The Big Shift to Cloud and The Network Agility Needed to Support It


Last year’s shift to remote work was sudden and with it came a rapid surge in moving applications to the cloud. IDC predicts that by the end of 2021, 80% of enterprises will implement systems to shift to ‘cloud-centric infrastructure and applications’ twice as fast as before the pandemic. The ability of cloud to scale up and down quickly in response to changing business requirements made it a strong choice. So did the need to ubiquitously access applications, with the cloud having that ease of access and direct path from everywhere. This cloud revolution has transformed business operations and workflows in ways that few expected.

Cloud migrations and adoption are far from complete and more needs to be done with the underlying network infrastructure. When the pandemic hit – customers had to adjust fast. Now, companies are looking into making smart and lasting network and security decisions. To support a more hybrid model, there are still many residual policies and network considerations that need to be put into place for better performance, availability and user experience when supporting multi-cloud architectures and a widely distributed workforce.

IT departments will continue to be tasked with moving existing and new applications to secure and directly and easily accessible locations. They will also need to prioritize meeting security, access and bandwidth challenges - all while maintaining cost efficiencies. Fast and reliable business applications in the cloud, running on agile, secure network connections are no longer optional – they are required. To support all of these operational and networking shifts brought on by rapid cloud adoption, technologies like SD-WAN will be increasingly utilized to help deliver the necessary application prioritization, optimization and security.

Application-centric routing and prioritization for better performance

As more applications are designed for the cloud, SD-WAN needs to be focused on application detection, prioritization, dynamic app-based routing and analytics. SD-WAN’s ability to switch to second circuits to take pressure off of overwhelmed networks is key to maintaining the network agility necessary to enable a permanently expanded remote workforce to be highly productive. The optimal routing and prioritization needs to include the appropriate applications treatment, reporting, analytics, alarming, and resiliency. It is essential that each is on the healthiest path at any point in time and SD-WAN can automate this process. Your infrastructure should provide the optimal application experience and SD-WAN is the “brains” to make sense of many complex setups.

As soon as it’s implemented, the application-aware traffic routing and network segmentation of SD-WAN allows IT teams to automate policies and have real-time visibility and control when adjusting to new business needs, managing bandwidth, and prioritizing mission-critical operations.

Network considerations for adopting new cloud-based services

Organizations are increasingly designing and (re-designing) their networks for application performance and SaaS optimization. They want to know how well critical applications are going to perform in real-time. SD-WAN is meant to provide those insights. Assessing the security, compliance and performance needs of each application and making sure the SD-WAN policies reflect everything correctly needs to be a primary focus for IT departments.

SD-WAN is meant to be that integrated service that can simultaneously address security and performance needs. It will ensure highest performance for SaaS apps by determining both best performance and best cost paths. The one caution to consider is that when organizations are picking an SD-WAN provider, they should take time to understand the desired behavior requirements for customer-facing and critical applications. It’s important to have awareness of where they reside and their relative priority levels. This assessment will help allow businesses to best route each application, based on that prioritization and real-time service performance as well as actual available bandwidth at any given time.

For each company this is different. IT teams need to be keenly aware of: where applications reside; where the users are located; who has access to what; what the pervasive security rule is and where it is applied - Is it the application level? Gateway level? HQ level? There is no one-size-fits-all. Your SD-WAN solution must allow the quickest access to cloud-based applications without sacrificing performance for security.

The path forward

The right SD-WAN solution will be sized for peak utilization as organizations return to a hybrid work environment and support super users in a home office, geographically distributed branch offices, mobile workers and third-party partners. For each business the variables that play into this are going to be different, but the solution needs to be able to support all use cases.

The right SD-WAN solution also needs to provide easy expansion to all edges of the network. SD-WAN offers much more than just connecting branch offices to cloud services or the core network. SD-WAN can also run natively in every major public cloud environment, be able to scale to support large data centers, sit in a home office, and be deployable to most corners of the newly expanded network. It can then enable fast, optimized and secure connections from any user, no matter where they reside, to any application, no matter where it resides.

Learn how Comcast Business can help manage your network with SD-WAN.

Learn how SD-WAN will play a key role in helping to optimize networks for the shift to the cloud.

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