Skip to the content

Harnessing SD-WAN for intelligent networks


Software defined wide area networks can provide a valuable tool in the move to cloud and migration away from the PSN, writes Silver Peak Director, Kristian Thyregod

The public sector faces constant change in terms of policy, technology and the population it serves. Add this to the desire for transformation, continuing budget restraint and inexorably increasing demand for services, and there is a clear challenge to the infrastructure that underpins operations.

It became clear during a recent UKA Live discussion that the sector has much to gain from harnessing an agile new generation of intelligent networks that can respond to change in real-time, are flexible enough to take advantage of new technologies as they come on stream and capable of powering excellent anytime, anywhere services to both citizens and staff alike.

One major change facing the sector today is the shift away from using the Public Services Network (PSN) for its exchange of its information. The Government Digital Service indicated in 2017 that the network would not be necessary in the long term because of improved standards around issues such as email security, transport security and virtual private networks; and it recently said it has begun to work on identifying ways to do so under its Future Networks for Government programme.

This is where software defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) have a major role to play. While the move will bring organisations out from behind the heavy perimeter defence of the PSN, SD-WANs can provide them with an equal level of protection, along with a lot more flexibility to utilise internet services.

Software defined WANs provide the ability to manage data traffic through multiple channels, controlling bandwidth in response to surges and slumps in demand and monitoring activity to maintain cyber security defences – all of which are important for a sector undergoing transformation and keen to migrate to the cloud.

Indeed, SD-WANs are developing quickly and enabling organisations to be flexible and adaptable in handling ever growing volumes of data. They virtualise WAN services – such as multiprotocol label switching, broadband and 4G/5G – monitor applications and network resources, and programme policies for how the data traffic should be handled in line with its priority, the quality of services and security requirements. It is a transformative technology that can provide a bedrock for the public sector’s future.

Core advantages

The core advantages are that it makes it possible to manage data traffic through different channels, setting the priorities for the use of bandwidth, responding to surges and lulls in demand, and monitoring network activity for threats to security. It is flexible in the short term, and adaptable in the medium to long term, making it possible to incorporate new technologies into the digital estate.

This will be especially important with the growing adoption of 5G mobile networks, which promise a major increase in bandwidth and new models of data distribution for organisations of all types. It will be a great factor for increasing the flexibility of the public sector, but it is impossible to predict exactly how it will unfold over the next few years – organisations are in the early stages of exploring how to use it – and it will need a future proof approach to managing the data.

SD-WAN can provide this, dealing with the slices of organisations’ data sent through 5G networks. It will help to distribute their workloads effectively and build new digital services upon the infrastructure. It can also monitor network activity, providing managers with the visibility and capability to spot and quickly deal with anything that looks threatening.

Staged migration

An added advantage with SD-WAN is that it can coexist and merge with traditional networks, meaning that organisations can take a careful, staged approach to migration rather than necessitating a wholesale ‘lift and shift’.

This provides scope for a rapid adoption of new applications, including those that work primarily with mobile or internet of things devices, whilst ensuring the digital architecture can cope with volume and flow of data.

Related to this is the increasing take-up of cloud services, some of which use data that would previously have stayed within the PSN perimeter. This will take time – in the medium term most organisations are likely to adopt a hybrid cloud / on premise model rather than shift everything to the cloud – but again the SD-WAN provides the flexibility and protection to support an approach that works for each organisation.

This will also make it an important tool in insourcing management of the digital estate. For example, SD-WAN provides network managers with a 20/20 view of the activity, the ability to better monitor performance against service level agreements, and a level of control that has previously been out of reach.

It can do all this while demanding less time and resources than would have been necessary with legacy networks, and will be a big factor even for organisations that take a hybrid approach for insourcing, leaving control of some applications with an outsourced service.

Ability to cope

Underlying all this is the fact that public sector transformation involves unprecedented volumes of data, fuelled by new types of content, the increasing use of mobile devices, and is taking place in the shadow of new cyber threats. Most legacy networks will struggle to cope with the demands, but SD-WAN provides the flexibility and adaptability to make it possible.

It is an increasingly important tool in helping organisations cope with the shift away from the PSN, to insource the management of their IT, and to respond to the public sector’s future digital challenges.

UKA Live recently explored the role of SD-WAN in the public sector with Simon Clifford, director of digital and data at the Police ICT Company, Bill McCluggage, head of information security at Open Banking and non-executive director (digital) at FCO Services, and Silver Peak’s Kristian Thyregod. 

Complete the quick form below to watch the full on-demand video now:

If you have any questions about how Silver Peak can help you underpin your digital transformation you can get in touch here or join these webinars to learn more:

Alternatively, you can catch up with the team in person at these forthcoming events: 

  • Oct 21-22, 2019 WAN Summit
  • Nov, 21 2019 Peak Performance Roadshow, Manchester if you would like to register please click here

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.