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  • 4 October 2016 11:18

Why SD-WAN is key to business-critical replication acceleration

By Peter Skarlatos, Systems Engineering Manager, Silver Peak Australia & New Zealand

Flash storage and cloud native enterprise were the two key topics supporting a theme of ‘modernise the data centre’ at the recent EMC World event. The combination of these two technologies highlights the importance of data replication, which in turn underlines the need for faster, more efficient networks.

Globally, nine out of 10 enterprises have some form of flash storage somewhere in the data centre, according to survey by 451 Research. Flash as a tier in hybrid flash arrays is the technology’s most common usage (51 per cent).

The research study polled more than 1,000 IT professionals worldwide and combined with responses from a panel of more than 30,000 senior IT buyers and enterprise technology executives. While businesses continue to buy traditional storage, flash will become the de facto standard type of storage for most enterprise applications. Flash is easier to manage, cost points have fallen through the floor and densities have improved.

Flash is becoming available across a wide variety of products, and new solutions will increase the reliability, speed and scale of the core storage system. The new options will allow more companies to deploy more flash in more places.

In a data centre, anything new and fast will shine a spotlight on old and slow. For many companies, ‘old and slow’ is the network. New switches are available in the data centre that can keep up with flash storage. All the new Broadcom-based products are 25/50/100 Gig-E capable, so if a company is deploying one of the flash arrays, then a network upgrade is also likely, to guard against the network being a bottleneck limiting the effectiveness of flash.

SD-WAN is critical

But what about the wide area network (WAN)? As organisations move to a cloud native model, storage becomes distributed across multiple data centres. The trend to building fewer mega data centres and more smaller ones distributed geographically for strategic purposes will require more traffic to be replicated between data centres to ensure that users are close to their data.

Replication acceleration technology is essential for optimising the traffic flow between data centres. It is business critical to cloud native solutions and leveraging the speed of flash. Replication acceleration ensures that data moving between data centres travels as fast as possible, so that flash storage and other systems can work optimally.

Success in the digital era is based on speed, and this requires modernising the data centre. Over the next few years, we can expect to see more businesses leveraging the power of flash to build high performance hybrid clouds. But organisations need the right tools in place to ensure their networks can keep up with the changes in technology.

Risk of ignoring SD-WAN

Whenever technology evolves, a degree of perceived risk is involved. New technology can disrupt workers because of a change in process, cause unnecessary downtime due to integration issues, or fail because it’s new and unproven. So, many CIOs and other business leaders prefer to wait until technology matures before deploying.

But since speed is the new currency of business, there is more risk in not being an earlier adopter than there is by being one. Success in business is no longer based on a company having the best products or even the best people - sustained market leadership depends on an organisation’s ability to adapt to market changes faster than the competition.

Becoming a digital organisation means having to be more agile and nimble than the competition, which requires an agile IT foundation that enables the company to make rapid changes. This is the primary reason why companies spent over $12 billion globally on digital initiatives. Yet companies can be only as agile as the least agile component and today that is the network, particularly the WAN.

Legacy networks are rigid in nature and slow to change. A study last year by ZK Research found that, on average, it takes over four months for businesses to make even a simple network change. Complex changes often take over a year to implement – hardly the calling card of a business striving to be agile.

While the cost savings from introducing a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) can be significant, this does not reflect the technology’s true value. When implementing new technologies to save money, unforeseen things can happen along the way that could diminish those savings.

The success of an IT project should not be determined cost savings, as these are difficult to calculate unless all the variables and cost inputs are known and can be measured both before and after deployment. With the WAN, an organisation that really wants to save money should let the contract expire and hammer the service provider for bigger savings. In today’s competitive environment this will yield at least 5 – 10 per cent.

The true value of an SD-WAN lies in its ability to make the network dynamic and agile, and enable an organisation to compete at digital speeds. This is paramount as IT becomes network-centric in an era that is highly mobile and cloud-first. The shift means that organisations wanting to leverage mobile and cloud as part of their digital strategy must also consider the network. A slow, static network means that digital strategies will fail. A dynamic, agile network will allow the business to implement new strategies quickly.

Common wisdom might suggest that moving to new technologies like SD-WAN creates some business risk. In this case, with the network at the centre of digitisation, it is risker not to move — and that’s something all business leaders should be considering.

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