If you’re already making use of the cloud or planning to migrate applications and services to the cloud, you rely on fast, secure, resilient connections. But, if network performance doesn’t meet those requirements, you risk damaging levels of customer and user satisfaction.

Demands on cloud connectivity have increased as more services move to the cloud. Bandwidth-intensive applications like high-definition video and video conferencing add further pressure. And, with more businesses relying on broadband as a lower-cost alternative to technologies like MPLS, networks linking data centers with the cloud must match the security and reliability of traditional technologies.

The cloud is a key element in digital transformation and that means the network must offer high levels of agility. Implementing manual changes to meet different network demands acts as a barrier to agility.

Is the Network the Weakest Link?

These factors point to traditional networking technologies as a weak link in the drive for cloud migration and digital transformation.

In a study on data center hyper-converged integrated systems (HCIS), research firm Gartner suggests that many organizations fail to take networking issues into consideration, treating networks as ‘fat dumb pipes.’ That can lead to network-related performance problems. However, the firm believes that, by 2018, a high proportion of HCIS providers will offer integration of network services as part of their solution.

Networks Must Keep Pace with the Cloud

On that point, ZK Research believes that, traditionally, the network has not been seen as a strategic IT asset. But, the demands of cloud and digital transformation put the network center stage and traditional networking approaches must change.

It’s not just downtime that’s a problem; making network changes using manual techniques can take months and requires skilled technicians. The network must be capable of handling mixed traffic efficiently and providing the right level of Quality of Service and traffic prioritization to different workloads. Traditional systems also make inefficient use of available bandwidth, using secondary circuits as back-up tools, rather than an integral network element.

Moving to SD-WAN Technology

To deal with these challenges and maximize the benefit from cloud migration, many organizations are turning to SD-WAN technology.

While the Internet has been used as the primary connection to cloud services, performance is inconsistent. Deploying private connections such as MPLS is expensive. An SD-WAN can provide secure, direct Internet connectivity to the cloud and ensures that mobile and remote users can access cloud applications quickly.

SD-WAN technology also handles mixed cloud traffic efficiently. Traffic is routed intelligently according to business rules that enable network controllers to prioritize traffic such as video, voice, multimedia applications and mission-critical applications and services. Traffic takes the fastest available path and can be re-routed automatically to overcome congestion or other network issues.

Simplifying Network Management

Changes to configuration and provisioning are faster and simpler. Network management becomes a central function with changes rolled out automatically without manual intervention. That speeds up network operations and makes real-time agility a reality.

SD-WAN technology supports hybrid WAN solutions, protecting investment in systems such as MPLS and optimizing broadband services to provide consistent performance.

Administrators can utilize all network elements and make more efficient use of bandwidth. This helps to reduce costs as well as improving flexibility, with ZK Research reporting that SD-WAN can lower TCO by around 40 percent through use of lower-cost broadband and operational savings through automation and management centralization.

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