Industry Trends

SD-WAN Works Best as Part of a Platform

By Nirav Shah | January 26, 2022

Business and work are evolving at breakneck speed, and networks need to be able to keep up. In addition to being flexible enough to adapt to changing business needs and new technology, networks must also now provide a consistent user experience for employees who may be working from home, the office, or anywhere else. And they need to do it all securely. Many organizations are struggling to deploy a complete work-from-anywhere (WFA) solution because getting an array of separate networking and security products to work together can be difficult or even impossible.

If all of your security and networking solutions are designed to work together, they are more effective than if they operate in isolation. A cybersecurity mesh platform architecture tied to security-driven networking solutions can provide the unified visibility, automated control, and coordinated protection organizations need. This type of integration is particularly important for software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN).

The Rise of SD-WAN

Today, many organizations are distributed with users working from multiple locations. These people need access to applications, which may be located in still more locations. The need to manage such a complex spider web of connections is why the SD-WAN market continues to grow. SD-WAN makes it possible to use available WAN services more effectively and economically. It simplifies branch networking, improves application performance, and provides faster access to cloud-based applications and communications. It can also monitor and modify connections to maintain bandwidth and prevent latency, jitter, and packet loss that can affect bandwidth-intensive applications and services like digital voice and video.

The Security Limitations of SD-WAN

From a networking standpoint, SD-WAN has dramatically improved branch connectivity and the user experience; but from a security standpoint, not all SD-WAN solutions are the same. Most SD-WAN solutions don’t have integrated security, and direct internet access can lead to new threats.

Security solutions that are added on top of an existing SD-WAN solution often can’t keep up with the changes in a dynamic network and it can be almost impossible to track applications and workflows. Taking this type of security overlay approach can lead to gaps in protection. The network complexity that arises from a non-integrated SD-WAN architecture can make it difficult to manage and troubleshoot. Ideally, a solution should integrate networking, connectivity, and security functions into a single, centralized management console. But if it doesn’t, keeping security policies and enforcement consistent can be challenging or even impossible.

SD-WAN Works Best as a Platform

Instead of trying to bolt on security to SD-WAN after the fact, it makes more sense to take an integrated platform approach, so that the networking and security solutions work as a unified system. Integrated security then seamlessly adapts and scales with SD-WAN connectivity, which avoids the almost inevitable security gaps that can occur with an overlay security solution. SD-WAN works best as part of a holistic platform that incorporates the following elements:

1. Integrated ZTNA

As more organizations need to support WFA initiatives, they’re looking to zero-trust network access (ZTNA) for remote access. It provides secure, per-user and per-session access to specific applications, rather than the perimeter-based network access provided by traditional VPNs. ZTNA makes it easier to manage access to critical applications and maintain visibility into who has access to which resources. ZTNA that’s integrated with a next-gen firewall-based SD-WAN solution – that is, integrated into a single platform – allows organizations to eliminate device sprawl and solution management overhead because they can enforce one policy consistently across all edges to protect the entire attack surface.

2. SD-WAN for Multi-cloud Deployments

In a multi-cloud deployment situation, SD-WAN must be able to provide reliable access to cloud-based resources with granular controls, including dynamic failover, SLA-based application steering, and application availability, even during brownout or blackout conditions. It should support secure and high-performance connectivity between public cloud workloads running on multiple clouds without increasing cost and complexity. In addition to supporting seamless, reliable, and high-performance connectivity to the cloud and across clouds, an SD-WAN solution should also be able to route and secure workloads within the cloud on a single VM.

3. AIOps

Many SD-WAN solutions still rely on time-consuming and error-prone manual configurations. Adding AIOps to large and complex SD-WAN deployments enables automatic detection and response across all connections. It can identify issues and remediate them before an application or user is affected. AIOps can help find configuration errors and anomalies and aids in troubleshooting.

4. 5G/LTE

A 5G or LTE gateway that is tightly integrated with an SD-WAN solution can not only help ensure fast, inexpensive, and flexible broadband connectivity at the branch edge, but it can also support seamless management and operation and secure connectivity. The edge is a dynamic space, and an effective SD-WAN gateway should offer dedicated cloud management dashboards that include simple out-of-band management (OBM) capabilities and provide support for multiple OBM console connections to serial cables and adapters.

5. SD-Branch

Branch technology is often made up of siloed appliances and consoles that manage wired access, wireless access, WAN, and security. An SD-WAN solution that can easily and seamlessly be extended into an SD-Branch solution can effectively reduce this complexity and appliance sprawl while maintaining a high level of performance.

6. Integration with a Cybersecurity Mesh Platform

Many organizations suffer from fragmented, complex infrastructures that make deploying new technologies and managed services difficult. An automated cybersecurity mesh platform is essential to reducing complexity and increasing overall security effectiveness across today’s expanding networks. This type of integrated platform offers centralized management and visibility and can automatically adapt to dynamic changes in the network.

SD-WAN that Supports Secure Digital Acceleration

Networks have to support new business needs while remaining protected against new security threats. If SD-WAN is a technology that is a part of your digital acceleration initiatives, the best solution is tied to a platform that enables a variety of use cases and interoperates across a vast ecosystem of solutions. Such an ecosystem matters because it gives organizations flexibility across their deployments while gaining the benefit of consolidated and converged operations, visibility, and security.

Take a security-driven networking approach to improve user experience and simplify operations at the WAN edge with Fortinet Secure SD-WAN.