Talking my language: explaining SD-WAN to the C-Suite
The global internet is a wonderful thing. It connects people, builds businesses, enables opportunities. But it’s also a victim of its own success.
Why? Because the fault-tolerant nature of packetized communications means it (and private networks that use it, like VPNs and SD-WANs) mostly keep functioning even under the worst conditions. Narrow pipes, patchy connectivity, all the bottlenecks that add zeroes to the ping—somehow, the internet usually gets the job done.
But if the underlay is subpar, it leads to a poor user experience—and a bad impression of overlaid services like SD-WAN solutions as a result.
It’s why some C-level executives think SD-WAN is just “networking over the internet”, subject to the service variabilities of an ISP. And it’s also why some enterprises stay with older MPLS technology, despite high ongoing costs.
In fact, modern SD-WAN with Cloud Acceleration—like Expereo’s—is very different to plain-old-internet-service. Here’s how to explain that to people in your C-Suite—intelligent people all, but who don’t want to know the details of packetized data, asymmetric bandwidth, or the OSI 7-layer model. The key thought: the right SD-WAN solution doesn’t just use the internet—it improves it.
They say: “SD-WAN is just the internet.”
You say: “That means our SD-WAN can be everywhere.”
Yes, a managed SD-WAN service makes use of the public internet infrastructure. But that isn’t a negative. Netflix streams high-definition movies on it, in real-time. Amazon handles billions of transactions on it. And billions of people use it for WhatsApping and Zooming on the go.
There’s nothing wrong with the public internet. In fact, with fast fiber-optic connections now enjoyed by millions at home, your SD-WAN can be available to anyone with an internet connection, wherever they are—from their kitchen table or a distant hotel room. Whereas MPLS implementations mostly have a set number of POPs (with nomadic users connecting via the internet anyway) a modern SD-WAN has as many Points of Presence as your city has WIFI networks.
That’s the first benefit of switching to SD-WAN: the sheer breadth and depth of coverage. Using the internet as its underlay, your network becomes a truly global SD-WAN, spanning every person, device, and office across your organization.
They say: “The public internet isn’t secure.”
You say: “That’s why SD-WAN creates a private one.”
Security’s come a long way since the earliest VPNs. Expereo’s managed SD-WAN architecture is built from the bottom up for the diversity of the modern world. Authenticating not just the device trying to connect, or even the person behind it, but the relationship with each application, limiting access to each service to those who genuinely need it.
Up-to-date security models like ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) protect your network at its perimeter, assuming the worst until proven otherwise. It also reduces your exposure to malicious actors who may compromise shared devices, shared WIFI, and even malware on the network. Because each interaction is limited to a specific context, with access granted case-by-case, malware infections are severely curtailed.
The internet may provide the underlay, but SD-WAN vendors like Expereo provide the overlay—your own private network “pinched off” from public view. With some of the world’s largest banks moving to SD-WAN technology to handle billions of dollars a day, it’s a safe bet it’s secure enough for your enterprise too.
They say: “Our applications need to be in our own datacenter.”
You say: “Let’s look at where our ‘datacentre’ really is.”
Yes, plenty of enterprise applications still reside on Big Iron in the basement. Or—more typically—a paid-for external datacenter. But what your C-levellers may not realize is how that’s changing.
First, these days the average external datacenter is the cloud. It sells its offerings as web services, connecting to its clients via business broadband more often than dedicated lines—avoiding the “backhauling” problem of all data passing through a central location.
Indeed, many of the applications you use—from mission-critical ones that define your operations, to smaller “shadow IT” used by individuals and departments to get their day-to-day done—are probably in the cloud already. Gartner expects companies like yours to spend a collective $480bn on cloud services over the next year.
And because of its coverage potential, easy accessibility, and flexibility, SD-WAN is made for the cloud. In fact, you couldn’t design a more ideal connectivity method if you tried.
So, respond to the management team with: there’s every likelihood you’re a cloud company right now, with many of your important applications redesigned and migrated already—whether a public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid spanning both. Which makes a move to SD-WAN a logical next step.
They say: “Network speeds can go up and down.”
You say: “Let’s talk about Cloud Acceleration.”
Saving the best until last: SD-WAN isn’t just the internet made use of—it’s the internet made better. Expereo’s solution for overcoming the lags and latencies of internet connectivity is called Cloud Acceleration.
In the simplest sense, Cloud Acceleration brings a sense of order to the bump-and-push of normal IP routing, organizing traffic into patterns and paths that make the most efficient use of your resources. That means setting routings with as few hops as possible, dealing with red flags like persistent packet loss, and matching available resources to user need at each location.
So far, so good: every network manager tries to do this. But Cloud Acceleration goes further, using rules-based artificial intelligence and machine learning to tweak and tune those efficiencies on the fly, finding the best routings and lowest latencies in real-time. (Subject, of course, to whatever policies you set.) It can be your advisor, showing you where the bottlenecks are … or your right-hand man, rerouting and reconfiguring the pathways your data takes moment-by-moment to maximize advantage.
Normal SD-WAN is defined by its underlay, subject to the whims of the public network. But SD-WAN with Cloud Acceleration makes many issues of that underlay simply … disappear. It’s perhaps the greatest compliment to SD-WAN today.
Chalk and cheese
SD-WAN and MPLS are chalk and cheese. Fundamentally different approaches—each with its own strengths. But as cloud services become the norm, with internet access available everywhere, SD-WAN is fast becoming the default option for the enterprise: simpler in concept, faster to deploy, and far cheaper to maintain.
Feel free to use this article as a help sheet with your C-Suite. In the meantime, let’s talk about SD-WAN, click on the button below.