IT professionals striving to address their companies’ rapidly evolving networking requirements face a significant challenge that has little to do with the technology itself – flat or shrinking IT budgets. According to research conducted for Spiceworks’ annual “State of IT” report, respondents in North America expected a 2% drop in planned spending on IT hardware, software and services, while their counterparts in EMEA expected budgets to remain flat. Over two-thirds of respondents also expected IT staffing levels to stay the same or even decrease, putting increasing pressure on existing personnel in those companies.
The same survey indicated that security and networking continue to be the top two priorities among respondents, but further adoption of cloud-based services and mobility/BYOD are forecast to make the highest-percentage jump in future importance compared to today. The interrelationship between all of these topics is clear – both of these latter trends will have significant impact on companies’ future networking and security architectures while driving up bandwidth requirements.
So, with flat budgets for IT but ever-increasing network requirements, how do CIOs cope? Do they increase their spending on already-expensive multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to gain the needed bandwidth boost?
If you compare the costs of MPLS to those of Internet connections, the broadband circuits offer attractive potential savings, costing anywhere from one third to one half of typical MPLS pricing. Even though MPLS prices may be slowly declining, broadband connectivity is becoming even more compelling as its performance gains continue. Internet access speeds of 500Mbps to 1Gbps are now commonly available even to residential consumers, not just businesses, at prices that provided a fraction of that performance just a few years ago.
Large, geographically-dispersed enterprises may also find the widespread availability and fast provisioning of broadband connections to be very beneficial when adding new branch offices or retail locations, significantly shortening deployment cycles compared to MPLS timelines.
SD-WAN: the Freedom to Move from MPLS
So how does a business transition from MPLS to Internet connectivity? Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology enables organizations to efficiently deploy and manage agile, secure networks that leverage inexpensive broadband links. Multiple links from disparate carriers can be seamlessly combined in an SD-WAN configuration to bolster reliability and meet growing bandwidth demand, while often lowering overall cost.
In addition to these ongoing savings for connectivity, SD-WAN also enables both OPEX and CAPEX reductions for deployment and ongoing maintenance. Zero-touch, cloud-managed provisioning minimizes the need for on-site IT staff for branch office installations and maintenance, while the virtualization of network functions reduces the hardware needed at each location. Meanwhile, cloud-based orchestration allows IT personnel to monitor, manage and troubleshoot network usage and performance at remote sites from a central location, simplifying and reducing the cost of supporting those branches.
The bottom line? SD-WAN solves CIOs’ dilemma, enabling them to improve and expand their networking infrastructures within the constraints of tight IT budgets.