Interest in Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) is increasing, due to rising use of mobile working and a need to make optimal use of existing assets, in the view of attendees to a recent Computing webinar: ‘Hybrid Networks: Securing Digital Transformation‘.

Speaking during the webinar, Karthik Selvaraj, principal consultant at Purple Bytes explained that new ways of working are driving the interest.

“People no longer work purely in the office,” said Selvaraj. “You used to have point-to-point MPLS [Multi Protocol Label Switching], but now you get more cloud traffic and the old types of connections aren’t good enough, so need new technology to spread the load over the network,” he added.

Selvaraj continued, explaining the benefits to the user.

“With SD-WANs you have remote control and visibility of the network, and you’re separating the data plane from the transport plane. From the end user’s point of view you get security assurance and guaranteed throughput.”

Also speaking on the webinar was Klaus Majewski, director, technology at Forcepoint. He explained that if you look at the software stack in an organisation as a supply chain, then each layer has previously been optimised in various ways, but “the network is the final layer and the most complex.”

“This is an overlay which will help us optimise and get more value from existing assets,” he said.

Selvaraj said that with security so high on CIO and CEO agendas “anything to give more assurance is a valuable differentiator, and SD-WAN provides that.”

Discussing the broader benefits, Majewski pointed first to costs. This is backed up by recent Computing research, which found half of organisations citing lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) as the chief benefit of SD-WANs.

“Lower TCO is always an popular issue, and then you have increased agility. When people stared to move away from the office and travel around, they started to use cloud services. For many companies this causes problems, and it’s called shadow IT,” said Majewski.

“From an enterprise point of view, using MPLS within a country is fairly low cost, but once go to another country, or continent to continent, it starts to cost lots of money, especially if the pipes are big,” added Selvaraj.

Majewski added that whilst SD-WANs can improve things for users, it can increase management complexity.

“From the user perspective, complexity has decreased as they can use services more easily. But from the IT department’s view, complexity has increased, as there are so many ways now to reach cloud services. It all used to be in the data centre, but now when all the services go out to the cloud, and users move from place to place, services need to follow them, so there’s lots of complexity there,” he argued.

However, this complexity is tempered by the tools available, added Majewski.

“There’s a learning curve, but also networking tools are changing, so much of that complexity can be handled by the tools. After a year or two there’ll be tools to manage even more of that complexity. I don’t see it as a big problem, but yes organisations should look at it,” he added.

The webinar is now available to view on-demand here.