IDC networking trifecta: SD-WAN, automation, and analytics

IDC networking trifecta: SD-WAN, automation, and analytics

SD-WAN and analytics can help optimize performance of cloud-based applications, IDC says.

Credit: Supplied

To get the most out of SD-WAN, organisations should augment it with analytics and automation that can provide valuable insights and boost security as well, according to IDC.

“SD-WAN plays an important role in just about everything enterprises want to do from supporting distributed applications or multi-cloud applications to providing on-ramps to the public cloud backbone and connectivity to site-to-site or site to multi-site use cases,” said Brandon Butler, research manager with IDC’s Enterprise Networks practice speaking at a Cisco-sponsored webinar this week.

“Enterprises want to have an SD-WAN platform that will be able to not just tell you insights in terms of what's happening at the SD-WAN management layer, but into the underlay as well, a platform that can help you understand if there is some sort of issue that's impacting users' core source of data,” Butler said. 

“So having an observability platform that supports analytics and stretches across all these different points of the network becomes increasingly important.”

SD-WAN relies on its interaction with cloud services, so it’s important to analyse those interactions to optimise them. 

“It is necessary for network analytics solutions to heighten visibility into and control over cloud services, resources, connections, and application performance,” IDC wrote in a recent report entitled “Analytics and Automation: Driving SD-WAN Success at the Network Edge.”

The key benefit to analytics is that the telemetry detail they offer can be used to fuel automation, said Mark Leary, research director with IDC’s Network Analytics & Automation practice. 

“Automation uses analytics to enable more precise actions and relieve operators of the burden of having to do things minute-to-minute,” Leary said. “Business IT executives want their staff focused on the bigger picture things--the things that are coming down the road, the things that have more business impact, not deploying devices or configuring software or constantly chasing problems.”

Enterprises link observability with automation, IDC found. In its 2022 worldwide survey on observability and IT management, over 75% of respondents said they are using or planning to use observability intelligence and insights to support their automation efforts. 

In a separate 2021 study focused on network automation, the more successful organisations were using analytics to drive their network automation efforts, allowing them to realise greater returns than organisations that simply automated repetitive tasks, IDC stated.   

“Tying analytics to automation enables the SD-WAN environment to respond readily and reliably to traffic changes, problems, security threats, and new workloads while minimising staff demands,” IDC stated.

Another key issue employing analytics with SD-WAN systems is the ability to bump-up security and mitigate threats.

“As organisations look to have security more integrated with their networking, visibility and analytics play an important role by providing insights into the users and devices that are on the network and which applications they're accessing,” Leary said. 

“This is foundational information for being able to set policies in terms of which users and devices are allowed on the network [and] which applications they're allowed to access. These observability platforms really provide foundational information for really being able to provide a security posture on top of the enterprise network edge.”

Melding security and networking control also has another benefit: Getting NetOps and SecOps to work more as one.

“IDC survey research indicates that one of the significant permanent changes in IT operations precipitated by the pandemic was a tightening of the bonds between NetOps and SecOps,” IDC stated. 

“This change has resulted in organizational realignments, common tool selection, increased management-data sharing, and process improvements. Advancing SD-WAN technology developments and adoption certainly result from a closer coupling of both systems and staff supporting a secure connected environment at the network edge. Detailed network intelligence and insights play a major role in promoting the acceptance and effectiveness of a conjoined networking and security effort.”

All of the core SD-WAN vendors including as Cisco, Juniper, VMware, Extreme, and Palo Alto support some analytics and automation components.

“SD-WAN requirements present multiple challenges for Cisco and other suppliers looking to leverage analytics and automation within the evolving network edge,” IDC stated.    

“Comprehensive and timely network intelligence—from both on-premises systems and public cloud/communications services—is critical for accurate analysis of conditions and components and can lead to precise automated actions. This analysis and automation must be augmented by AI/ML development focused on capabilities that drive not only greater accuracy and precision in the present, but also heightened staff productivity and predictive analysis into the future,” IDC stated.

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