The Growing Importance of SD‑WAN to Manufacturing

by JP González
December 04, 2018

Large-scale manufacturers have long been pioneers in wide area networking. Their unique needs for real-time information sharing across multiple operating functions, manufacturing locations, partners, and suppliers, helped to drive MPLS adoption nationwide as it became the mainstay of mission-critical WAN implementations.

Today, the manufacturing industry is again at the forefront of advanced WAN connectivity with software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). Its superior performance, reliability, security and scalability better meets current manufacturing needs while setting a streamlined path to emerging technologies.

Manufacturing facility using SD-WAN connected network

The SD-WAN manufacturing advantage

Consider SD-WAN’s advantages for manufacturers in three essential categories:

  • IoT connectivity. While Internet-connected sensors and smart devices are now commonplace in manufacturing facilities, we’re still in the relatively early stages of industrial IoT. Competitive manufacturing in the future will revolve around complete smart-factory design – which means a steady stream of more and more IoT connections.

    In addition to scaling readily to accommodate IoT growth, SD-WAN provides exceptional network visibility for managing IoT endpoints and prioritizing traffic. Tomorrow’s smart factories will depend on smarter network management.

  • Cloud computing. Manufacturers have been rapidly moving to the cloud; recent studies indicate that as many as 90% of them currently use cloud‑based productivity applications. With specialized applications ranging from CADD to manufacturing resource planning, bills of materials and a range of back office applications, manufacturers rely on the cloud to be productive.

    The benefits of cloud computing in productivity apps extend nearly universally to manufacturing software. As the trend away from on‑premises hosting continues, SD-WAN will become increasingly critical in optimizing cloud-service connectivity.

  • Security. Efficient, large-scale manufacturing requires data sharing among a large number of locations, including partner and supplier facilities not under direct manufacturer control, which has always posed serious security concerns. Manufacturers are vulnerable not only to direct cyberattacks, but also to attacks that enter their networks through the networks of partners and suppliers–exposing trade secrets and intellectual property to industrial espionage.

    The right SD-WAN solution can offer exceptional security. This includes a superior ability to create customized firewall policies to rate, limit, or block unauthorized applications, and to automatically set up tunnels with end‑to‑end encryption for secure connectivity throughout an entire SD‑WAN.

Getting the “right” SD-WAN

SD-WAN is a broad solution category, and an upfront assessment of needs matched to options will pay dividends down the road. It’s also important to note that SD-WAN isn’t an all-or nothing proposition – it can often deliver its benefits alongside existing infrastructure in a hybrid network as determined by cost/benefits analysis.

Final note: For help getting SD-WAN right in your own terms, consider an SD-WAN partner with experience not only in matching solution to needs, but also in providing ongoing network management. SD-WAN designs created with an eye on management realities can deliver the highest degree of adopter satisfaction.