What is SD-WAN and can it be used for smaller sites too?

March 13, 2018

Quick service restaurants, small retail and convenience stores, gas stations, mobile sites, and even specific IoT applications such as kiosks, ATMs, digital signage, and vending machines are connecting to the internet for business operations and value-added services. Smaller retail stores are adopting omni-channel strategies to offer better shopping experiences through mobile connectivity to shoppers at the stores. Newer kiosks and digital signage solutions have started to provide additional services such as internet access and blood pressure monitoring. One example is a New-York-based firm turning every phone booth next to a bus stop into a digital signage terminal that provides free Wi-Fi.

SD-WAN is transforming enterprise networks with affordable network infrastructure by offering low-cost, reliable network connectivity, while dramatically reducing operational expenses. An SD-WAN-based network infrastructure uses simple plug-and-play devices at the branch locations that use multiple, inexpensive broadband connections to offer reliable connectivity, centralized management, and cloud-deployed network services for simple and cost-effective management and service deployment.

However, until now most of the SD-WAN solutions have been addressing the replacement of expensive MPLS connectivity that is typically used to connect larger branch locations to the enterprise data centers. This focus on supporting large branches has resulted in additional complexity and cost of SD-WAN solutions. This complexity is further compounded by the inability to offer cost-effective solutions for connecting large numbers of smaller sites. SD-WAN is a great fit for such applications.

Key Requirements for Small Sites and How SD-WAN Can Help

Small remote sites with a limited number of users and applications require SD-WAN solutions that are simple and highly affordable, and address not only the connectivity and management but also the security and ease of deployment and use.

Low-Cost Reliable Connectivity

  • Smaller sites, especially those connected to remote applications, require reliable, always-on connectivity to the data centers and the cloud-based SaaS applications. SD-WAN deployed over affordable broadband connections (cable, DSL and 4G LTE) can offer network resilience and always-on connectivity through use of multiple links.
  • An SD-WAN edge appliance with an integrated 4G LTE modem that intelligently uses the cellular connection for automatic failover along with a primary broadband link can offer cost-effective always-on network connectivity.
  • ATMs and kiosks are typically deployed in malls and such other locations where a common internet connection through local Wi-Fi is available. SD-WAN edge appliances can utilize such Wi-Fi connections as WAN links, which can further reduce the cost of connectivity.

Remote Management

  • Smaller sites are typically geographically dispersed and require cost-effective remote management without requiring frequent truck rolls.
  • SD-WAN offers complete remote management, from device upgrades to service provisioning and real-time status monitoring, available through a, cloud-based orchestration platform that is securely accessible from anywhere.
  • Managed services from an SD-WAN provider can further simplify and reduce the cost of management.

Security for the Connected Sites

  • While any internet-connected site is vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, those sites that perform credit card transactions or offer value added services such as guest Wi-Fi are especially targeted for cyber threats and require additional layers of security and compliance with security standards such as PCI DSS.
  • Deploying separate security infrastructure at the small sites is cost prohibitive. SD-WAN offers edge appliances with integrated firewalls and can separate business-critical traffic from other users and applications sharing the same network.
  • SD-WAN solutions may also integrate with cloud-deployed next-generation firewalls (NGFW) that can offer additional layers of security all from the cloud. However, such solutions do need an intuitive and easy-to-use orchestration platform where one can perform simple tasks such as whitelisting/blacklisting certain sites, monitoring connections with real-time alerts and checking the health of the connected sites.
  • Managed Security service providers also offer complete management of the network and security infrastructure along with security-related compliance management such as PCI DSS.

Efficient Use of WAN Bandwidth

  • Remote sites typically share the WAN bandwidth for multiple applications ranging from business-critical applications to guest Wi-Fi.
  • WAN bandwidth is expensive for smaller sites, and efficient use of this limited bandwidth is critical for business operations. SD-WAN offers application intelligence where one can prioritize and control the use of bandwidth for a particular application or traffic.
  • The cloud orchestration enables such controls to be enforced globally for multiple sites with a single click.

Future-Proofing for Additional Services

  • As competition increases and new business models are implemented, enterprises may require additional services to be offered at the branch locations.
  • SD-WAN provides seamless connectivity to cloud based applications and services that enable deployment of additional features at the branch locations over simple plug-and-play devices.

Across industries, SD-WAN is transforming enterprise networks with simplified network infrastructure and secure, reliable network connectivity, while dramatically reducing operational expenses.

So, what is your next step? Look into comprehensive, affordable SD-WAN + security + compliance with flexible co-management services. Visit www.netsurion.com/connect for more details.