Flexibility, the new currency of the Wide Area Network

Flexibility, the new currency of the Wide Area Network

It’s never been more important to be able to adapt to the increasing amount of change that businesses are being required to innovate for and there are a whole host of reasons. The reality is that the way we have traditionally delivered the WAN environment is outdated, inflexible, and holds businesses back from that innovation.

Businesses need agility, they need to be able to make short term decisions, however, they find themselves tied into rigid and typically very long contracts with their service provider to provide that wide area network. The antithesis of flexibility.

At the risk of upsetting those service providers, their business models are vested in having long, fixed-term contracts with the customers.

Those two worlds are becoming unbalanced: 20 years ago, it made sense to have a long-term contract with a WAN service provider because taking on a new service provider was a painful thing to do. This now means that you wouldn’t want to touch your specifically designed environment as it’s expensive and means you’d have to go and do work in every different office location. For example, if you think about a large retailer, with potentially thousands of locations, this would mean thousands of site visits to change anything.

Although you would have to have quite a compelling business case to swap one WAN service provider for another, there are significant limitations of what gets delivered there. When you’re in a situation where you need to make a change within an environment, then that too can also be incredibly painful.

There are many organisations finding themselves in this classical network scenario – one that is defined by the way the service provider has dictated, as opposed to the way that you the customer defines it.  Typically, this would be a five-year contract which, after considerable negotiation starts out as a cost-effective solution. Everyone is happy when the contract is signed but then there is the deployment process, the roll out of what you are deploying and then three years into the contract a new application isn’t working with this initial deployment i.e. there wasn’t enough bandwidth within your contract to support any new applications.

Many then find they have problems with new applications, such as in-store training for staff which is more media-rich and delivering a lot of video content. You could find that the application isn’t working over the links that were originally negotiated in that one contract.

The SD-Wan Solution

SD-WAN would have solved this application problem, no service provider upgrade (a costly one at that) would have been required. SD-WAN would allow the gradual addition of sites, or bring your choice of other service providers into the environment rather than being stuck with just one.

These are common scenarios, businesses attempting to execute on digital transformation plans with fixed WAN infrastructure that aren’t able to support the business goals making them feel trapped with seemingly no easy alternative.

Having a three or a five-year view of what you need to deliver as a business is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain as everything is moving faster. Looking at what’s happened with Covid-19, an extreme example of change; no-one foresaw that within a very short period of time, offices would be redundant and everyone working from home.

From a wide area network standpoint, that shift changes the traffic profile of the network completely. Nothing in these big, long term fixed contracts is designed to be able to adapt to that change and to deal with the problem, customers sign big cheques not knowing if things will go back to normal or be worse off than before.

Flexibility is the absolute currency; the ability to change, the ability to swap, the ability to adapt, and SD-WAN is the technology that provides this.  Flexibility has always been background to direct cost savings because everybody wants to see a cost-saving, however, flexibility can offer this too.

SD-WAN allows you to drive these cost-savings. It allows you to keep pace with innovation, and react when competitors drive innovation meaning you’re no longer on the back foot. It gives you the ability to better leverage moving to the cloud allowing you to take a much clearer and broader model for security because the network is the common denominator for everything. It’s the ones and zeros that pass across the entire environment, and having flexibility in the environment is critical.

SD-WAN also gives the flexibility of what the consumer can do and the options that are available. Service providers have controlled this business model for 20 years and don’t want their business consumers to change these behaviours and have visibility – a five year fixed term contract is an incredibly valuable thing for them.

Service providers don’t like SD-WAN or WAN transformations as a commercial model because they allow you to have commodity over internet links that service providers traditionally have control over and charge at a greater expense. These providers are now providing these internet links and are having to create their own SD-WAN solution in order to compete in the groundswell of customer interest. However, their default model is to keep these customers on traditional, expensive, long-term fixed private network infrastructures that are no longer appropriate for the world we are living in. Service providers are putting the handbrake on digital transformation for businesses who are needing to react to the current climate.

This is the reality businesses are facing.

Therefore, if your service provider contract is coming up for renewal you can look at better, simpler alternatives. You can now; reduce costs, drive efficiency, deliver your digital transformation plans, become more agile and gain flexibility, all through an SD-WAN solution.

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Posted by Graham Brown

Managing Director at Gyrocom - Helping customers build better networks.