SD-WAN Implementation: 5 Elements of a Successful Plan

By Nirav Shah | December 06, 2021

More organizations are looking into SD-WAN solutions because they need fast, scalable, and flexible connectivity among different network environments. But choosing the wrong SD-WAN solution can make it difficult for you to quickly adapt to changing business demands. It can also lead to unanticipated security headaches.

5 Elements of a Successful Secure SD-WAN Implementation

Whether you are considering SD-WAN for the first time or rethinking your current strategy, a successful Secure SD-WAN implementation should address these five elements.

1. Work-from-Anywhere (WFA)

The COVID pandemic forced many workers home, which placed new demands on networks and IT. And while many expected to return to the office, the work-from-home model has evolved into a hybrid work model across many organizations. This now means that employees can work from anywhere, whether it's a home office, on-premises, and from a mobile device. But implementing this work-from-anywhere (WFA) model can be complicated. It adds a layer of network complexity because the experience and security must go hand in hand. Further, when users access applications and collaboration tools, the experience must be the same no matter where they're located or what device they are using.

To support WFA, SD-WAN solutions should include advanced access tools, such as built-in Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) Access Proxy. Users have a better experience with ZTNA than a VPN, and ZTNA provides better security and visibility across all users, applications, and devices, whether they are on or off the network. ZTNA helps ensure consistent protection across the entire attack surface and enforces a single security policy across all network edges.

2. Dynamic Scalability

To meet digital transformation initiatives, organizations have to be agile. With this in mind, many have adopted hybrid and multi-cloud strategies and developed new intelligent edge resources. SD-WAN must be able to dynamically scale to any environment or workload with flexible, on-demand connectivity between headquarters, branch locations, home offices, and multi-cloud environments. To be prepared for future growth, the SD-WAN solution should also be capable of scaling to thousands of sites across various environments. It should have a single-pane-of-glass management solution to simplify management at scale.

Using AIOps can simplify troubleshooting, identify anomalies, and predict failure types based on machine learning models. And with simplified day-0, day-1, and day 2+ networking operations, organizations can rapidly scale while saving time and increasing productivity.

3. Cloud Performance

For consistent security and performance on and between different cloud platforms, those enterprises that have a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy should look for an SD-WAN solution that can address cloud connectivity. It should simplify cloud on-ramp by establishing secure, fast connectivity and maintain high performance to the cloud, in the cloud as a native solution, and across clouds by federating inter-cloud protocols in real-time.

4. Edge Security

SD-WAN connections are highly dynamic, and solutions must be able to monitor bandwidth and packet loss and make real-time modifications to connections. But many security solutions that are deployed as an overlay aren't adaptable. The security lags behind network changes, which results in security gaps and limitations to connection flexibility.

An SD-WAN solution that takes a security-driven networking approach unifies advanced security and routing capabilities. These solutions can improve operations and provide consistent protection, whether it uses built-in or SASE-based cloud-delivered security. Regardless of the delivery method, the same security stack should exist everywhere to provide consistent threat protection for outbound traffic and internally for the network to stop the lateral movement of threats. And because the solution needs to inspect encrypted traffic in real-time, organizations should look for solutions that have been architected to provide maximum performance even for deep inspection of critical traffic.

5. Branch Support

Security and connectivity don't end at the edge of the branch office. An effective SD-WAN solution should extend its core functions deep into the branch network to manage and secure connectivity and transactions across the local LAN.

To ensure a secure and manageable remote branch, SD-Branch and SD-WAN should work together by converging security, WAN, LAN, and WLAN into a unified system at distributed locations. It should also support LTE and 5G as a cellular gateway to provide better availability and resiliency for SD-WAN deployment.

Developing an SD-WAN Strategy That Can Meet Requirements Now and in the Future

When you are looking for an effective SD-WAN solution, you should consider the needs of your organization both now and in the future. The solution you select should provide complete, end-to-end security, so IT teams have seamless visibility, enforcement, and control across the entire network even as environments adapt to changing business and connectivity needs. And it needs to do all that without a lot of add-ons, overlays, or workarounds that add complexity.