffic is destined for the Internet. The network needs to evolve to meet the needs of the cloud.

What does it mean to move your network to the cloud?
When your company follows a traditional data center model, you invest heavily in your network with switches and routers, and you have IT staff to manage it all. Moving to the cloud offloads the responsibility onto the cloud provider. However, you still need to connect to the cloud to access applications and services and ensure they perform optimally. You also need to be able to manage the cloud and on-premises network easily and efficiently, ideally from a central cloud-based console.

It is important to note that moving networks to the cloud is an incremental process. In many cases, enterprises will build an overlay software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) on top of their existing investments.

The challenges of a cloud network
Moving to the cloud involves significant challenges and opportunities. To call your cloud network migration a success, your enterprise needs to:

  • Provide cloud connectivity, especially at the branch office
  • Ensure cloud application performance SLAs
  • Maintain end-to-end visibility, even within cloud service providers
  • Ensure a strong security posture

All of this needs to be done while also being operationally efficient. That probably sounds like a lot to manage. The good news? SD-WAN can help make it all happen. SD-WAN provides a powerful yet simple solution for designing, deploying and managing today’s cloud networks. Like virtualized compute and storage, SD-WAN delivers agility, cost savings and flexibility.

According to Rohit Mehra, Vice President of Network Infrastructure at IDC, “IDC believes that the imperative of digital transformation and the rise of cloud have set the stage for SD-WAN to play a major role in assuring the availability and performance of increasingly important applications and services at branch offices and remote sites.”

The Benefits of a Cloud Network

Simplify cloud connectivity
SD-WAN simplifies the connection to the cloud, allowing you to provision your branch-office networks 50 to 80 percent faster, according to Gartner. Setting up new branch offices becomes easy — there’s no travel or local configuration required.

SD-WAN gateways provide connectivity to public clouds and can be brought up quickly in an automated fashion while applying consistent policies. Using centralized policy rules, appliances come online automatically, configure themselves, and are up-and-running in minutes. You can automate cloud connectivity and transparently link your branch offices to your Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure or other public clouds to enable your cloud network strategy. You can also deliver unified policy across regions and even multiple clouds.

OpenEye Scientific Software Inc., headquartered in Santa Fe, NM, with offices in Boston, Cologne, Strasbourg, and Tokyo, knows all about the benefits of SD-WAN in the cloud. OpenEye used SD-WAN to quickly expand its network while connecting team members to its cloud-based pharmaceutical design platform in minutes, compared to the months required previously. SD-WAN allows OpenEye to be agile while growing their business.

Ensure cloud application performance SLAs
Your cloud network initiative’s success boils down to one question — does the application perform as the user expects? Accessing cloud applications over the Internet introduces unpredictability in performance, especially for geographically dispersed or far away locations. Backhauling cloud traffic from the branch through the data center can cause poor application response, incremental cost and network congestion.

With SD-WAN, you can opt to have some of your traffic from the branch go directly to the cloud via public internet links, which translates into costs-savings, efficiency, and a better experience for users. It can save bandwidth for critical apps, reduce unnecessary bandwidth usage, and ensure faster access to apps for improved user productivity.

You can establish global business-aligned policies that automate enforcement of performance objectives and access privileges for all apps/users of your cloud applications, wherever they might be. These policies are easy to implement, deploy, manage and change universally throughout the system.

With the right SD-WAN solution, you can also provide WAN optimization to further improve application performance.

Improve cloud network and application visibility
Moving applications and infrastructure to the cloud decentralizes visibility and takes control away from IT. This lack of visibility can make assuring application performance difficult, potentially leaving security issues undiscovered and causing lost productivity.

The best SD-WAN solutions offer a cloud-based central management console in an integrated management platform that spans and unifies cloud networks and branch wireless and wired LANs with a single policy framework.

A management dashboard that offers a unified at-a-glance view of your network topology and provides continuous automatic monitoring can deliver the visibility you need to ensure your cloud network is performing optimally. You can detect every application in your network and optimize bandwidth based on business policies.

When a problem surfaces, SD-WAN solutions may be able to provide you with integrated analytics to gain insight into the device, applications, network, and infrastructure components. This visibility eliminates time-consuming war room scenarios, accelerates problem resolution, and improves user productivity.

Strengthen your security posture
Steering traffic directly to the cloud or Internet creates new security concerns. SD-WAN includes embedded security capabilities such as network segmentation, identity-based user access, embedded firewalls and autoVPNs.

Also, with SD-WAN, you can set the policies for which traffic to send directly to the cloud and route Internet-bound traffic to a cloud access security broker (CASB). Combining SD-WAN’s native firewall with cloud-based security eliminates the need to backhaul Internet traffic to data centers.

The CASB inspects all traffic inline, including SSL, and provides advanced threat prevention, data protection, and access controls, while maintaining performance and an improved user experience.

Key takeaways
When moving your network to the cloud, look to SD-WAN to ensure the availability and performance of your essential cloud applications and services.

SD-WAN enables your cloud network in five critical ways — by securing cloud connectivity, ensuring application performance SLAs, maintaining visibility, supporting business at the branch, and strengthening your security posture. With SD-WAN, you can evolve your network to meet the demands of the cloud.


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