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The benefits of adapting to SD-WAN

September 12, 2019

Sai Pitta   

Global Head, Cognitive Enterprise Networks at Tata Consultancy Services

In this guest blog post, Sai Pitta from Tata Consultancy Services discusses the key decisions that businesses need to make when switching to an SD-WAN. The smooth running of your organisation is at stake after all.

If you’ve only got a pond in your garden, you cannot sail a yacht in it. The same logic applies, when you’re try to run the latest bandwidth-hungry applications on legacy network infrastructure.

“Business leaders are increasingly adopting a new approach to operations and service differentiation through the strategic use of technology.” 

Known as Business 4.0™, this transformation involves innovations in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, analytics and the IoT, with enterprise networks playing a pivotal role in making this transformation journey a success.

Traditional networks are not optimized for the cloud. Organisations looking to take advantage of these Business 4.0-enabling technologies first need to prioritise a holistic network and WAN transformation to support a secure, hybrid environment that can cope with the rising demands placed on them.

What does SD-WAN adoption bring to the table? 

At Tata Consultancy Services, we’ve enabled countless customers to build more dynamic, adaptable and cognitive networks with next-generation technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and virtual network services (VNS). But there’s still some resistance out there to such significant change, particularly when it comes to software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN).

SD-WAN networks offer a number of benefits but the three that stand out for me are: total cost of ownership, agility and efficiency. Before you take the plunge, though, there are several things that must be taken into account.

  • Cost of ownership: Firstly, consider whether your enterprise is displaying sufficient growth to see a return on your investment. In my experience it can take two or three years before businesses realise the financial benefits of the change, but we often see TCO being reduced by between 25 and 40 per cent.
  • Agility: If your business is growing, though, the agility of SD-WAN can be a real benefit. Expanding to new sites would previously have taken between six and eight weeks, but we’ve seen that cut to under a week with SD-WAN – sometimes even as little as two or three days.
  • Efficiency: Once in place, an SD-WAN can have a transformative effect on both network and operational efficiency for the enterprise. It’s particularly suited to cloud-driven traffic patterns, with features such as automation, self-provisioning, customised reporting and rich data analytics helping to make the most of the existing IT infrastructure.


Transformation approaches and considerations

SD-WAN implementation isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, though – it’s important to take your existing infrastructure into account. I encountered one organization that had chosen a particular technology that wasn’t suited to its current setup, and even after running a pilot scheme for 14 months, multiple hurdles were encountered in the first three or four sites alone. Subsequently, technology selection is being revisited.

“When enterprises move their workloads from the data centre to the cloud, it is prudent to redesign their links for greater affinity with the cloud. Without this, application performance can be negatively affected, which can impact the user experience and potentially cause the business to lose faith in the technology.”

One of the choices you’ll have to make is between a fully managed and a do-it-yourself SD-WAN. The former involves a third-party being responsible for the management of the service post-implementation, with a choice between a bundled network underlay or bringing your own network (BYON), while the latter involves the customer managing the entire solution independently.

A major consideration when deciding which approach to take should be aligned to the structure of your business. Companies that operate globally, with offices or branches scattered across multiple countries or continents around the planet, often have to rely on different service providers depending on which territory they’re in, therefore establishing multiple regional telco hubs. Irrespective of your final choice, some global network service providers are increasingly providing flexible, agile solutions that will enable you to make the most of your network infrastructure.

This choice also has implications for the security of your SD-WAN. Banks and financial institutions, for instance, do not want their transactions and associated traffic to be on a shared platform. For others, allowing traffic to go from the branch to the cloud means security considerations need to increase.

Traditionally, data centre traffic would go through a firewall, ensuring all the unified threat management is handled, but as the number of exit points increase, you need to improve intrusion protection and detection accordingly. Some SD-WAN solutions have integrated next-generation firewalls but if not, an organisation must address that at all points with complementary technology.

“Frequent patching and updating is essential, but with so many more potential points of vulnerability, you need to find a way to automate the process. If you only apply them to some sites and not others, it leaves your organisation open to attack.”

Some enterprises find these considerations off-putting, but the positives of implementing an SD-WAN far outweigh any perceived obstacles or drawbacks – and there’s never been a better time to do it. With cloud spends surpassing traditional IT spends in Q3 2018, the number of organisations using SD-WAN is expected to rise by 30 per cent by the end of 2019.

The benefit of an integrated solution

The partnership between TCS and Tata Communications delivers an end-to-end play for enterprises, combining our IT services and infrastructure capabilities to enable organisations to build a dynamic, business-responsive network.

Take the example of a deep-water drilling contractor in Europe, who wanted to consolidate their application and network providers to ensure that connectivity at their remote rigs remained stable. As an integrated operation, our One Tata approach resulted in an effective hybrid WAN solution, with SD-WAN-enabled singular accountability, and readiness in future for collaboration, security tools and applications.

Many of our customers have cited the network reach, IT expertise, consultative approach, reduced total cost of ownership, agility and synergy between TCS and Tata Communications as being instrumental in informing their decision – will your business be the next to benefit?


Read  Song Toh’s recent blog post about SD-WAN and network transformation.