TechWorld

Why businesses need a hybrid networking strategy

A hybrid solution can combine SD-WAN solution with the benefits of MPLS

With 91 percent of business leaders considering hybrid cloud to be the ideal IT model, investments in it are skyrocketing.

Industries like manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare are heavily adopting the multi-workload environment approach with hopes to modernise their operations and improve customer service platforms.

But while there is a shift towards cloud-first across key enterprise IT markets, the reality is that cloud isn’t always the answer for all businesses, and while Cisco predicts 94 percent of workloads will run in the cloud by 2021, many workloads aren’t ready for the cloud just yet or the economics still stack up in favour of on-premises.

Because of this, application ecosystems are becoming increasingly more complex as they grow in size, scope, and exist across multiple mediums.

Integrating and managing application workloads across private cloud, public cloud, and on-premise is the new norm - a ‘hybrid IT infrastructure’ approach - but can leave businesses contending with the challenge of not just dividing workloads between each of them, but also then being able to effectively connect a geographically-spread workforce to them.

How are organisations addressing these challenges?

Organisations’ approach to networking hasn’t kept up with their infrastructure.

As more Australian businesses come to rely on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications for mission critical functions, increased bandwidth becomes more important. Because of this, businesses have increasingly been turning to software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) solutions to address this and other challenges. In fact, 33 per cent of Australian enterprises have already deployed or are in the process of deploying an SD-WAN solution.

The main benefit of SD-WAN is that it dynamically combines private MPLS networks, public fixed line broadband internet and mobile broadband, routing data traffic in the most efficient way possible for the given application. Ultimately, SD-WAN intends to improve the end-user network application experience without compromising security or increasing routing management complexity, and provides networking application visibility in the process.

SD-WAN is not just private networks over the public Internet, done cheaply as some service providers attempting to enter the telco space are touting. The confidence and control offered by MPLS connections still form an integral part of SD-WAN.

Hybrid networking: The best of both worlds

Every business has IT infrastructure that is unique to their needs and requires a tailored set of systems and applications across the entire stack. A one-size-fits-all SD-WAN solution may not cover all bases and a blanket MPLS solution might not cut it, but by incorporating the two into a hybrid IT model, businesses can get the best of both technologies.

A hybrid networking model that layers SD-WAN over the top of underlying MPLS, integrated with low-cost broadband, allows businesses to carve out their own bespoke solution that is suited to their unique requirements.

Through a hybrid networking strategy like this, businesses can have the predictable, low-packet loss, private, and reliable backbone provided by MPLS, whilst simultaneously benefiting from the advantages of aggregate bandwidth and reduced operational costs by using SD-WAN.

For example, say you have SaaS applications running in both the cloud and on premises. Deploying SD-WAN in the cloud as well as over a traditional MPLS network allows businesses to leverage their application bandwidths intelligently. And because SD-WAN routes data packets at the edge, mission-critical applications can then be prioritised over less-important applications without having to be back-hauled to a centralised data centre - saving both time and resources.

SD-WAN’s edge capabilities also ensure businesses are secured at every point across the business through unified visibility and monitoring of traffic, creating a unified security of devices.

The decisions ahead

When looking to implement the latest technology into your organisation’s IT stack, stop and think of whether you need to go all-in or not. More often than not, businesses will find themselves needing a mix of both cloud and on-premises solutions – or that that is in fact the most cost-effective, secure and high-performing solution. It should naturally follow, therefore, that they’ll need to adopt a hybrid networking approach to facilitate it.

Don’t get caught up in all the buzz around SD-WAN. Yes, it’s a great solution, but is rarely going to be the best one on its own – would your organisation be able to cope if/when your NBN connection goes down?

So what’s next? Figuring out how to create the best networking backbone for your organisation can be tricky. Businesses need to identify their unique needs before investing in any network solution, but those who fail to realise the benefits of combining technologies and adopting a hybrid networking approach that can work hand-in-hand with your hybrid IT infrastructure approach, risk losing out on reduced costs and improved operational efficiencies.

Lyncoln de Mello is head of cloud, networking, and infrastructure at Brennan IT.