Let’s get this straight. There’s a reason dinosaurs are extinct. Scientists don’t all agree why, but the fact remains; they ruled for a long time, and now they’re gone. IT people can relate to this, since tech works in a similar, but more accelerated, cyclical fashion. In fact, it’s happening now in enterprise networking, with SD-WAN. After a 15 year hiatus, during which MPLS ruled the Earth, a new cycle of network innovation is dawning. The days of the traditional WANosaurus – networks designed for a different kind of enterprise computing environment – are numbered. The era of agile, reliable, cost effective SD-WAN is here.
Goodbye WANosaurus, hello SD-WAN
Don’t get the wrong impression. Before SD-WAN, traditional MPLS was central to my professional life (I helped launch one of the very first services). But that was an eternity ago in Internet years. Look what’s happened since; Facebook, Google, Amazon, smartphones, Uber, the cloud and XaaS… Today is a very different day; the current environment demands a combination of performance, reliability, availability, agility, affordability and security that the once mighty WANosaurus just wasn’t made for.
Networks designed for the cloud and the customer experience
The biggest challenge for current networks is the cloud. As application traffic continues to shift away from the datacenter, traditional connectivity becomes grossly inefficient. Accessing SaaS apps and services from branch locations through the datacenter creates a performance bottleneck, dragging the customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) down with it. And adding skinny T1 bandwidth to address the resulting challenges is not an affordable option.
SD-WAN provides the first alternative to solve that, while still providing the level of security the enterprise demands. Along with a host of additional benefits that make the enterprise more competitive, responsive to customer need, collaborative, productive and agile, super-charging innovation and growth.
Key Priorities Driving Interest in SD-WAN
Q: Which of the following attributes are most important when considering an SD-WAN solution for branch connectivity? (Rank #1) Source: IDC’s U.S. Enterprise Communications Survey, March 2017; base: 772 respondents who indicated organizational plans to migrate existing WAN connections to SD-WAN within two years
An evolutionary, hybrid path to IT and business transformation
While new tech occasionally comes to market with revolutionary velocity, more often, evolution is the order of the day. Even cloud migration, the primary driver fueling SD-WAN, has been an evolution nearly two decades in the making. Many cite the 1999 launch of Salesforce as the catalyst; some trace it back further than that. The reality is, everyone will need to chart their own transformational path to SD-WAN based on current need, future roadmap, legacy infrastructure, etc.
SD-WAN is ideally for this since it can be integrated in as many or few locations as desired. This is a great for hybrid environments – hybrid IT, hybrid networks, hybrid cloud, hybrid support, etc. – where a phased approach will make the most sense and where needs may be more pronounced in some locations than others.
Evaluating SD-WAN options: fully-managed vs. Do it Yourself (DIY)
Regardless of your path, the time to start is now. While DIY may have made sense in the past, SD-WAN requires expertise that makes a trusted network service provider a good option. Look for strong knowledge of SD-WAN and a range of professional services to help assess needs and design the best network configuration. A fully-managed solution is also becoming popular, especially among those who did an initial DIY install and realized a partner may be easier for phase two. For example, Windstream’s risk free 30 day SD-WAN Concierge trial offers a first-hand look at how SD-WAN can evolve an aging WANosaurus.
Whatever your choice, I’d recommend moving fast. While evolution does take time, in today’s customer experience focused, anytime, anywhere world, the once venerable WANosaurus won’t be able to cut it for much longer.
Joseph Harding is EVP, CMO for Windstream and is responsible for all aspects of marketing for the company’s enterprise business unit, including go-to-market strategy, product management, demand gen, brand, pricing and customer insight. Harding has 20+ years of experience in the industry. Prior to joining Windstream in 2015, he was CMO at Electric Lightwave. He’s also held senior positions at Level 3 in product management, product development, customer experience strategy, M&A integration and business process. He began his career at MCI in 1993 as a marketing manager in the business markets division, and has a BS in business administration and finance from the Rochester Institute of Technology.