Insecure and ineffective: Don’t let your legacy network stifle Digital Transformation

Insecure and ineffective: Don’t let your legacy network stifle Digital Transformation

Hubert da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA, Cybera, says modern technology solutions are the answer to preventing a legacy infrastructure from delaying business development.

As distributed enterprises all over the world journey towards Digital Transformation, they’re increasingly migrating workloads to the cloud. Unfortunately, their legacy network architectures built in the pre-cloud era haven’t kept pace with this technology evolution and are unable to deliver the performance, agility and security required in today’s application-driven, SaaS-based world.

In order to manage costs, enterprises have long relied on traditional virtual private networks (VPNs) for connecting their remote locations and new applications. However, the adoption of mobility, Big Data, social media, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) has extended traditional enterprise perimeters to the network edge and beyond. As new applications are added to distributed enterprise locations, the practice of simply adding more VPNs to secure them has become increasingly complex and cost-prohibitive. As a result, legacy VPN technology has also become more vulnerable to new security threats and therefore less appealing in highly distributed enterprises.

The growing need for a modern connectivity option

Relying on traditional enterprise connectivity presents several fundamental challenges in today’s digital business world, because each location might have multiple devices, different device configurations and a wide range of security requirements for individual devices or applications. Adding a new location to a VPN also requires knowledgeable (and expensive) IT staff for deployment, management, troubleshooting and ongoing support.

Traditional connectivity infrastructures are also rigid and require labour-intensive efforts to support dynamic network conditions, especially when it comes to remote locations. For example, adapting to changing network needs, adding new applications, or responding to new security threats must be done quickly (often in real time) to ensure business continuity. Legacy networks are often too bulky to adapt to changing circumstances in a timely manner.

Moreover, traditional security approaches are falling short of the needs of today’s highly distributed enterprises. For example, multiple touch points for manual security configurations leave networks prone to misconfigurations or inconsistent configurations – exposing them to security risks. And then there is the rising cost factor. The capital expenditure for various point-product hardware, public IP addresses and software continues to rise, as do the costs of qualified IT staff to support remote locations.

That’s why distributed enterprises need a modern approach and many are quickly adopting software-defined networking to gain better control over the performance, cost and management of their networks to support their Digital Transformation strategies.

What is SD-WAN and how can it offer a solution?

SD-WAN, or software-defined wide area network, is a software-based technology for connecting remote locations to distributed enterprise networks. SD-WANs operate as a network overlay, enabling remote sites to consolidate multiple network functions and applications over low-cost broadband connections.

Because they are software-based, SD-WANs reduce the number of network devices and connections needed at each site, significantly lowering network complexity and costs – especially at the network edge. Here, agility is key, as enterprises can remotely customise and reconfigure SD-WANs to support quickly changing requirements and make system updates.

In particular, secure SD-WAN solutions greatly simplify enterprise networks and dramatically reduce both the capital and operating expenses associated with managing enterprise WANs. SD-WANs also easily extend the multi-layer security defences used in data centres to remote locations. Most importantly, they can segment various types of applications into their own dedicated logical networks, preventing them from interacting with other application traffic on the network. For instance, mission-critical applications (such as payment processing) can coexist with public applications (such as Guest Wi-Fi) on a single network.

By virtualising the network so that all network intelligence is handled in software, enterprises can simultaneously set up remote locations and keep them in sync using centralised cloud-based policy administration that’s inherent in SD-WAN connectivity models. This modern cloud-based approach further reduces cost and complexity while increasing overall network flexibility.

A clear path to Digital Transformation

Any enterprise that wants to get started with an SD-WAN deployment should develop a data connectivity and security programme for their remote locations. Engaging stakeholders to ensure a holistic approach is critical to this process and a pilot installation can quickly demonstrate the practical benefits of a secure SD-WAN solution. A wider, incremental rollout on a site-by-site basis can then help to avoid disrupting existing architecture and minimise business risk.

Legacy connectivity architectures are an inevitable consequence of technology innovation and changing market conditions. The challenge for any business on a Digital Transformation journey is that the changes being made to infrastructure, services and processes are so fundamental that relying on legacy networks will ultimately stifle their efforts. Only a modern approach to connectivity – such as a cloud-based SD-WAN solution – provides a clear path to continued business success from the data centre to the network edge and beyond.

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