SD-WAN can be a highly versatile tool, especially as digital innovation expands the organization’s extended network. Connecting branch offices to the cloud or data center is only one possible SD-WAN scenario. It can also be used to support other uses cases, such as creating high-speed, on-demand connections between clouds and the data center. And with the addition of tools like ZTNA, it can also be used to connect remote workers to cloud and campus resources, enabling organizations to securely expand their network while maintaining reliable and secure connections.
The challenge is that very few SD-WAN solutions are designed to effectively address all the use cases it needs to support. Many have limitations on how and where they can be deployed, such as a lack of form factor diversity and the inability to run natively in multiple cloud environments. Others do not have the capacity to run in smaller branch offices and today’s hyperscale data centers to create true end-to-end connectivity. And fewer still can do so while securing the connections, data, and applications being delivered.
One of the biggest issues organizations face is that they often select an SD-WAN tool to address a simple issue, like creating more flexible WAN connections to their branch office. But when they decide to apply that same functionality to other parts of the network, such as connecting cloud networks to the data center, they find their SD-WAN solution can’t scale. As a result, they end up with additional vendor and solution sprawl, adding to the complexity and overhead required to manage their WAN infrastructure.
It is always easier to scale and innovate when IT teams select the right SD-WAN tool from the start. But to do that, they need to know what they are looking for and see beyond the short-term problem they are trying to address. To help those organizations choose a Secure SD-WAN solution able to grow and scale with their business needs, regardless of how or where it is deployed, we have created a list of nine essential elements every SD-WAN buyer needs to consider when selecting a future-proof solution able to grow as their business evolves:
1. One solution everywhere. Naturally, an SD-WAN solution needs to support a variety of WAN environments. But an SD-WAN vendor needs to do more than simply enable all WAN uses cases. They need to provide tools that can be seamlessly integrated into a unified WAN edge. Ideally, any device, regardless of its form factor, should be powered and secured by a single OS. This ensures that policies and configurations can be centrally deployed and orchestrated. And it enables a unified management system that can extend visibility across the distributed network through a single console.
2. Built-in security. One of the biggest challenges of today’s SD-WAN deployments is that security needs to be added as an overlay, adding upfront complexity and ongoing management issues that can quickly erode the value of an SD-WAN solution. The idea SD-WAN solution integrates a full suite of enterprise-grade security tools with advanced networking functions to ensure and maintain its overall security posture, delivering consistent protection without impacting user experience.
3. Consistent application acceleration. An effective SD-WAN solution needs to deliver superior user experience and advanced connectivity between environments at any edge. Accurate application identification and steering need to happen seamlessly regardless of where an SD-WAN solution is deployed, including support for managing and securing encrypted traffic while providing advanced networking functions like dynamic link remediation.
4. Secure work-from-anywhere (WFA). With today’s hybrid workforce working from virtually any location, SD-WAN needs to do more than support remote offices. An embedded ZTNA Access Proxy allows remote workers to create a secure, remote connection to an SD-WAN device. Explicit per-user application access controls from ZTNA, combined with advanced application management tools from SD-WAN, allow organizations to extend an optimal user experience to every remote worker.
5. Scalability. An effective SD-WAN solution needs to combine dynamic scalability with enterprise-grade security to meet the fluctuating demands of today’s cloud-first, security-sensitive, global organizations. As organizations grow and users become more dispersed, SD-WAN needs to scale up and out. A practical solution must support offices and users in remote locations with limited connectivity options and highly dynamic workforce environments where high-volume scalability requirements can constantly change.
6. Automation everywhere. Cloud-on-ramp support needs to simplify, automate, and secures SD-WAN deployments in even the most complex environments, including to, across, and between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments.
7. Zero-touch roll-out. No one should have to roll out IT staff to deploy an SD-WAN solution. To achieve operational efficiencies at any scale, any viable SD-WAN solution must allow IT to build secure WAN networks quickly and efficiently. An effective SD-WAN solution shouldn’t need anything more than to be plugged into the local network. It should then be able to phone home, register with the network, pick up and implement configurations, and begin delivering secure connectivity services with little to no help from IT services.
8. Simplified and scalable management. Once a solution is deployed, it needs to also simplify ongoing management. According to IDC, 70% of remote workers report performance issues daily or multiple times a week. Any viable SD-WAN candidate needs to enable “Day 2+” operations with a unified and consistent view of analytics and reporting. This requires a single-pane-of-glass system for simplified management and troubleshooting that can be easily integrated into NOC and SOC operations as part of a larger network management strategy.
9. Future-proofing the network. Perhaps the most important takeaway from the events of the past few years is that networks will continue to evolve at an exponential rate. Any SD-WAN solution needs to be designed to adapt to new environments and business requirements, such as the emergence of the intelligent edge, the implementation of 5G and beyond, the adoption of SASE solutions, extending security into branch and home offices, and the adoption and deployment of increasingly intelligent devices. An SD-WAN solution needs to be built on an open platform that can serve as a foundation for future-proofing the network, allowing organizations to continue to leverage their existing interconnectivity and security investments as their needs continue to evolve.
Take a security-driven networking approach to improve user experience and simplify operations at the WAN edge with Fortinet Secure SD-WAN.