Civil Service World hosted a webinar briefing in partnership with BT and Cisco to learn more about how smarter networks like software-defined networking in a wide area network, or SD-WAN, can lower costs, improve operational efficiency, and create a new citizen experience. Below are a few excerpts from Richard Oliver, General Manager of BT’s IT & Managed Services Portfolio, Guillaume Sampic, Strategy Director of BT Enterprise, and Cisco’s Dominic Elliot, CTO of BT Cisco Relationship.
So, what is Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)?
Richard: At its most basic level, SD-WAN is a technology that typically sits on top of networks. Realistically, its main role is to look from the application down. What SD-WAN technology gives us is the ability to bring networks together – to look at them from a user perspective and organisational perspective – and start to look at how traffic is shaped, how traffic is used, what happens when network states change, and really make sure that an application experience is built. That’s “Intelligent Connectivity”.
In the past, the way we did this would be to look at things from the network up. We’d build a network with an amount of capacity and then ensure as best we could from the network configuration that the user and application experience was optimal. SD-WAN has approached that from the other side. It’s a technology that gives visibility and control, and is far more dynamic than what we’ve had in the past.
What are the big challenges facing the public sector when it comes to their networks?
Richard - It’s the early adopters who have really shaped the use cases we have built around intelligent connectivity. Our public sector partners have moved away from traditional, static networks. These networks were built, they were configured, and they stayed the same for a long period of time. What we’re seeing now is that as workplaces, workstyles, and the way that we work changes, we need to be much more dynamic in the way that we can provide services. That means that networks have to adapt.
More generally, technology is converging. We used to see the different pillars of networking – the physical network, local area network, WiFi – they used to be separate pillars. But now a lot of organisations are looking at how to bring those networks together. That really is the essence of intelligent connectivity: bringing all those pillars together as a solution rather than having separate networks run by separate people in an organisation.
Guillaume - SD-WAN is a future-proof technology. Think about SD-WAN together with evolutions like 5G – not only can you benefit from some of the best legacy and new network connectivity, but also from future innovations in connectivity.
What are organisations learning as they adopt?
Dom - What’s important to understand here is that this is an infrastructure, a technology that sits over the top of existing physical networks. And if the underlay is not well engineered, well understood and well defined, your overlay performance and the experience of your end users will be adversely affected. Let’s say a customer didn’t get the response time they were expecting on the app I rolled out - where was the problem? Was it that their device isn’t up to speed? Was it that the local broadband was congested? Or was it actually the core network that was congested?
Well, with SD-WAN I can see all of that. I can understand what’s going on, and then properly plan what I roll out. I can create policy, and I can change that policy.
To view a full recording of the webinar, visit is.gd/L3d7LW
For more information about BT and SD-WAN, please visit www.bt.com/business/sdwan or come and see us at our Customer Experience Centre in the BT Centre to see SD-WAN tech come alive.
BT's white paper 'SD-WAN is the cornerstone of network transformation' is available here.