The notion of the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is gaining traction across Africa, especially as it presents a cost-effective, intelligent and secure means to consolidate networking technologies.

Looking at the numbers, SD-WAN currently represents one of the greatest opportunities in IT, and in Europe alone it is expected to reach a market volume of more than $1.75 billion by 2023.

But why the mad dash to SD-WAN? According to Oswald Adams, Cisco Meraki Business Development Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa, the speed of deployment of SD-WAN far outstrips the months it takes for traditional or MPLS based networks to be rolled out.

“One hard and fast benefit of SD-WAN is its time to market, with some solutions taking as little as a week or less to roll out. This is particularly compelling for companies undertaking a digital transformation journey,” states Adams. “A customer can effect a change to an entire network or system with ease. This is good news for companies with multiple branch office networks as it negates the need for manual IT support that could allow for human error, and it ensures steady and streamlined bandwidth allocations from a central management point.”

SD-WAN also helps IT to reduce and consolidate multiple instances in a network. One result of this is cost efficiencies another is pure simplification. Using its Meraki customer base as an example, Adams says he has seen customers dramatically simplify the management of multiple WAN links across numerous locations as well as supplements and consolidates MPLS.

As an “overlay software network” to traditional networking, SD-WAN provides a customer with a lot of flexibility and much greater performance. Again, another key consideration in digital transformation projects where bandwidth is a central piece of the puzzle.

“With SD-WAN a customer is also assured of a policy-controlled environment where IT can customise and adapt the network to their exacting requirements. As it is able to manage multiple connections, you can set it to ensure an MPLS VPN that is core to your private cloud has priority for bandwidth, and a user can then cascade priorities across the business dependant on the nature of the network demand. As an example, a corporate enterprise might put video on a lower priority, whereas a broadcaster can set video to the highest priority,” he adds.

With the dynamic path selection features in Cisco Meraki customers are able to control connectivity between clouds, as well as cloud-based applications such as Office 365, and ensure that the most appropriate path is selected for specific application traffic. This then helps with better network management as a whole, as congestion can be detected early and diverted from a central management console. The result if high-quality data transfer, improved bandwidth and ultimately better business efficiencies.

“Cisco Meraki is an innovator in the SD-WAN market and currently holds the largest share of the market. In addition, the vendor has added management, analytics and security to the core of its offerings, providing customer true and complete control of their entire network environment,” ends Adams.