This velocity of cloud uptake isn’t just transforming the way we do business – it’s also changing the way networks need to be designed. Gone are the days of massive centralised servers distributing content in a hierarchical, hub-and-spoke model.
Mark Chapman, Executive for Data and IP for Global Connectivity Networks at Telstra, says this has created challenges for businesses and network operators alike.
“In the old days, let's say that you're a bank and you had a branch network,” Chapman says, “most of the data had to go between your branches and your central data centre. Which network topologies like MPLS and IP VPN served really well.”
“Now, you're paying for capacity in both directions. If you actually get smart about it, you can direct that traffic directly from the branch to the internet to the cloud and bypass that leg to your central office.”
He says technologies like SD-WAN, hybrid and programmable networks are more critical to keeping your network agile and efficient – although he’s keen to note that this introduces new security requirements that need to be addressed.
“While SD-WAN provides that flexibility, you're basically creating a whole heap of attack points from a security perspective. So you’ve got to consider how to implement security that functions in a distributed network architecture, rather than protecting a centralised network.”
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Customer experience in the cloud
“Businesses are increasingly recognising, that sending traffic from the branch back to the central data centre and back out to the internet,” he says, “is wasting bandwidth, wasting time and probably delivering a substandard customer experience.”
Particularly as core business functions are moved into cloud SaaS services, including HR systems, CRM, data and analytics, messaging and collaboration, document storage and more, seemingly small network inefficiencies can have substantial effects on core productivity.
To provide good customer experience, branches are increasingly relying on high-bandwidth cloud services as well, such as streaming video which benefits dramatically from direct branch-to-cloud access. This also benefits applications which rely on a low-latency, such as SaaS-based point of sales systems.
To meet these growing requirements, many businesses approaching their networks by first considering their customer experience and application needs and then designing a network which can best service those goals. For many businesses, this is a complete overhaul of their existing infrastructure.
Fast and flexible on SD-WAN
“The advantage of SD-WAN is that you’re basically taking the old architecture, which was havingeverything centralised, and distributing it out to each of your branches,” says Chapman. “That adds a whole heap of flexibility.”
In addition to the other benefits for distributed businesses, such as the plug-and-play or centrally defined network configuration which allows for the rapid deployment of new branches and faster changes to the network, SD-WAN offers unique benefits for businesses embracing the cloud.
Traffic can intelligently be routed from each site into direct connections to public cloud providers, or simply via a more intelligent path through the network, reducing latency and make more efficient use of potentially redundant bandwidth.
“SD-WAN becomes a very good answer, I think, thanks to its flexibility, distributed nature and resiliency, for improving customer experience,” says Chapman.
Staying secure with hybrid networking
Another key concern for businesses moving into the cloud is security – specifically, that traditional perimeter approaches to security become a lot less relevant when working with highly distributed connections, content providers and services, alongside a massive increase in the number of devices attached to most networks.
This wider attack surface provides more opportunities for malicious actors to enter your corporate network, and a greater latitude of movement within it.
By provisioning virtualised security with SD-WAN, businesses can manage the risk posed by new connections at the periphery of their network, without the need to invest substantial time and resources into delivering a solution for each individual branch.
Chapman says that Telstra’s customers are integrating these solutions into hybrid networks, which leverage the advantages SD-WAN around the network’s periphery, while retaining traditional connections where they’re better suited.
“I think only Telstra can bring all of those things together in a single package for our customer to consume, giving them the flexibility that they need.”