By Brendan Mc Aravey, Country Manager at Citrix South Africa

South African businesses increasingly depend on connectivity. This is because tech-savvy customers require businesses and service providers that meet their always-on needs. For example, retail outlets are increasingly adopting kiosk type services where, through video, customers can be connected to experts based centrally in call centres.

These types of business initiatives require resilient and fast networks or else customers will not consume them.  When networks fail, manufacturers can’t access the inventory data they need to respond to RFPs. Healthcare organisations can’t deliver patient information or test results to the point of care, or empower practitioners with the clinical systems they rely on. Financial services companies can’t process transactions. VoIP and other communication channels are severed, stranding both work teams and customers. Employees are cut off from the centralised services their work requires, and business flows grind to a halt.

In addition, companies need the flexibility and agility from their network providers to be able to provide connectivity where the next “Mall of Africa” opens. The choice of a network provider and their network coverage should not limit the speed of business innovation. The reality is, in a world where MPLS is currently the de facto standard for WANs, businesses are facing enormous costs and immense degrees of frustration around flexibility and application performance. But this is all about to change with the coming of age of SD-WAN.

Through SD-WAN, organisations have the ability to manage multiple types of connections – from MPLS to broadband, satellite, wireless and LTE. With the utilisation of SD WAN, companies are able to build a hybrid network and the intelligence in the software is able to dynamically decide from all the available mediums which is the best path for a data packet to be sent.

This allows for traffic efficiency through dynamic bandwidth allocation. As a result, organisations may offer always-on services and overall improved performance. What makes it special is that it offers an alternative to the costly nature of WAN while remaining flexible, resilient and scalable. And it is growing in popularity.

According to IDC, the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) industry is set to grow at a remarkable rate from the paltry $225 million of 2015 to a $6bn industry by 2020. Gartner further supports this by predicting that the usage of SD-WAN is set to rise by 30% by 2020.

Traditionally, IT organisations have addressed challenges around connectivity through WAN optimisation, but the reality is that many high-bandwidth business apps such as graphics-intensive design tools, VoIP and HD video don’t leave much room for optimisation. Scaling WAN bandwidth through MPLS services is costly, takes months of negotiation and implementation to set up, and locks companies into multi-year contracts. You need a more agile, fluid way to adapt your network to the needs of your business and ensure the reliable high performance your users and customers demand.

WAN virtualisation offers a new approach to maintain the high-quality connectivity modern businesses demand. Multiple MPLS and broadband paths are logically bound into a single virtual WAN with greater bandwidth, resiliency and flexibility than any single connection could offer.

From a cost perspective, organisations no longer have to consider the ongoing maintenance of branch WAN infrastructure. Additionally, as a benefit, organisations can open new branches in remote locations despite the issue of low speed connectivity. It opens up a new world of connectivity and communication, with more reliable uptime and service.

Once installed, the limitations traditionally felt by the business in terms of expansion and growth are no longer relevant. To add users, make changes and add in functionality used to need an on-site technician; now, the entire system can be managed from a central location and adapted to suit different branch or company requirements. The shift in terms of time and technical investment is significant. The technology is also dynamic and resilient. Through its intelligent use of network, platform and connectivity tool, it ensures uptime even if a link goes down. SD-WAN is platform-agnostic so the organisation isn’t locked into one supplier or solution, which makes a big difference to coverage and capability.

The South African reality is that connectivity issues are a commonplace. This calls for a solution where companies can interchange between multiple connectivity platforms. In scope, connectivity and reliability, SD WAN provides that solution and leading providers like Citrix are on track to help the organisation make it happen.

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