The cloud-based model is taking over seemingly everything these days. Everything from firewalls to deter hackers to malware that helps them is offered in the “as a Service” model (no joke, Malware as a Service is a thing). It’s no wonder then that we’re seeing many enterprises recognize the benefits of shifting WAN technologies to the cloud. Cloud based networking has a number of advantages and enables enterprises to benefit from economies of scale and agility that may have otherwise been out of reach.
Yet cloud based networking is a fairly broad term. How do you sort through the buzz and marketing hype to determine what’s actually beneficial? In this piece, we’ll help you do just that. Here, we’ll explore the specific benefits of cloud-based networking for the WAN and dive into how SD-WAN fits in.
Reducing complexity and increasing scalability: the benefits of cloud-based networking
To understand the upside of cloud-based networking, let’s take a look at what they’re enabling you to do away with: a patchwork of hardware and software appliances. Many WANs contain a number of discrete appliances that enable a variety of different features and functionalities. For example, firewall appliances help secure networks, and secure web gateway appliances help prevent users from accessing restricted websites or unintentionally downloading malware.
All of those functionalities are important. The problem arises when you consider what happens as you scale. You need to source more appliances. As you source more appliances, your workloads related to provisioning, maintenance, and troubleshooting grow. Your WAN also becomes more complex, potentially impacting WAN visibility. Further, with appliances, functionality is often tied to the physical location where the appliance is deployed, meaning accounting for cloud services and mobile users can become a challenge.
With that backdrop, the upside of cloud-based networking becomes clear: you can greatly reduce the complexity and effort involved with maintaining appliances by offloading them to the cloud. As opposed to sourcing, configuring, and maintaining a firewall, you use a service provider to deliver the functionality. Similarly, your consumption of the resources is no longer tied to the physical location since they are accessible in the cloud.
Cloud based networking and SD-WAN
What does this have to do with SD-WAN? One of the most popular cloud-based networking services is SD-WAN. That is, cloud-based SD-WAN, a popular MPLS alternative that enables scalable and reliable enterprise-grade WAN connectivity, is a subset of cloud-based networking.
While SD-WAN appliances enable Policy-based Routing (PbR) at physical locations, using cloud-based SD-WAN allows you to get SD-WAN functionality bundled with a number of other cloud networking services. For example, premium cloud-based SD-WAN providers offer security features like NGFW (Next-generation firewall), SWG (Secure Web Gateway), and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) built-in to the cloud-native infrastructure.
The first thing this does is minimize appliance sprawl for enterprises. In and of itself, this can lead to significant capex and opex savings. Fewer appliances means less complexity and less hardware. Additionally, it means fewer chances for oversight that can lead to a breach. In other words, a cloud-based networking approach to WAN security and SD-WAN can improve overall security.
Shifting the WAN infrastructure to the cloud also allows you to experience performance benefits. For example, mobile users are notoriously difficult to connect to the WAN reliably without sacrificing performance or security. With cloud-native infrastructure, mobile users can leverage a simple mobile client to securely connect to the WAN from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Converged infrastructure is key
The important thing to note is that the benefit of cloud-based SD-WAN is convergence. Everything is delivered holistically. This cloud-native and purpose-built approach helps cloud based SD-WAN address network challenges more elegantly and efficiently than the traditional appliance-centric approach ever could. Not only does this reduce complexity, it enables agility and scalability traditional appliances simply cannot match. Security is improved as a result. When your infrastructure is converged, policies can be enforced across the network and the room for blind spots is significantly reduced.
With all your WAN resources baked-in to a single holistic cloud-native offering, you can scale up or down rapidly from a simple control panel. This holds true whether you have a simple WAN topology with a few branches in the same country or are a multinational enterprise with a number of branches across the globe.
Cloud based networking streamlines the WAN
Bloat is the enemy of efficiency. The more IT infrastructure your WAN has, the more difficult it becomes to maintain. In general, the best-case scenario with the appliance-centric approach to WAN infrastructure leads to a complex but manageable WAN that is difficult to scale. At worst, it leads to increased security risk and impedes WAN performance. Cloud based networking, and cloud-based SD-WAN in particular, help mitigate these risks and make the WAN more agile and scalable. This is because cloud-based SD-WAN provides enterprises with a converged WAN infrastructure which includes security and WAN optimization functionalities built into the network.
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