Blog · 02 Aug 2018

Simplicity in a complex world

How can global organisations embrace the benefits of SD-WAN without adding complexity?

The perimeter of your network is becoming blurred.

You have people (and things) connecting from wherever and whenever they want, all meeting in your network. You need fast, secure and reliable network access on a global scale, and you need it to be as cost efficient as possible. And you need to offer a first class user experience, despite operating in a complex world.

Many of our customers are turning to SD-WAN to help. From the initial hype of ‘this is the solution that will fix everything’, the benefits of SD-WAN are becoming clear– improved visibility, operational savings and agility. All key to delivering that first class experience. 

The story so far

To date, customer success stories of SD-WAN deployment have been based on relatively simple use cases. For example, cloud-centric organisations using internet only networks and greenfield sites where there are no issues with legacy infrastructure. 

But of course, life isn’t always as simple as that. Sometimes you have multiple issues to solve and a complex estate. So how can multinational organisations embrace the benefits of SD-WAN without adding complexity?

Right technology, right place

Getting SD-WAN right in a complex environment is about using the right technology in the right place. Picking a use case for SD-WAN that ensures you get the maximum benefits, thinking of your business not the technology.

And to know that, you often have to understand what matters most to you. 

For example, one of our oil and gas customers has significant core network demands but also an extensive branch network. What’s important to them is the crown jewels, protecting the IP on their core network – so they chose the internet and an SD-WAN solution for the branches and used private network services for their core network.

Another oil and gas customer was moving their workload from their own datacentres to the cloud, and starting to use Office 365. They wanted a network which would support them on their journey as well as giving them more advanced analytics and routing, which SD-WAN could offer. 

In a retail banking situation, the SD-WAN branch solution becomes even clearer. You need secure access, physical connectivity for point of sale and banking services, printer services, the list goes on. You also need wireless connectivity for agile staff and, most importantly, guest Wi-Fi as banks look to self-service and mobile apps. 

So how do you pick the right SD-WAN solution for your use case?

Time to clean house

It might sound naïve, but if I were a CIO, I’d take the time to sit back and really look at the enterprise services you offer on your network. Most networks have been built up over the last 15 years and have features and functions that are no longer needed everywhere. Don’t over-engineer your network to retain those features and functions which you then have to live with for the next 15 years. To get the best out this SD-WAN technology, look at what you actually need for your legacy applications and for the future. 

For example, networks are often built to support the lowest common denominator, the hardest thing to support. In many cases, that was voice. In today’s world where you can make a call using services like Webex and Skype, and with the prevalence of mobile phones, do we still need to design our networks with voice in mind? Of course, if you’re supporting emergency services numbers you might, but perhaps less so if I’m in a branch which only makes a few outgoing calls. Think about what matters most to you. Take the chance to ‘clean house’ a little bit.

Then I’d make a decision about whether to go ahead with Cisco SD-WAN in the complex environment, Meraki SD-WAN in the branch or to segment my use cases into gold, silver and bronze according to the network requirements, as we’ve seen customers do.

Pilot sites or proof of concepts allow you to test in the live situation, see what works for you and what doesn’t, and optimise the deployment of SD-WAN before extending it. 

Look to your partner

When something is being hyped in the market, it’s tempting to jump in and embrace it. But that can cause complexity and result in you not getting the benefits your business wants.  

In this world, your service provider is your partner, your friend. They can offer additional capabilities such as service, security, underlay and testing and guide you through the complexity, using their experience of previous deployments to guide you in the right direction. 

For example, BT now has a 100 point checklist they’ve developed from deploying SD-WANs with Cisco, expertise that’s unparalleled thanks to a dedicated centre of excellence to help customers design, deliver and evolve their SD-WAN. 

BT and Cisco are working together to help you increase your agility while reducing your complexity.

To find out how to create an SD-WAN strategy that delivers on its promise, watch the replay of our recent webinar. 

Find out more about BT and Cisco and how we can help you manage and consolidate multiple networks