SD-WAN Will Assume a Key Role in Supporting the IoT

by Mike Frane
February 27, 2018

The automobile didn’t become ubiquitous because people needed to get to lots of places. Cars wouldn’t be everywhere if not for the simple fact that we created roadway infrastructure, which made it possible for cars to pretty much get everywhere.

It’s true–Building roads as a response to traffic congestion is a relatively recent phenomenon. Our overall, century-long growth from a few cars on a few dirt roads to some 250 million cars and trucks in the U.S. today absolutely depended on the proactive creation of roadway infrastructure. Our current, expansive network of purpose-built roads (city streets, rural routes, interstates, etc.) and lane segmentation on major thoroughfares (express, high-occupancy vehicle, exits) makes it possible for those millions of vehicles to take us where we want to go.

Complex roadway systems are of course networks, and the need for enabling infrastructure to support explosive growth in auto travel applies very similarly to explosive growth in IoT data networking.

The looming IoT explosion in traffic

Consider projections for IoT-connected devices by the year 2020, which vary widely. Whether we end up hitting near the low end (Bain and Company’s 20 billion connected devices) or high end (ABI Research’s 47 billion) will depend in part on whether networks provide sufficient transport for satisfying IoT implementations.

SD-WAN is ready and capable of stepping into that role, counting among its many advantages an inherent ability to support IoT initiatives. SD-WAN’s built-in IoT support comes in the form of commodity traffic offload to inexpensive transport options, with a healthy dose of segmentation and security coming along for the ride.

Offloading IoT traffic with SD-WAN

When applied to hybrid WANs that include low-cost broadband infrastructure, SD-WAN offers a unique offloading advantage that is tailor-made for IoT. In a hybrid network, SD-WAN enables enterprises to route traffic through the best choice of WAN path based on an application’s requirements for such variables as network security and quality of service.

This in turn lets enterprises take advantage of the benefits of IoT while offloading IoT traffic – which is typically well-suited to low-cost broadband – directly to the Internet, rather than bringing it back through their more expensive private core network over symmetrical connections. Given SD-WAN’s extreme flexibility, network administrators, and the network itself, can be easily reconfigured as needed based on changing conditions, without a corresponding investment in new equipment.

Added bonus: protecting private data from IoT compromise

To further support IoT initiatives, SD-WAN’s segmentation capabilities enable the complete separation of private data from IoT traffic. This addresses one of the greatest concerns regarding IoT: The possibility of very simple devices being compromised and providing access to highly sensitive information.

In this regard, SD-WAN segmentation provides a level of protection not readily available with traditional networking approaches. As long as private data and IoT traffic are segmented properly throughout the network, private data is safeguarded, regardless of the many changes likely to be seen as the IoT applications themselves rapidly evolve and grow.

Looking further into the future the application of machine learning to behavior-based security combined with SD-WAN will further protect enterprises from the potential threats of compromised IoT devices. As the platforms become smarter they will understand the expected behaviors of the IoT devices that send traffic through the network and will be able to respond real time to mitigate anomalous activities.

Testament to the lasting power of SD-WAN

SD-WAN didn’t come about specifically because of IoT. It is the result of a growing need for lower cost networking with minimal downtime, along with detailed application visibility and simplified network  control. Because it brings with it tremendous flexibility, SD-WAN is also proving to be essential to the expected IoT explosion –as much as flexibility in roadway design proved essential to enabling the automotive age.