A fresh era of networking has arrived, introducing the hybrid framework and the hybrid office while reviving the capabilities of the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN).

By Amritesh Anand, associate vice-president: pre-sales at In2IT Technologies

So, what does this mean for today’s business and why is everyone talking about SD-WAN when just the other day, like the mainframe, it was reported dead?

This is because the pandemic changed everything by redefining the need for remote working. Many organisations have since adopted new hybrid models that deliver both remote work capabilities and office collaboration, with remote work proving an overwhelming success for both employees and employers, with the advantages of a hybrid work culture becoming clearly apparent in the past two years.

Thanks to underlying technologies like SD-WAN and cloud adaptation, remote working has now become realistic for every organisation to plan and deploy. However, it is critical to ensure this planning is done properly, considering all the factors that must be addressed before and during any new network implementation for hybrid workspaces.

Challenging working conditions

Many organisations have already planned and adapted to their new ways of working which are supported and enhanced through collaborative tools and remote application access. This makes it extremely important to ensure that enterprise networks are quality driven and capable of understanding, managing, and prioritising various types of networks and application traffic, depending on user requirements and communication type.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are critical for operations and need to be accessed remotely and securely. More critical, however, is the requirement for security as the risk of cyber breach is higher when resources no longer ‘sit’ behind the organisation’s firewall when working remotely. With this in mind, network elements must be planned, designed, and implemented properly and it is SD-WAN that can meet this new way of working, bringing together advanced traffic engineering to provide policy-based performance with stringent security using zero trust architecture.

New hybrid reality

Since lockdown restrictions eased, many employees now split their time between working from home and in the office. This new hybrid workforce model is challenging for enterprise networks and infrastructure, requiring IT leaders to create new IT and security policies along with the right investments in technology to ensure continuous improvements in workforce productivity and efficiencies in the new hybrid model.

To this end, the three key network infrastructure priorities for powering an effective hybrid workforce have become an SD-WAN driven network, a digital collaboration platform and a more flexible approach to security. A network infrastructure that is SD-WAN allows organisations to centrally deploy and manage branches and remote users, providing advanced traffic engineering for policy-based network traffic prioritisation that manages the changes and challenges of hybrid workforce network activity.

Aligning security and performance

While speed and performance are important, security is the single most critical network infrastructure consideration today, given the rise of cybercrime and remote workers. As transactions move to the cloud and the internet, networks have become highly distributed, creating additional attack surfaces.

To counter this, most SD-WAN service providers operate from a zero trust security architecture which assumes that there is no inside network and that every user and device are not to be trusted by default. Every user access request and transaction must pass through strong authentication and authorisation processes defined using zero trust policies over the SD-WAN network.

The need for collaboration tools is set to remain the new norm as we adjust to living in a socially-distanced world, which has led to the adoption of Web real-time communication (WebRTC) based collaboration tools instead of app-driven tools, as these offer the flexibility of browser-based meetings, without the need for an additional plugin.

Here, SD-WAN based networking prioritises specific cloud-based collaboration tools to ensure users have a low-latency unified communications experience.

SD-WAN networking and multi-cloud environments are the dynamic technology duo that will enable organisations to leap ahead of the pack when it comes to the design and implementation of hybrid-capable, resilient networks.

SD-WAN technology establishes secure, performance-driven connectivity to applications running on cloud or multi-cloud environments, streamlining IT operations by integrating with security services on major cloud providers and SDN platforms through a centralised portal, addressing all of the challenges and concerns involved with planning, implementing and managing hybrid workspaces for the foreseeable future.