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How SD-WAN allows businesses to operate in more eco-friendly ways whilst reducing costs.

New networking technologies that can potentially improve the performance of a small business are constantly being developed. However, most businesses already have existing infrastructure in place. That means emerging technologies face¬ an uphill battle towards being adopted and have to demonstrate real value. One of these emerging technologies is software-defined networking, which is more commonly known as SD-WAN. A recent forecast from the IDC (International Data Corporation) estimates that the global SD-WAN market could see a compound annual growth rate of 69.6%, hitting over $8 billion by 2021.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a relatively new wide-area network (WAN) solution, which uses software virtualisation to provide multi-site connectivity, similar to Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) while merging multiple services into a single hardware appliance.

SD-WAN can be thought of as a ‘successor’ to virtual private networks (VPN), in that it is a software-based solution natively providing Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) standard security. However, while a standard VPN can only exist between two specified points, SD-WAN can connect any number of sites through a virtual network over the open internet.

SD-WAN includes a number of additional features, such as security, Quality of Service (QoS), local area network (LAN) and WiFi, removing the need for separate devices.

Reducing infrastructure costs

Major networking costs can accumulate from the required investment in infrastructure for solutions such as hardware appliances and specialised data connections, meaning multi-site expansion can be put out of reach for small and medium-sized businesses.

Infrastructure simplification through the use of SD-WAN is a simple way for businesses of any size to reduce their costs, especially smaller ones. This happens through two mechanisms: by reducing hardware requirements, and through working with existing infrastructure.

When setting up a new site, you need connectivity hardware. Usually, this means routing, security, WAN appliances, and other edge devices, increasing the initial investment required. In addition, space and power requirements on the site as well as ongoing maintenance mean investment costs can soar.

SD-WAN can replace the majority of network edge devices with a single appliance, combining security, routing, Ethernet, broadband, and Long-term Evolution (LTE) data streams into a single device, dramatically reducing site setup costs.

How SD-WAN can Reduce Your Networking Costs - Ethernet CablesWith other WAN solutions, expensive connectivity infrastructure can further increase the costs of deploying remote locations, often making small sites uneconomical.

SD-WAN, in contrast, can be used with any connectivity infrastructure, from business-level Ethernet connections to cellular connections for small, remote locations, allowing businesses to align infrastructure costs with the needs of each site.

Make better use of your resources

Another role that SD-WAN can play in cost reduction is through making better use of your existing resources, both human and network.

The idea of SD-WAN reducing costs in processes might seem like a long shot, but the solution includes a number of centralised management features which can play a part in reducing the IT burden on smaller sites and cutting down travel requirements.

Firstly, SD-WAN incorporates zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) features, meaning deployment can be handled with an absolute minimum of engineer involvement, cutting down on the time required and the staff level needed.

Secondly, SD-WAN’s centralised management features allow configurations and patches to be pushed from a central location, rather than needing any direct interaction. This means that a remote network engineer can roll out a service update to every site on your network in minutes instead of days, saving them having to travel to site.

Thirdly, the use of a single appliance instead of multiple devices cuts down on the degree of maintenance required and means it takes far less time to diagnose faults that may arise.

When it comes to infrastructure, many larger organisations use a multitude of WAN technologies, some more expensive than others. MPLS and point-to-point Ethernet, for instance, offer amazing connectivity between sites, but at a higher cost than MPLS.

SD-WAN applied over these links, with direct data connections present, allows the SD-WAN device to route traffic directly, meaning internet traffic uses less expensive and less business-critical data connections. This allows your business to make better use of connectivity resources instead of having to increase the capacity of more expensive connections to cope with increased internet traffic.

This routing gives SD-WAN a further advantage over traditional connectivity when it comes to reliability. With a single device controlling routing across all connections, if a single connection fails, the SD-WAN appliance will seamlessly route traffic through an alternative connection, preventing any downtime and loss or revenue.

Going green while cutting costs

Businesses are increasingly looking for more eco-friendly ways to operate and run their business infrastructure while reducing costs at the same time. SD-WAN offers that opportunity through reduced infrastructure requirements and reduced travel needs.

Fundamentally, cutting infrastructure means cutting carbon emissions as you consume less power. Software Defined WAN appliances replace a number of other network devices, resulting in a substantial reduction in direct power consumption.

How SD-WAN can Reduce Your Networking Costs - SDNThis appliance reduction comes with a knock-on effect which hits both costs and carbon: reduced cooling needs. Every device in a server room means more heat, which means more cooling is required, and there is no way to cool a server room other than a high-draw HVAC system. With SD-WAN replacing a number of appliances with a single edge device, it means noticeably lower cooling needs, reducing both your costs and emissions.

The remote management features and ease of installation offered by SD-WAN also cut down on another major source of your carbon footprint – employee travel. Between the zero-touch deployment options and the remote management, engineers will only have to travel to remote sites in extreme cases, reducing their travel-related downtime as well as their carbon footprint.

SD-WAN can also incorporate additional remote working features, making it easier than ever for your business to support flexible working, again reducing the burden on transport networks and the planet.

SD-WAN cuts the cost of growth

Fundamentally, businesses want to grow. Growth means success and more opportunities for profit. Growth across multi-site businesses is generally expensive and awkward, with infrastructure and network costs piling up quickly. SD-WAN can help reduce most of these costs.

New sites will have fewer employees initially, so a rapidly deployed LTE or broadband connection may be more suitable than a point-to-point or MPLS connection, both of which are more costly and come with a longer deployment time.

SD-WAN allows you to connect a new site regardless of the connection type used. The solution also allows you to cut down bandwidth costs by bonding or load-balancing across multiple links, whilst also giving you the control of selecting the application consuming each link. Furthermore, it enables you to cut down cloud connectivity costs by extending a private virtual connection into the cloud with network functions virtualisation (NFV).

Finally, SD-WAN also cuts down on the hardware costs of a new site, with a single device replacing many, resulting in the IT needs of the site being reduced. A single engineer is capable of deploying and connecting an SD-WAN appliance quickly, and the majority of management and maintenance tasks can be taken care of remotely.

SD-WAN, therefore, offers cost-saving benefits to businesses of all sizes. It gives small businesses WAN connectivity at lower costs to support their growth while giving larger businesses ways to make better use of their resources and opportunities to reduce their IT overhead.