The Importance of SD-WAN in the Industrial Industries

There are many benefits of SD-WAN in the industrial industry. This article will give context to SD-WAN and why it is important for so many businesses in the industrial space.

The Industrial Space

Companies operating within the industrial industry often have multiple facilities that are geographically distributed. This poses unique connectivity challenges for companies in the sector when trying to work with traditional wide-area networks (WAN). When a new facility is added, companies must add new hardware to support their traditional WANs, making them unwieldy and less scalable. The pandemic-related challenges during the past few years have caused operators within the sector to change their network priorities with hybrid work systems combined with far-flung manufacturing facilities. As an enterprise operating within the sector, you must ensure that facilities and remote users can securely connect from many locations while simultaneously monitoring their app performance and managing their networks.

Cloud and industrial internet of things (IoT) technologies have allowed organizations to become increasingly digital and more agile, but the adoption of these technologies has also placed tremendous strain on traditional WAN architecture. You can benefit from changing to a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) so that you can address multiple issues a traditional WAN can’t adequately cover, including security, application performance, and connectivity. Traditional WANs that are relied on by many organizations in the industry are too rigid, aren’t scalable, and lack the resiliency needed for optimal uptime and performance. By contrast, a software-defined wide area network is cloud-ready, scalable, and can quickly connect numerous users and remote facilities.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN controls the management, services, and connectivity between different facilities, data centers, the cloud, and remote offices by using the software to separate the data and control planes, and improve network operations and traffic routing. It works as an overlay network on top of the underlying WAN infrastructure and existing connections and separates the network services from the infrastructure to optimize how data is routed across the network.

A software defined wide area network is managed through a central controller that transmits data to the connected devices so that routers can be configured remotely and connected resources can be programmed and managed without having to be physically present. A deployment can include virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) or existing routers that run the software to handle networking, security, policy, and networking management functions.

Software-defined WANs unify communication paths and optimize application performance by implementing tunneling solutions on top of the pre-existing architecture. Enterprises have the option to dynamically connect facilities by leveraging cloud capabilities together with integrated intelligence, making SD-WANs much simpler to deploy enterprise-wide.

A key feature of a software-defined WAN is its ability to manage multiple types of connections and to petition, segment, and secure the traffic traveling across the WAN.

Software-defined WANs vs. Traditional WANs

A traditional WAN requires your organization to purchase and install circuits to route internet protocol services by using layers of hardware to complete networks. The scope and size of these traditional networks make managing them much more difficult because of all of the processes required to manage activity on the network and the number of devices installed.

With legacy WANs, security is typically handled by using access control and IP block lists to prevent the infiltration of malware and other malicious data. A traditional WAN is centrally managed with routers and applications. To set up additional facilities, you must purchase and install additional hardware. This can quickly drive up your organization’s costs. Traditional WANs are also more difficult to scale since they require advanced planning and additional logistical support to install the infrastructure required to bring operations online at additional locations.

By contrast, a software-defined WAN allows internet and cloud capabilities to be leveraged so that network traffic between the organization’s headquarters and its other facilities can be easily managed. Network segmentation also allows different facilities to be zoned, and the deployment of a software-defined WAN is much faster than the planning and support required to deploy a traditional WAN that covers a large area.

SD-WAN for the Industrial Industry

Using a software-defined WAN addresses connectivity issues in complex environments, including manufacturing facilities with IoT devices and critical machinery. A software-defined WAN allows numerous types of connections simultaneously. SD-WAN-enabled networks can link sites that have multiple types of connections with different transport methods, including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), broadband internet, and long-term evolution (LTE).

As the sector moves towards increased digitization and greater complexity, the adoption of SD-WAN technology has exploded. More and more enterprises have turned to software-defined WANs as they have found that legacy WANs are not flexible and agile enough to handle their networking demands. According to market research from Dell’Oro Group, the global market for software-defined WANs grew by 35% in 2021, reaching $2 billion in revenue. This demonstrates that organizations of all sizes and types have recognized the need for this type of networking architecture to optimize their networks and meet the demands of today’s digital environment.

A software-defined WAN also provides greater security by encrypting every piece of data and sending them through secure tunnels between facilities. This feature helps to prevent unauthorized access and combat cybersecurity threats. The availability of cloud environments also allows the manufacturing and industrial enterprises to scale their networks quickly without having to worry about purchasing and installing more architecture at various locations.

Benefits of Software-Defined WANs

Manufacturing facilities and others operating within the sector can realize all of the following benefits of SD-WANs:

  • Ease of access to cloud operations as compared to legacy WANs
  • Ability to handle the vast amounts of data generated by the IoT and smart factory applications
  • Less expensive than backhauling traffic from various locations to a central data center for security and inspection purposes
  • Fast deployment without the need for extensive planning and additional hardware installation
  • Scalability of the software-defined WAN
  • Increased security vs. legacy WANs
  • Substantially improved performance of ERP and CAD applications
  • Reduced need for logistical support to connect additional locations

Deploying a software-defined WAN is fast and scalable so that it can grow with your company. It also offers greater agility, performance optimization, and security capabilities. If you want to learn more about SD-WAN for the industrial industry, contact us for more information.