How Cloud-Based SD-Branch Technology Will Help Multi-Site Enterprises Streamline Networking & Reduce Costs
The popularity of legacy WAN (wide area network) systems are waning. Businesses are increasing traffic over connections, causing bandwidth issues. The amount of data transferred over WAN requires a large, expensive pipeline. WAN can be costly because of the robust equipment requirements at each remote location. Furthermore, networking personnel must be onsite for complex, time-consuming, installation and maintenance. As technology advances, WAN legacy systems are becoming outdated, and add-ons aren’t always as successful as we wish they were.
These factors are particularly challenging in an era when companies have a growing need for rapid deployments. Enter software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), a cloud-based technology that has been a boon for businesses with multiple sites or locations.
This impressive technology allows businesses to scale relatively efficiently, achieve impressive network speed and flexibility, and minimize the need for complex physical infrastructures required by traditional WAN connections. SD-WAN has an agile and flexible open-architecture infrastructure with better performance than WAN. It uses less data inherently, allows zero-touch provisioning, and provides zero trust security. However, until recently the technology lacked streamlined interfaces and automation.
SD-Branch, the next generation of SD-WAN, fills those gaps, allowing networks to be managed from a single pane of glass on a single cloud platform. The technology offers a new level of programmability for automation, which is particularly appealing to multi-site operations.
Anthony Nabower, Senior Network Engineer of Prime Communications Inc. (PCI) works closely with Aruba, an SD-branch pioneer. “Aruba’s unique product,” he says, “makes it possible to manage the entire branch network from APs, switches and SD-WAN gateways from one platform.” SD-Branch easily prioritizes and streamlines processes automatically to wrangle the ever-increasing flood of IoT devices in the edge-to-cloud environment.
This article reviews the most important features and benefits of SD-Branch as an iteration of SD-WAN and suggests next steps to implement it in your existing multi-site organization.
What is SD-branch?
Everyone loves tech progress, but it can present problems of rising costs, complicated deployment and maintenance, and added pressure on IT departments – not to mention exposing multisite businesses to new security risks.
Cloud-based services have been part of the solution and are changing the way business is done, although the sheer number of devices and increased reliance on the Internet still comes with many costs. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report of 2017, 20 billion IoT devices were expected to enter the mainstream market between then and 2023. Research giant Gartner, in its 2018 report titled “SD-WAN. CSPs Must Seize the Internet Opportunity,” said it expects that 70% of enterprises will rely on the Internet to connect branches and remote locations with each company’s headquarters.
However, Gartner’s January 2018 IT spending forecast said IT budgets were only expected to grow 3.2% in 2019 – a disconnect screaming for a solution.
SD-WAN was created to be a cost-effective, flexible-architecture solution to help enterprises manage this inevitable rise of cloud services and devices. It provides improved high-quality network connectivity and security – and easily scales to meet today’s fast-paced expansion of distributed, multisite enterprises such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, campuses and healthcare systems. SD-Branch takes SD-WAN technology to the next level, adding features and functions that improve speed and functionality while reducing complexity and costs.
The benefits of SD-Branch can be appreciated by management, IT and branch personnel:
Because SD-Branch runs on a single platform, it’s now possible for IT personnel to manage all assets (switches, wireless access points, gateways) from one centralized dashboard. The SD-Branch solution from Aruba, for example, nearly removes the necessity of dealing with varied systems in branch locations. Standardizing and streamlining maintenance functions to a single management portal results in substantial time and money savings.
Remote installation and maintenance.
Zero touch provisioning and mobile tools allow IT personnel to install and service branch technology faster and with fewer truck rolls. Identical objectives can be achieved for every far-flung location with fewer personnel at both the home office and the remote location through easy configuration and cloud services. Specialists aren’t needed nearly as often as they were with older network configurations. With SD-Branch, PCI has seen the work of 10 people being done by two, which also reduces instances of error and buck-passing when things do go wrong. A servicer such as PCI can provide subscription-based remote managed services contracts to lighten the burden of in-house IT professionals and allow them to focus on more important tasks.
Reduced costs and ROI.
Distributed enterprises using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) or ethernet connections at every one of their sites are paying as much as $500 per site per month to continue operations. These connections are expensive, especially if they are spread across great distances, because they send all traffic through HQ, even traffic destined for the Internet. SD-Branch adds an inexpensive internet circuit so traffic leaves the remote site and doesn’t go back through HQ. This in turn allows a reduction in the WAN link, which is used only to access information residing in the home office datacenter. An architectural firm that sends data-heavy blueprints, for example, could shrink the connection used for this activity to achieve significant savings. Nabower said PCI has seen clients reduce networking costs by as much as 50% with a switch to SD-Branch. “If you can save 50% on network connections, it can either provide a needed budget reduction or release funds for other important functions and expansions.”
Simplicity, efficiency and accuracy.
The simplicity of SD-Branch technology and its automated services improves on SD-WAN. When all parts of the network are accessible from a single screen, it means non-technical personnel can quickly and easily learn to use and maintain the cloud services. In addition to providing cost savings, the reduction in complexity makes it possible to quickly identify and resolve any problems. The technology more easily incorporates add-ons than was possible with legacy networks. In addition, SD-Branch makes it possible to easily address networking needs from the edge and build back to the core of the network. This stops problems at the edge and makes it easier to deploy and manage devices.
At the heart of SD-Branch efficiency is the system’s ability to automatically prioritize traffic to different links for functions such as voice, video, Office 365 and more.
Prioritization is based on sorting business-critical data from non-essential traffic such as customer use of the network. This results in faster, more secure connections for all traffic. Retail stores, for example, don’t want customers’ smartphone use of the WAN connection to cannibalize the POS transaction data stream. SD-Branch can identify this type of network activity and route it to the most efficient link.
Because the SD-Branch network is simplified and built on open architecture, it is easy to add analytics, guest login capability and other third-party pieces to enrich the enterprise’s network services. In the past, clunky legacy add-ons have been a source of pain and frustration for IT managers. SD-Branch is built to take add-ons smoothly without adding network complexity.
Your Next Steps for SD-Branch Deployment
To find a reliable, quality SD-Branch provider and integrator, begin by asking these questions:
- What certifications do your engineers have? How much of their time is allocated to product study and ongoing education?
- Do you specialize in the products you provide, or do you spread your expertise across multiple SD-Branch product lines?
- How many full deployments of SD-Branch have you completed across how many multiple locations for one client?
- Who have you done business with? Do any of your clients have a similar setup to ours?
- Can you provide a realistic cost analysis based on actual case studies?
Because SD-Branch is relatively new technology, it’s important to carefully vet programs and products. Choose integrators and providers that can prove SD-Branch agility and capability through certifications, verified case studies, and positive reviews from real clients.
“A core value at PCI,” said Nabower, “is our commitment to thoroughly studying every technology we support for our clients. We allocate many hours to education to fulfill our belief that we must do everything in our power to know the tools we provide.”
PCI engineers are required to become officially and thoroughly certified in the products they manage. The company often chooses top products and then focuses solely on them to provide true expertise to benefit clients, rather than watering down expertise with an attempt to know all systems. For SD-Branch, PCI chose to focus on products from the SD-Branch pioneer and industry leader, Aruba. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, a research tool that helps identify industry leaders, has placed Aruba in the leadership quadrant for 14 years running.
Do you believe SD-Branch could be a smart cost-saving, simplicity-generating move for your multi-site enterprise? Let PCI analyze your operation and provide a fact-based proposal to help you decide. Call sales at 402-289-4126 and ask about a demonstration specifically designed to fit your situation.