What to Look for in an Effective SD-Branch Solution

By Nirav Shah | May 21, 2021

Traditional methods of establishing local-area networks (LANs) have resulted in siloed networks and separate point-products. This infrastructure complexity creates challenges for CISOs that often struggle to support branch networking where there is often little to no support staff on-site to help. With the help of an effective and secure SD-Branch solution, IT leaders are able to converge their security and network access for their distributed branches.

Technologies, such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), are seeing significant adoption as organizations reduce wide-area network (WAN) cost and complexity at the branch to help meet business objectives. As SD-WAN adoption continues to increase, IT leaders have begun to look for additional ways to reduce complexity and cost through SD-Branch. SD-Branch consolidates and simplifies complex infrastructures by combining SD-WAN, routing, centrally managed LAN/Wi-Fi functions, and security into a single platform. This can further break down the traditional silos found at the enterprise branch addressing the LAN and security.

When searching for effective SD-Branch solutions, there are a number of capabilities CISOs should consider to find a solution that can combine robust networking and security capabilities within a common platform and operating system.

6 Keys to an Effective Secure SD-Branch Solution for CISOs to Consider

There are six key capabilities to consider when evaluating SD-Branch solutions:

  • Technology integration: Branch network technology is often siloed through separate appliances and consoles that manage wired access, wireless access, WAN, and security. SD-Branch can reduce appliance sprawl by consolidating or converging key features such as wired and wireless networking, SD-WAN, and security. An integrated solution will simplify and reduce the strain on resource-challenged IT teams. Evaluate a solution based on its ability to effectively reduce complexity and appliance sprawl while maintaining a high level of performance.
  • SD-WAN performance: SD-WAN is a foundational component of SD-Branch. Effective, high-performance SD-WAN should offer visibility into the traffic and applications being used, to improve user experience. The ability to prioritize critical applications, have multi-path intelligence, and self-healing WAN capabilities is key to ensuring the application experience. Further, SD-WAN should offer comprehensive analytics and reporting to enable IT administrators to recognize and react to trends. Lastly, an effective SD-WAN solution must be able to integrate with core functions at the branch, such as security.
  • Centralized management and orchestration: An effective SD-Branch solution provides tools to centrally deploy and manage key LAN and WAN edge functions. Viewing key elements on a common screen is not enough. As technology integration reduces appliance sprawl, an integrated, single-pane-of-glass management platform creates workflows that shorten time to resolution and increase agility in deployment. An SD-Branch management platform should support zero-touch deployment for greater efficiency when bringing new branches online.
  • Security: Security must be integrated at the beginning of the network design and implementation process and not layered or “bolted on” afterwards. A solution that is designed within an integrated framework with a next-generation firewall (NGFW) reduces complexity and provides better security outcomes.
  • Ability to address IoT: It is difficult to secure the LAN edge without knowing what it is connected to. The need for visibility into the users and devices utilizing branch services is key to implementing policies at both the LAN and WAN edges. Because of this, network access control (NAC) should be integrated into an SD-Branch deployment. If possible, it should be able to be managed from the same integrated platform as other core components to simplify deployment and troubleshooting.
  • Lower costs: The biggest attraction of SD-Branch is the potential savings of both initial and long-term costs to offer a compelling return on investment (ROI). Orchestration and zero-touch deployment eliminate the need for costly on-site expertise. A solution that has security and networking functions integrated into a centralized management console reduces complexity and simplifies management. IT staff can quickly identify and remediate issues and automate responses where appropriate, reducing OpEx expenses. By consolidating functions, SD-Branch should also reduce CapEx spending on specialized appliances and licensing, while optimizing existing software licenses.

Secure SD-Branch Capabilities

Secure SD-Branch has the capability of reducing branch cost while increasing agility and manageability at the edges of the distributed enterprise. It is just a matter of CISOs finding the right solution. Ideally, a secure SD-Branch solution will converge networks with security to offer SD-WAN, a network controller, and NAC functionality with no additional licensing. A single pane of glass to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot wired, wireless, WAN, and security, including NAC, is critical to reduce complexity and the management burden on IT teams. These six key capabilities will help CISOs find a solution that will reduce branch cost and increase agility, network visibility, and manageability at the edges.