The business benefits of SD-WAN for the future of work

As we consider a return to the office, we should also consider revisiting our network architectures. The future of hybrid work requires stepping up application performance and multi-cloud connectivity — and SD-WAN could play a key role.

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SD-WAN and the future of work

If you haven’t already considered SD-WAN, now might be a good time as we consider a return to the office.

While there’s much talk about the future of work and the emergence of hybrid workforces, the office isn’t going to disappear — but it might look a little different. And we’ll need to update those physical spaces to accommodate a return to the office, whatever that might look like.

What’s also changing, however, is the way we work. As businesses move toward software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) — a transition that only accelerated during the pandemic — traditional WANs are no longer going to cut it. A digital business needs a better way to boost application performance and multi-cloud connectivity for the future of work.

Pandemic accelerates SD-WAN adoption

Software-defined WANs allow organizations to use a combination of MPLS, LTE and broadband to provide a highly available and secure connection for their users, wherever they happen to be.

And IT pros can easily scale capacity as needed and manage multiple sites, while improving performance, boosting security and potentially lowering costs. We knew this, though, before the pandemic. So why is SD-WAN such a hot topic right now?

“The WAN architecture used by most companies has not evolved for the better part of 30 years,” says Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, in an article for eWeek. “The shift in application traffic from being primarily on premises-based to cloud has been one of the primary drivers of change.”

SD-WAN and the future of work

Even prior to the pandemic, there was growing interest in SD-WAN for its flexibility, scalability, security and potential cost savings. But thanks to COVID, there’s a surge in interest. A recent ZK Research “Work From Anywhere Study” found that:

  • 46% of respondents say the pandemic has accelerated their SD-WAN deployment timeline
  • 58% of respondents want to use SD-WAN to make the shift to work from home easier

An IDC study released in November 2020 — during the height of the second wave of the pandemic — also points to growing interest in SD-WANs, now and in a post-pandemic world.

“COVID-19 has caused enterprises around the globe to reassess their distributed network architectures, with a specific focus on enabling efficient connectivity between remote workers and cloud-based applications,” says Brandon Butler, senior research analyst of network infrastructure with IDC, in the report.

“SD-WAN technology helps enable next-generation edge networking architectures for enterprises, particularly the ability to dynamically manage multiple WAN connection types via a centralized policy controller.” He also points to the integration of security functionality native to SD-WAN platforms as a key driver for investment (especially by large, distributed enterprises).

The future of hybrid work

The future of hybrid work will require a revisiting of network architectures, according to Irwin Lazar, president and principal analyst at Metrigy, in an article for No Jitter. He says WAN strategies need to evolve to support reliable performance for videoconferencing as employees return to the office.

“Remote sites with insufficient bandwidth for video will negatively impact productivity and potentially customer service,” says Lazar. “Evaluate SD-WAN, 5G, and other emerging access technologies to ensure that all sites are capable of supporting high-quality video for however many employees are anticipated to be on site at any given time.”

And if the C-suite is unsure about pumping more money into infrastructure, consider that Metrigy’s “Workplace Collaboration: 2021-22” global research study published in January 2020 found that investing in remote, LAN and WAN services (including SD-WAN) resulted in above-average ROI or productivity gains associated with app deployments.

Read more:

Transforming the network: SD-WAN and SASE
Why SD-WAN could be the antidote for WFH woes
Shifting gears: Enterprise IT priorities during COVID

Finding the right SD-WAN fit

This, of course, isn’t just your run-of-the-mill network upgrade. And there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. SD-WAN should be part of a more transformative approach to your infrastructure.

You’ll need to take an in-depth look into the organization’s traffic patterns, such as cloud traffic, mobile traffic and branch-to-branch traffic. Consider your needs for the future of work, such as videoconferencing. UC&C solutions are here to stay in a post-pandemic world, so how will that affect your existing infrastructure?

Asking the right questions, and working with a trusted partner, can help you build the right architecture for the future of work — but keep in mind that this, too, will evolve over time.

Images: martin-dm/iStock; lvcandy/iStock

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