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What is SD-LAN and how does it benefit businesses?

Exploring the key aspects of local area networks

26 Jun 2023

So, what’s the difference between LAN vs. SD-LAN?

IT leaders are well aware that the fundamental difference is in the way that devices, users and endpoints that are connected to the network are managed. Traditional LAN provides basic connectivity to end users but does little to assure the end user experience or optimise business efficiency. SD-LAN, on the other hand, provides intelligent connectivity that focuses on the needs of the end user. It’s a cloud-delivered solution based on an application and policy-driven system, which means that the management approach is virtual, centralised and automated by default. What’s more important to understand is how businesses can benefit from an SD-LAN delivery. And in order to do that, we need to look at the drawbacks of LAN.

Traditional LAN architectures for medium and large enterprises use on-premise switch management and WLAN controllers for their wired and wireless LANs. This approach comes with its own obstacles:

  • Slow implementation – because you’ll need to manually configure the network, switch by switch.
  • Complexity – change management, security and feature functionality upgrades all need careful planning and implementation, which inevitably takes time.
  • Labour intensive – you’ll need to constantly manage capacity and understand the link between your end users’ experience and system utilisation. If you breach the limits, you’ll need to buy or upgrade to new hardware.

All these challenges can put a brake on innovation, escalate your operational costs and increase risks around capacity and security management.

That’s where SD-LAN comes in. By moving the control layer to the cloud, centralising and simplifying network management and adopting a cloud architecture approach, you can deliver wider business improvements:

  • Excellent user experience – you’ll see better performance with SD-LAN: time to connect, successful connections, coverage, roaming, throughput and capacity will all improve. Giving your users a much better service.
  • Speed – rapid initial implementation via the cloud means your SD-LAN is up and running in a matter of hours.
  • Simple roll-out – centralised workflow management and visibility reduces the risk of network implementation errors and enables zero-touch deployment of access points.
  • Leading-edge – frequent security and new feature releases are pushed centrally from the cloud, in some cases every two weeks, so you can quickly benefit from the reduced operational overhead and risks associated with out-of-date features or security software.
  • Cloud-managed – capacity management and access point health are constantly monitored in the cloud, so there are no capacity headaches or unforeseen costly WLAN controller upgrades.

Why businesses should implement SD-LAN

Since the pandemic, the number of hybrid working models has expanded as work is no longer seen as “a place” and people can access the tools they need for their jobs at home, in the office, on the move and thanks to guest Wi-Fi, at their favourite coffee shop or hotel. In fact, many employees now expect this level of flexibility, and these expectations continue to increase as new technologies become available.

Being cloud-based, SD-LAN is the perfect platform to help organisations keep up with these changing demands by providing centrally managed technology updates. IT teams can concentrate on running their business because SD-LAN takes care of troubleshooting faults, identifying problems and resolving them through the use of automated tools.

This new-found ability to rapidly develop and deploy SD-LAN software has paved the way for vendors to move beyond merely providing connectivity into new areas such as AIOPs (Artificial Intelligence for IT operations). This is great news for SD-LAN customers because automated IT decisions can be made without human intervention. And that means they can deliver better user experiences with less resources.

Analysts corroborate this in their reviews of the LAN and SD-LAN market:

“However, the enterprise wired and wireless LAN infrastructure market has evolved beyond its traditional role of merely providing network connectivity for devices. The market now comprises vendors delivering not only wired and wireless networking hardware, but also inter-related network management, analytics and security applications. This tight integration of network hardware and software delivers the mission agility, pervasive security and increased levels of experience required by end users across all types of connected applications and devices.” Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure, published December 2022.

A recent study by IDC in partnership with Vodafone Business and Juniper Networks on Agile Working showed that 62% of on/off-premises employees believe it’s important to have an office that feels social and creative. In this context, modernising the premises with solutions that put the users’ experience first is crucial to engaging and retaining talent. The development of AIOPs in SD-LAN allows IT teams to quickly troubleshoot Wi-Fi access issues at the client device level, resulting in improved employee user experience and productivity.

Another key aspect of SD-LAN is automation. Driven by intelligent technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), SD-LAN provides deep insights and analytics to create patterns and automate policies and settings, as well as proactively recommended actions when any potential or actual issue is identified. This lets businesses free their IT teams, and optimise operations, network performance and user experience – while reducing costs. Customers with SD-LAN deployments combined with AIOPs have seen a significant reduction in trouble tickets and engineer site visits.

SD-LAN from Vodafone Business

Vodafone Business has over 20 years experience in implementing and managing LAN, having sold to the public sector, governments and some of the largest enterprises in the world. We’ve partnered with Juniper Networks to develop and deliver our SD-LAN solution to meet the changing needs of our customers as they pursue their journey to the cloud. Our solution is a secure, agile and scalable network that helps you optimise operations, performance and user experience. Being an AI-driven network with centralised control, it eases the burden on your IT teams by proactively identifying issues and recommending solutions before they impact your business.

We understand that every business is different, so we work together with you to assess your existing network, design your new SD-LAN and define success criteria and appropriate resources. We provide a seamless deployment through a phased migration to ensure everything works as expected, and we offer contract and service reviews to keep improving your efficiencies. We’re actively rolling out our SD-LAN solution and can offer demonstrations, proof of concepts and trials so you can investigate its benefits for yourself.

Interested in more? Contact your Account Manager or explore SD-LAN on our website and learn how the right network can empower your business.

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