Real Australian Use Cases for SD-WAN
Even if you’re well-versed on the proposition of SD-WAN, I often think it’s not until actual early use cases for a technology emerge that it becomes clear whether or not the tech might be applicable to your own business context.
For that reason, I’ve been working closely with early adopters like fashion and homeware retailer Blue Illusion in Australia, both to track their progress and understand the nuance of their application of the technology.
Retail in general has a strong business case for SD-WAN. But I’m also finding the same can be said for sectors as diverse as finance and construction.
The common denominator among early adopters is a heavy reliance on “branch” networks – whether those branches be shops, remote sites, banks or even display homes.
Networking branches back to head office has traditionally been a challenging process. It can take weeks to have new fixed links provisioned, and that simply isn’t plausible for many fast-moving industries.
In retail, for example, there’s a trend to deploy pop-up stores for limited periods of time. Taking advantage of this selling model means being able to put up and tear down systems and networks quickly.
The new home construction industry faces similar challenges.
To get people interested in their products, they build display homes that exist for very short periods before being sold off. But in the time they exist, they need connectivity and good links back to the construction company’s headquarters to support sales and communications with prospective buyers.
Pop-up stores and display homes can benefit from a set-up consisting of 4G LTE connectivity at each ‘branch’, and an SD-WAN overlay to centrally manage and enforce corporate policies over those links.
Set up at the ‘branch’ is as simple as shipping out an appliance and having someone plug it in and switch it on. From there our zero touch provisioning (ZTP) kicks in, setting up the network automatically. The same system allows fast and easy decommissioning once the network is no longer required.
The advantage of 4G LTE is that it provides an immediately available network path. However, as mobile services can vary in quality and signal strength, an externally-mounted antenna may be required to maximise speed and performance.
It’s not just about setup speed.
The retail and construction industries are also big adopters of Software as a Service, such as Office 365, and this affects how they think about network traffic.
Whereas in a traditional corporate HQ-branch model, all traffic would travel across a private network back to a central internet breakout point at HQ, this might not be the most efficient way for a branch to move data to and from their SaaS platform. It would improve performance if the branch could send data to and from the hosted software directly, not via another location first.
Overlaying the 4G connection with an SD-WAN means HQ can sanction the branch – the pop-up store or display home in this example – to send and receive data directly from SaaS applications it uses.
The ability to offer localised internet breakout for specific applications is an important consideration with designing an SD-WAN enabled network, as is the ability to extend your SD-WAN fabric everywhere you host your business critical systems.
SD-WAN allows you to treat everything as one network and see it all in one place. An experienced provider can help you optimise the full branch set-up.
Of course, this is not just for pop-up stores and display homes.
We will see even more use cases like this pop up over the course of this year.
It’s not a question of whether the SD-WAN technology is mature enough for enterprise deployment, but rather when enterprise is going to green light their SD-WAN projects.
In time we’ll see adoption of SD-WAN mirror the kind of growth trajectory we saw with cloud. Seven years ago there was a lot of talk about cloud, its benefits and opportunities before early adopters jumped in, realised efficiencies and encouraged a broader wave of adoption.
SD-WAN will be much the same. Once enterprises see it in action, I have no doubt they’ll want it, and it’ll become just another given in the world of IT.