The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I am an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. I don’t understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud.” It’s quite incredible to think that these words were uttered by Oracle’s Larry Ellison just nine years ago, as the cloud computing hype was starting to gather pace in the technology industry. When it comes to enterprise networking, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is one technology that has many CIOs on the fence at the moment. Yet, it is expected to reach the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ in only a few years—which means that forward looking enterprises should start planning their move to this emerging technology now to make sure they won’t be playing catch-up with their more agile competitors later.
As enterprise bandwidth demands continue to grow, it is becoming prohibitively expensive for the CIO to continue adding more and more dedicated network capacity for their private WAN. More and more CIOs are realising the benefits of hybrid enterprise networks, which combine the scalability of the public internet with the reliability and security of a private WAN. These hybrid networks and SD-WAN are a perfect match. One of the benefits of SD-WAN is that it enables users to do more with existing bandwidth by giving the CIO control over how traffic routed–over the internet or the private network–and how bandwidth is allocated for different applications. This ensures that cloud-based unified communication and collaboration applications, for example, deliver a seamless experience both over low-bandwidth instant messaging and data-hungry video.
Adopting an untried technology takes guts. It can be risky and some CIOs and organisations are more risk-averse than others. Having said that, I actually wouldn’t advise any enterprise with thousands of employees to deploy SD-WAN immediately across all geographies. The best, least daunting and least risky approach is to start with a small implementation first. And, of course, the CIO should ask their SD-WAN supplier for case studies and customer references to get insights into how the specific solution has performed in the real world to-date, and help avoid potential pitfalls with the deployment.
The benefits that SD-WAN can bring to hybrid enterprise networks should far outweigh any uncertainty that CIOs might feel. It gives the CIO unprecedented freedom to deploy new applications across the enterprise, and complete visibility and control over each application. As the break-neck speed of technology innovation continues and as SD-WAN moves towards the Plateau of Productivity, even risk-averse enterprises should recognise the business and technology benefits it brings and take the leap before their competitors beat them to it.
The writer is chief revenue officer, Tata Communications