Technology is almost universally judged by how it performs. And what determines successful performance? Industry experts? The IT team? No. Positive business outcomes are the yardstick by which success is measured.
Many tech buyers typically default to hard dollar decisions as their primary criteria, i.e. how much the purchase will cost or save. But the most successful technology acquisitions – the ones met with rave reviews across the organization – also take the following into account:
- Will this improve workforce productivity and experience?
- Will this facilitate customer acquisition and satisfaction?
- Will this provide a competitive edge in bringing goods or services to market?
- Will this technology be easy to manage and will it scale (up or down) over time?
- Will this make our organization more secure or less secure?
The acquisition, implementation and ongoing use of SD-Branch technology for distributed organizations is no exception. This is a big decision. Those considering its deployment should weigh all of its benefits, given the fact that it will supplement an existing branch network or replace one in its entirety.
What is SD-Branch?
It’s easiest to think of SD-Branch as an evolution of SD-WAN. TechTarget defines SD-Branch as “a single, automated centrally managed software-centric platform that…simplifies the process of branching networks by collapsing multiple network functionalities onto a single platform.”
It is often touted as an architecture that will improve connectivity and application delivery between branch sites and the cloud, as well as improve security, visibility and operations across the entire enterprise.
Fortinet defines SD-Branch and its value via their technology stack: “Fortinet SD-Branch enables customers to converge their security, WAN, and LAN, extending the benefits of the Fortinet Security Fabric to their distributed branches. Secure SD-Branch is comprised of FortiGate Secure SD-WAN, FortiSwitch, FortiAP, and FortiExtender to deliver consolidation of branch services.” (source Fortinet.com)
Benefits of SD-Branch
Application and device proliferation across distributed enterprises has introduced exponential complexity – and substantial risk. Securing endpoints while simplifying infrastructure is now a primary objective for many organizations.
In this light, the benefits of SD-Branch are numerous. These platforms successfully address modern criteria for tech buying, including better user experiences, improved connectivity to cloud and network resources, much greater ease of management, and stronger security.
In a nutshell, SD-Branch effectively offers simplicity and security at scale through a single orchestrated solution.
Improved workforce experience
Perhaps more than ever, branch office workers and remote workers need robust, reliable and secure access to on-premises and cloud-based network and data resources, including IaaS and SaaS applications. These users, and their myriad endpoints, thrive on low latency connections and the rapid provisioning that SD-Branch technologies enable.
The benefits of SD-Branch are no less impactful for those in the workforce who are part of IT. The elements that contribute to an improved user experience for branch and remote workers extend to IT professionals. SD-Branch gives IT the ability to quickly provision secure access to apps and data from a centralized location via one platform, reducing stressors like the need for deep technical specialization, extensive travel, and insecurity over the state of security across the enterprise.
Increased manageability and agility
The centralized control of an SD-Branch infrastructure equips networking teams with increased visibility and more operational agility. That means that the deployment and provisioning for new locations across distributed organizations can be done in a more turnkey, expeditious manner. Many experts believe this is the most compelling reason to transform a traditional branch network to an SD-Branch environment.
Fortinet’s solution, for example, unifies the WAN and LAN environments by integrating firewalls, switches and access points. Single-pane-of-glass management helps ensure global policies are enforced at all WAN edges, branch access layers and endpoints. It can even automate some anomaly detection and remediation in certain defined situations.
And, according to Gartner’s strategic planning assumptions, look for Fortinet and similar manufacturers to continue implementing more AI into their platforms in response to consumer demand. “By 2025, 40% of enterprises with SD-WAN deployments will use artificial intelligence (AI) functions to automate Day 2 operations compared with fewer than 10% in 2022.
As new users and devices are provisioned access to network resources, SD-Branch enables real-time security while improved visibility creates an environment where anomalies are more easily detected.
SD-Branch solutions offered by manufacturers with a security-first mindset, effectively blend security and networking functions into a “security-driven networking” framework. Put simply, SD-Branch improves security from the core of the network, to the cloud, to every edge and endpoint.
Potential cost savings
Aside from the considerations of user experience, manageability and security, there is cost. Here, too, it is possible for SD-Branch to shine.
Traditional WAN architectures and remote support requirements for distributed organizations often consume significant onsite resources. When utilizing an SD-Branch infrastructure, organizations with multiple branches need less IT staffing support at remote locations. The simplified and centralized design of SD-Branch infrastructure allows for fewer contracts with service providers and manufacturers, and it allows organizations to save on staffing-related costs – which can be significant.
With improved efficiency, better visibility, real-time adaptability, and increased security, the capabilities of SD-Branch definitely keep operational simplicity in mind at every turn.
Understanding the true benefits of SD-Branch for distributed organizations allows technology leaders to make informed decisions about their network and security infrastructure. As security looms large, particularly as endpoints multiply, it’s worth considering an infrastructure that protects and performs.
Structured is an award-winning solution provider delivering secure, cloud-connected digital infrastructure. Since 1992, Structured has worked with clients through all phases of digital transformation, bridging people, business and technology. Learn more at https://structured.com/.