Hand-in-hand – Why the IoT needs SD-WAN

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the major influencing trends in the digital transformation of the global economy. In fact, says Hubert da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA at Cybera, worldwide demand for IoT technologies continues to climb, with data and analytics company GlobalData projecting that the global market for IoT-enabling software, hardware, and services will reach $318 billion (€283 billion) by 2023 — more than double the estimated $130 billion (€117 billion) in 2018.

Cost-effective, secure, and manageable connectivity is the foundation of IoT adoption, but as IDC reports, traditional WANs are too costly and complex to support the new apps and IoT devices popping up at remote business sites.

As a result, enterprises are now deploying Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions for greater network flexibility, security, and ease of use. Let’s examine why.

Why SD-WAN?

The SD-WAN is a software-based technology that is especially useful for connecting remote locations to a distributed enterprise network. SD-WANs at the edge of existing networks operate as a network overlay, enabling remote sites to consolidate multiple network functions and applications over low-cost broadband connections.

Because they are software-based, SD-WANs reduce the number of network devices and connections needed at each site, significantly lowering network complexity and costs. Moreover, these SD-WANs can be remotely customised and reconfigured via software to quickly adapt to changing business needs and to make ongoing system updates.

Similarly, SD-WANs can be delivered as a cloud-based managed service, which simplifies enterprise-wide SD-WAN implementation and eliminates the need for IT departments to maintain their own SD-WAN data centres. This results in very fast time-to-execution for initial installations, as well as future upgrades, and it can all be done at web scale with the lowest possible cost.

These are critical business advantages for enterprises making strategic investments in the IoT world. Given the expected ubiquitous deployment of IoT devices—there could be as many as 21.5 billion active IoT connections by 2025—organisations must be able to affordably deliver and centrally manage their networks. Designed to address these unique requirements, SD-WANs are ideally suited for IoT deployments, and that’s even before examining the key issue of security.

SD-WAN and IoT security

Clearly, adding billions of connected devices to networks around the world is going to dramatically increase security risks. Until recently, enterprises have relied upon Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to control costs when connecting remote locations and deploying new applications. However, as enterprise requirements have grown, and new applications are added to distributed enterprise locations, the cost and complexity of adding more VPNs have escalated.

Hubert Da Costa

The arrival of IoT devices in large volume has further extended traditional enterprise perimeters, underlining the limitations of VPNs, which are becoming too complex to secure and, therefore, much more vulnerable to threats—especially at the network edge.

The situation is particularly challenging for businesses that may lack technical expertise, experience, and resources, yet are susceptible to many cyberthreats and security risks that IoT can introduce. In particular, remote site operators often view technology changes as more foe than friend, simply because of how far-removed they are from central decision-makers.

On an enterprise scale, even though modern data centres are evolving to protect their assets by implementing innovative, multi-layered security solutions, the remote sites of these newly modernised, distributed enterprises are left without adequate protection. Effectively, these sites become the weakest link in the enterprise security chain. Organisations are then left to figure out how to extend data centre-grade security to remote sites with limited IT staff and tight budgets.

Fortunately, there are some promising options. By implementing SD-WAN with Unified Threat Management (UTM), for example, organisations can build an integrated security and visibility solution that grows in scope to increase security agility. UTM covers a broad range of security functions, such as firewalls, web and app filtering, SIEM, SSL (decryption, inspection, and re-encryption), intrusion detection, and anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware software.

A bright future for secure SD-WAN solutions

The impact of IoT on the SD-WAN market will be significant. According to IDC, spending on SD-WAN infrastructure will reach $4.5 billion (€4 billion) by 2022, when the SD-WAN managed services market will be worth $5.4 billion (€4.8 billion). In the same research report, IDC reveals that 82% of enterprise survey respondents would use SD-WAN at some point, with 75% saying they were already using it or would be within two years.

Hand-in-hand, SD-WAN and IoT offer organisations a strategic roadmap to the future, where they can exploit the opportunities of a world where everything is connected while retaining the high levels of management control and security that are so critical for business success.

The author is Hubert da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA at Cybera

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