Cloud, Data Center

Are You Ready for ‘Cloud First’ Computing?

“Cloud first.” It’s what many organizations—maybe most—say they want to be these days. Some even are. But for the vast majority, it’s still an aspirational goal more than anything else. Companies inherently understand the value of being “cloud first,” since we’re well beyond the era of wondering if this “cloud” thing will make it, and if the cloud’s advantages are real (hint—they are.)

Still, getting to “cloud first” is often seen as such a lofty, difficult-to-achieve position that it discourages some IT departments (and the C-level execs that fund them), who increasingly wonder if it will ever be a reality for them. A main contributor to this fear is that their networking infrastructure is so old that the operational disruption would make an upgrade basically impossible.

The Rise of SD-WAN

As the late, great Steve Jobs might have said, “There’s an app for that.” In this case, it’s not an app, but the rapid advancement of SD-WAN technology. The “SD” in that name stands for, as you probably guessed, “software-defined.” And it works the way other software-defined technology works, whether it’s storage, networking, or even an entire data center—by decoupling the control plane from the data plane.

In this case, SD-WAN creates a virtualized network overlay, abstracting away networking equipment like routers and switches. That makes it great for things like connecting central hubs to branch offices and edge devices, since its software-defined nature allows for efficient scaling and tight security. SD-WAN also operates independent of transport protocols, so it works across connections as varied as MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) and 4G/5G LTE.

SD-WAN greatly simplifies network management too, since all configuration and policies are centrally managed. The usefulness of this increases as organizations increasingly adopt multi-cloud environments.

In other words, SD-WAN rocks. It’s something most companies should be considering. But those fears of cost, complexity, and other factors are still there. Many companies, for instance, don’t have personnel with the expertise to take on a project like this. It can be tough to even know where to start. Take a look at Figure 1, from industry association MEF, to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Figure 1. Typical SD-WAN service components. Source: MEF

That’s where bringing on a partner can help. Enlisting a company with deep expertise in SD-WAN implementation and management can offload not only much of the work, but a ton of anxiety about how to do it right.

The Advantages of Not Going the DIY Route

One company that has a lot to offer in this space is Aryaka. They describe their offering as “the cloud-first WAN,” and deliver it as a managed service. In this case, “cloud first” means that Aryaka handles everything for you, delivering it as a service.

That should immediately appeal to those who would rather focus on driving business outcomes rather than spending a lot of time, money, and resources on rolling their own SD-WAN.

One thing that Aryaka provides that sets it apart is the ginormous menu of managed services on offer. That means that a customer can have Aryaka handle everything from soup to nuts, to just parts of the SD-WAN infrastructure, like security or application acceleration. This a la carte method gives organizations a lot of flexibility in terms of costs and functionality.

And it’s 100% subscription-based. While this does mean ongoing charges, the benefits of predictable costs and not having to buy equipment, worry about provisioning, hire new, expensive SD-WAN experts, and so on, makes it an attractive option.

That’s why so many IT functions these days are moving to the as-a-service model. And in some cases, organizations need to keep data and applications in-house—for instance, security or government compliance reasons.

But for other abilities—including the massive complexity of networking in the age of the cloud—it will make sense for the majority of businesses to offload the work to the experts.

Everything in IT is a tradeoff. More and more, however, companies are finding value in outsourcing infrastructure, realizing that the advantages of cloud more than compensate for the associated costs of service subscriptions. SD-WAN fits neatly into that category.