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How SD-WAN is transforming IT departments - Zscaler

17 Oct 2019
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Article by Zscaler A/NZ country manager Budd Ilic

You’ve been hearing a lot about SD-WAN technology and are wondering about its likely impact on your business.

You’re right to do so.

Just as the cloud computing revolution of the past decade has changed the way in which enterprises of all stripes think about, invest in and consume infrastructure and applications, the SD-WAN (which stands for software-defined wide area network) model promises to reshape the enterprise network.

Changes to the way Australian enterprises organise and manage their IT departments are likely to ensue – at least for those that are focused on achieving the maximum return on their investment in all things high-tech.

IT departments that don’t evolve in response to the new enterprise networking status quo are likely to find their processes out of sync with the enterprises they serve – and less efficient as a result.

SD-WAN technology explained

SD-WAN technology refers to a cloud-friendly network architecture that is agnostic in terms of the transport services it utilises.

It uses a central control function to organise network traffic across the WAN, sorting it based on pre-determined priorities, as well as service quality and security requirements.

Improved application performance is typically the result, which, in turn, leads to a better user experience, higher productivity and lower IT costs.

By contrast, traditional WANs are organised in a more distributed fashion – by routers that direct traffic according to TCP/IP addresses and access control lists.

The spread of SD-WAN down under

The SD-WAN model is rapidly finding favour with businesses and organisations across Australia.

Research carried out by Frost and Sullivan in 2018 revealed that 51% of enterprises planned to deploy the technology within two years.

Why? The main reasons were the ability to roll out new branch sites more quickly, apply more stringent cybersecurity measures, and improve networking and applications performance.

Banking and financial service institutions were expected to lead the charge; little surprise given the high priority companies in this sector place on application performance and customer experience in the digital banking era.

Organising IT teams to support a new networking norm

In a traditional IT department, building, configuring and maintaining networking infrastructure necessitates considerable time and resources.

However, the hands-on workload tends to lighten when the SD-WAN architecture is introduced.

Rather than managing infrastructure directly, the networking professional’s role can morph into that of a highly skilled facilitator who helps their employer purchase and consume externally supplied IT resources as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

In effect, it’s a switch away from managing IP addresses and ports and a shift toward the strategic oversight of user groups and applications.

In making that shift, networking professionals may be required to conduct more granular examinations of usage patterns and recommend the use of applications that do not place unacceptable strain on networking infrastructure.

Ensuring the SD-WAN model that’s put in place is scalable, trustworthy and sufficiently secure is no small responsibility.

But one of the key advantages of this technology is the increased visibility it’s able to provide.

Having a clearer view of network usage across the organisation makes it easier for networking and security experts to work together to implement protections that reflect usage patterns and vulnerabilities more closely.

Configuring the optimal IT team for changing times

Changing times call for changing skills. As cloud computing and SD-WAN continue to upend old service delivery models and processes in the IT shop, enterprises must respond quickly, reconfiguring their high-tech workforces to reflect the new status quo and allocating new roles and responsibilities.

Failure to adjust the skills mix will render organisations helpless to capitalise on the benefits these transformational technologies can deliver.