Over the past few years, significant changes have been seen within both branch architecture and networking in business and technology has been at the forefront. Network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) are currently two hot topics within this area and with them, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and other cutting-edge technologies are being brought into the fold.
One of the more recent developments has been the advent of SD Branch, a concept that encompasses SDN into branch architecture so as to bring the various benefits of SD-WAN to branch networking. It is also currently being suggested that SD branch represents the next stage of SD-WAN’s evolution and that this process is redefining how businesses and organisations are connecting their branch sites to either corporate or cloud data centers.
In this article, we’ll be looking at what exactly SD Branch is, what benefits it brings to those who invest in it, and what it could mean for the future of SD-WAN and software-defined networking.
So, let’s jump straight in.
What Is SD Branch?
SD Branch is the amalgamation of software-defined networking with network architectures so as to enhance and simplify branch networks. Modern branch networks are currently overflowing with hardware and components that are now, thanks to SDN, no longer necessary in this iteration.
Over recent years, the need for proprietary application hardware has decreased gradually and this removal and replacement with virtual software running on standard off the shelf appliances is but one of the ways in which SD Branch looks to simplify branch network architecture. A single SD-WAN appliance is capable of replacing multiple hardware functions within a specific branch’s network, however, SD branch looks to converge SD-WAN with other elements such as Wi-Fi, security, and Ethernet switches.
Now this doesn’t mean that hardware will disappear completely, these networks will still need physical hardware to run them from a specific branch location, however, it does mean that lower network architecture investment and maintenance costs could, as a result, drive further investment into SD-WAN, SD-Branch and SDN in general.
Alongside the virtualization of hardware appliances has come a shift in the way in which companies are operating, with a significant percentage now turning to software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based applications and management, which has in turn put additional stress on branch networks. In SD Branches, management is automated and centralized as is the control framework, enabling a cloud-like service.
What Are the Benefits of SD Branch and How is it Driving SDN?
As previously mentioned, there are multiple benefits to SD Branch adoption that could then go on to drive further development and adoption of software-defined networking methods and techniques. By consolidating multiple functions such as firewalls, routing, SD-WAN, and SaaS for optimization, both branch and WAN can be enhanced while also reducing their overall cost.
Some of the biggest challenges facing WAN and branch network architecture throughout the transition to cloud have been network complexity, agility, cloud-user experience, cost, and network security. However, these challenges are all faced head-on by SD Branch.
IT agility is enhanced dramatically as SD branch investors are able to roll out new deployments much quicker than they have been previously able to; in a matter of hours, rather than weeks or months. This is primarily due to the fact that SD branch lacks much of the complex or proprietary hardware that would usually be required.
SD branch is also able to drastically improve application performance and security through its integration of SD-WAN. By identifying applications and ensuring they are connected to the most appropriate type of connections for their functionality, SD-WAN, as part of SD branch, can bring much greater efficiency to app management while driving costs down.
The Future of SDN?
With the transition away from legacy hardware and towards cloud-based services well and truly underway, businesses and enterprises will no doubt be looking for the most functional, reliable, and cost-effective solution to their software-defined networking needs. SD branch looks to be able to provide such a solution.
As well as its combining of multiple WAN and branch functions, SD branch could also see the implementation of other cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence or machine learning technologies implemented in the not too distant future. This could further enhance SD branch capabilities as well as bring forward other opportunities for application development.
Automation already plays a huge part in many industries across the world, however, as software-defined networking and branch operations are further enhanced by new technologies, automation could see a significant increase in its application to branch network architecture and operations.
As these technologies become more intelligent, it seems that human intervention and management of such systems will gradually reduce. This too will bring with it its own challenges. Moreover, SD branch represents the next step in software-defined networking and will likely lead the charge in transitioning from older, legacy technologies, to new, cutting edge network architectures.