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Why SD-WAN and Secure SD-Branch are Converging

By Scott Raynovich, Founder and Chief Analyst, Futuriom
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The software-defined networking wide-area networking (SD-WAN) wave has surprised many with its depth and penetration into enterprise and service provider networking circles. I predict it will go even deeper. This is because of the ongoing integration of SD-WAN with the software-defined branch (SD-Branch).

Ongoing trends in cloud services, service provider networks, and enterprise networks are all heading in the same direction – driving more nimble networks that can be managed and secured from the cloud and scale on demand. Innovations in both SD-WAN and SD-Branch will continue to drive this functionality into enterprise networks.

At the same time, the physical underlay technologies of wireline and wireless technologies will need to be further levered using software-defined technology. The arrival of Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and private wireless technologies such as citizen’s broadband radio service (CBRS) present unique opportunities to augment enterprise and end-user network access. As Wi-Fi taught us, why should you care where you are and what network you are on? Users should be able to find seamless, secure bandwidth on demand – from wherever they are.

SD-WAN and SD-Branch are poised to deliver all of this. Call it what you want – SD-WAN, SD-branch, or SD-Edge – it will give enterprise network managers and end users a new range of flexible, diverse services.

“We see the edge as central to digital transformation,” said David Hughes, founder of Silver Peak and senior vice president of the WAN business at Aruba. “Moving from a data-center centric, MPLS-based WAN to a cloud-first WAN that fully leverages the internet will enable enterprises to bridge to where they want to go tomorrow.”

The Network Gets Cloudy

Let’s not get bogged down in jargon. Whether you have an SD-WAN or an SD-Branch, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The important part of the picture is that these two groups of technology – with SD-WAN focused on the branch outwards and SD-branch focused on an enterprise branch and inwards – both are underpinned by the same important concepts of software-defined networking (SDN). That is, you don’t want your network defined by physical devices, but by a software-driven management model that can be centrally controlled using cloud-based services.

This is important because SDN technology can be used to quickly manage or adopt any combination of underlying transport technologies – such as MPLS, DIA, broadband Wi-Fi, 5G, or even fiber, for example. The SDN nature means that these technologies can be quickly assimilated and cloudified to deliver value to the end users.

Software-defined convergence of wireless and wireline functionality is becoming a standard feature of leading enterprise networking platforms such as the EdgeConnect and SD-Branch platforms from Aruba. Enterprises want to consolidate the capabilities of LAN, WAN, 5G, and Wi-Fi across a range of topologies, including hub-and-spoke, partial mesh, dynamic full mesh, or direct enterprise and cloud connections. They want to use features such as local internet breakout to optimize their networks and deliver the highest quality of experience to users. At the same time, they want to use new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate the management and security of these networks.

For a while, SD-WAN (branch out) and SD-Branch (branch in) have been evolving similarly in parallel markets – adopting SDN capabilities, cloud security services and AI-driven centralized management. It’s time for these parallel developments to merge, which is why you have seen leaders such as Aruba make inroads toward integration, acquiring leaders like Silver Peak and quickly integrating advanced technologies to better address the evolving requirements of geographically distributed enterprises.

The two systems -- enterprise branch and SD-WAN – will become merged and integrated, all to the benefit to the users. There is no reason why a single SDN platform shouldn’t control network and security functionality across the WAN, the branch, and the LAN. Wireless features such as LTE, Wi-Fi, and 5G will become part of the standard branch connectivity options, as well as SD-WAN managed services.

This will allow end users such as retailers or industrial users to distinguish specific users, devices, and applications in a cloud-based network based on their role, not their location.

Another development not to be overlooked is automated orchestration of leading cloud-delivered security services. For example, Aruba strikes a balance between unified on-premises WAN edge security functions and best-of-breed cloud-delivered security services, all seamlessly managed withing its Aruba Orchestrator management console, which it says can apply and enforce consistent security policy across “thousands of remote locations,” whether those locations are linked to the cloud or to a traditional data center.

End Users Have Their Say

Futuriom knows that enterprise IT organizations want further integration of SDN at the edge, because in our regular interviews and surveys they tell us this is what they want.

There is strong demand to integrate SD-WAN with SD-Branch and wireless. In our newly released 2021 SD-WAN Managed Services Survey, nearly 90 percent of the 120 enterprise end users surveyed said that SD-Branch features for wireless and wired management are important in SD-WAN managed services. Just three percent responded “No,” and about eight percent responded with “Not Sure."

Managed SD-WAN market growth

As our survey revealed, network and IT managers are seeking more flexibility in connecting branches with a software-driven model that enables them to bring new branch offices online quickly.

An example could be a global Fortune 500 company managing hundreds of branch offices for a bank, or a regional chain of retail stores looking for easy-to-manage WAN connectivity. Network and IT managers have shown a strong affinity for improving the ease-of-use and management of branch offices.

As SD-WAN players scramble to position themselves in this hot market that features many competitors, Aruba is well positioned because of its leadership in wireless networking and its expanding portfolio of enterprise networking and security offerings.

Read my first blog in this series: Desperately Seeking SASE: SD-WAN and Security Converge

Learn more about Aruba solutions at: 

Aruba SD-WAN page

Aruba SD-Branch

Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN