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What vertical industries can benefit from SD-WAN deployments?

SD-WAN deployments can benefit a number of industries, providing improved performance and lower costs. Expert Lee Doyle looks at three of the top SD-WAN verticals.

A wide variety of vertical industries can benefit from software-defined WAN technologies. In general, the more dependent a given organization is on IT applications that require communications with the company's distributed locations, individuals and devices, the greater the potential benefits it can realize from an SD-WAN deployment.

SD-WAN uses software and cloud-based technologies to simplify the delivery of WAN services to the branch office. Software-based virtualization enables network abstraction that results in the simplification of network operations. SD-WAN deployment enables IT and business managers to easily and quickly deploy internet-based connectivity -- and the benefits of ubiquity, high bandwidth and low cost -- along with reliable, secure and high-quality results.

Examples of vertical markets for SD-WAN deployment

The following are some leading examples of SD-WAN deployment in specific verticals:

Retail. Retail organizations with brick-and-mortar operations rely heavily on point of sale. Providing in-store Wi-Fi for customers is a general requirement, as is strong security for credit card operations. Retail organizations run on thin margins and can potentially lower WAN costs by leveraging SD-WAN capabilities to run on internet connections that can reduce or eliminate MPLS costs.           

Banking and financial services. Financial services organizations like banks continue to rely on local branch operations to serve their customers. These branches require reliable, secure communications with central data centers. Financial services firms are using SD-WAN to deliver hybrid WAN -- typically, a mixture of MPLS and internet -- to improve security, reliability and performance.

Manufacturing. Manufacturing organizations rely on distributed plant networks tied to centralized data centers to control their IT operations. Their key requirements for SD-WAN deployment include network segmentation to isolate specific product lines, division or contract manufacturing, the ability to connect devices or things on the plant floor, and the ability to support a range of WAN links like 4G LTE to connect in remote areas.

Next Steps

SD-WAN and NFV help the data center

SD-WAN takes on WAN optimization

Build an SD-WAN business case

This was last published in January 2017

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How can SD-WAN benefit other vertical markets beyond those mentioned above?
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Hi Lee, 

I've had a couple of meeting with an operator Network Manager  - which was asking why a financial institution would have to put their data at risk using an internet connection for their branches using SD-WAN - and a IT manager of a global bank - which was quite skeptic about SD-WAN solutions for potential security breaches that could compromise its customers sensitive data.
As far as I see internet connectivity exposes branches to potential security risks, and financial institutions might be afraid of using SD WAN solutions because of that. How do you cope with these issues?

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Hi ffucelli,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I checked in with Lee about your question, and he gave the following response:

"SD-WAN suppliers provide built-in security to enhance the privacy of Internet connections. They also work with 3rd party network security suppliers (i.e., firewalls, IDS, etc.)"

Best,
Jen English
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SD-WAN benefits all vertical markets assuming you have the right solution that addresses:
1. application performance
2. application security
3. application and network visibility to help you in knowing what's going when needed like troubleshooting 
Lastly, it must protect your current investment by integrating with tools like orchestration and service chaining with appliances like FW.... 
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I can't think of a vertical that wouldn't benefit from an SD-WAN. Based on a secure (end-to-end encrypted) overlay architecture, multiple overlays may be defined, each with a different logical topology, different QoS parameters, different failover characteristics, etc.. For example, I might define one overlay for voice/video apps that utilizes MPLS and Internet simultaneously for high performance and high availability, protecting against an outage of one transport or even just degraded transport performance (brownout). I might have another overlay that bonds MPLS and multiple broadband services together to deliver the highest aggregate throughput to deliver maximum performance for business apps while improving availability. Then I might define a third overlay for financial apps, simply to segment that traffic for compliance reasons. I might also configure yet another for guest wi-fi that only utilizes broadband, rate-limit it to a fraction of the available bandwidth to not impact more important apps and not allow it to failover to expensive MPLS. By mapping apps (directing app traffic) to the different overlays based on business priority and intent, I deliver the right priority and SLAs to the right apps.

So even for a K-12 school district (Education vertical), an SD-WAN can deliver a better learning experience with lower-cost, higher bandwidth broadband and bond two together for high availability. An SD-WAN can also segment student traffic from teacher from admin from guest traffic, protecting student privacy.

For Hospitality, an SD-WAN can use two broadband connections simultaneously to improve internet access (both performance and availability) for hotel guests - how often have you gotten poor or interrupted internet on business trips? This improves customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

For Technology, and SD-WAN can take advantage of higher bandwidth, lower cost broadband as well as bond multiple services together to provide much better real-time collaboration at a global level, and accelerate backups of huge design databases. This delivers better employee satisfaction and productivity.

And I'm, pretty sure I can identify tangible business benefits for SD-WANs for any vertical in addition to the potential for significant cost savings.

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