The days when branch offices had to rely on fixed MPLS connections to backhaul all data, workflows, and internet traffic back to a core-network are fortunately over. To compete in the digital economy of today, branch offices have to become integral parts of a network, instead of trying to function with add-on attachments to some type of dangling WAN connection.
Instead, today organizations now need next-gen offices which are able to make use of global-collaboration applications, and cloud-based resources, like video conferencing and VoIP, which necessitate a highly scalable bandwidth. Traditionally, this used to be offered with MPLS, yet the cloud-based resources, data, and networks of today are continually relocating and shifting, which have gone onto render the traditional rigid connections obsolete.
As data centres become more distributed and virtualized, resources and workers have become a lot more mobile, while edge computing has managed to redistribute resources further. The strategy that once involved using one core network which operates as the hub for various branch-office spokes is starting to collapse. It will be replaced by meshed networks which combine together the network-edge environments. These include cloud applications and platforms, smart devices and mobile users, edge computing and 5G, smart devices, and mobile users, along with the latest WAN edge.
For the SD-Branch to arrive at its full potential, it only requires real-time access to resources and data, wherever it may be located. It will also be required to use critical business applications which not only rely on high-performance and reliable bandwidth but can also be interconnected seamlessly to other users and offices, along with the mobile workers.
SD-Wan uses a public Internet which securely interconnects the branch offices using distributed resources and at the same time ensures high-performance when it comes to business-critical and latency-sensitive applications. However, SD-WAN is a lot more than only a connectivity replacement.
SD-WAN is also required to interconnect seamlessly with the local functions of the branch. The SD-Branch blends virtualization and software-defined networking with internet access that is local along with cloud resources, and LAN/Wi-Fi functions, dedicated to the local devices. This enables digital transformation to the WAN edge.
An effective SD-WAN solution supports all these capabilities using reliable and flexible connectivity, an extension of routing functionality that is advanced, along with load-balancing throughout the meshed VPN overlay of the organization. It also provides a comprehensive suite of security that is integrated, which can secure transactions and data end-to-end.
As potential attack-surfaces continue to increase, opportunities for data loss, compromised information, and breach are associated with each new application, connection, and device. This is the reason why SD-WAN experts along with the industry analysts keep on emphasizing that optimal enterprise SD-WAN solutions have to support WAN performance requirements and address any security priorities. However, one of the ongoing critical SD-WAN challenges has to do with the failure of many solutions available on the markets to establish consistent and effective security strategies, which can adapt and span dynamically to urgent demands associated with digital transformation.
This has left many organizations trying to build Ad Hoc security solutions with the use of Legacy security tools that they have implemented already. Yet the increasing performance demands linked to the digital networks of today, which is compounded by a nature that is distributed of the network resources, continue to undermine effectiveness linked to the traditional-based cybersecurity tools. The security tools that are struggling to stay ahead with the increasing bandwidth and speed requirements will probably not be able to offer the protection levels that the digital networks need without turning into a serious type of bottleneck.
The challenge comes in because SD-WAN has become such a highly popular market, causing a significant percentage of vendors to jump into this market. And like the previous markets, most solutions have failed to offer a complete solution.
The organizations that are interested in adopting the SD-WAN solution as their part of a digital-transformation strategy have to think about 4 critical elements in regards to evaluating the right solution:
1. Support For The Business Critical Applications
The most important function offered by SD-WAN has to do with its breadth of connectivity solutions. SD-WAN has to dynamically support and recognize map-business functions, and business applications to WAN resources, followed by choosing the WAN connections that are highly efficient to route these applications, and at the same time supply adequate bandwidth and performance. This also includes prioritizing the applications according to the criticality of the business, which includes abilities to implement separate policies when it comes to sub-applications.
2. Dynamically Adaptable Policies
Any of the SD-WAN solutions that are considered should also have the ability to modify WAN policies according to things such as performance requirements and application criticality, which includes security policies which adapt automatically as the resources and network configurations change. Automated-multipath intelligence is, therefore, a type of critical service when it comes to any of the SD-Wan solutions to offer for both security and business applications. This enables a way to track the granular WAN path information, which includes packet loss, jitter, and latency. If the WAN path happens to degrade under the policy-based thresholds, it needs to have the ability to seamlessly and automatically convert to the next available link without interfering with application performance.
3. Fully-Integrated Security
Since SD-WAN dynamically adjusts the connections in order to ensure consistent performance, applying protection that uses a traditional static security tool, particularly when it is deployed as one of the overlay solutions, is usually problematic. SD-WAN requires not only traditional threat-protection that includes anti-virus and anti-malware, NGFW, and IPS (intrusion prevention). It will also require IPSec VPN overlay controls, high-performance SSL, a thorough inspection of the encrypted traffic, web filtering, along with ATP (advanced threat protection), like sandboxing. In addition to this, the security tools should have the ability to be fully and seamlessly integrate into the remainder of a distributed network, from the edge-to-cloud.
4. Centralized Management
Perhaps the most frequently overlooked requirement when it comes to SD-Wan is that you cannot separate it from the remainder of a network. To achieve the full potential of authentic digital transformation, the latest network edges have to operate as an integrated and single system. This includes the establishment of a control strategy and centralized visibility which can span across a distributed network.
Organizations are no longer able to risk their networks functioning as collections of segments that are isolated; this means that all security and networking functions must exist together on one pane-of-glass management solution. By choosing an SD-WAN solution which is supportive of centralized management, and configuration, along with monitoring the tools for both security solutions and WAN increases management effectiveness and efficiency. At the same time, it drastically lowers the cost of management and deployment. This management strategy will then need to advance to the remainder of a distributed network.
The Key Takeaways
Digital transformation for any business has to take place without disproportionate expansions of the attack surface of global cybersecurity. This can only become possible when we start to view the security systems and network as a holistic, single solution.
SD-WAN solutions for expanding of WAN edge, such as solutions that are applied to other types of emerging network-edge environments, have to provide high-performance functionality and broad flexibility and services, while at the same time operating as one collective whole. As the organizations start working towards deploying comprehensive digital transformation, correlating security and network intelligence has to be the top priority. This has to do with the cybercriminals that are as eagerly motivated to abuse these types of network environments as the organizations that are in the process of building them up.