Now we turn to what is perhaps another positive development from 2020—or at least a very interesting one. This is all about SD-WAN and whether it becomes a practical and viable solution for home offices.
John Fruehe is an independent technology analyst and he first drew my attention to this trend that was already starting to shape up in the spring not long after many, many companies dispersed their workforces to home offices and suddenly had ongoing connectivity and security needs that couldn’t be adequately addressed with VPN.
I also spoke to Ben Niernberg, executive vice president at MNJ Technologies, an MSP that specializes in SD-WAN deployments. He’s also seeing this push of SD-WAN out to what he calls the “branch office of one”
I spoke to John and Ben separately though I asked them many of the same questions. And their answers together create a rich perspective on this subject. So throughout this segment, you’ll hear clips from each of them.
SD-WAN in the Age of WFH: John Fruehe and Ben Niernberg
[02:37] John: Initial COVID lockdowns were thought to be short-term, so most companies decided to use their existing VPN system for work from home employees. But then companies began to realize, remote working was going to be around for much longer.
[03:08] John: VPN is great for email, but when it comes to hardcore productivity or true security apps a better experience was needed for these users. IT teams started to look at SD-WAN as an opportunity to allow staff to have workplace access from a network edge, rather than a punch in through VPN.
[04:04] Ben: As we move to the home office or “branch of one”, the focus is on how to create an SD-WAN solution at home where you may have a single wireline or broadband coming in, but then you also have LTE.
[05:17] John: SD-WAN will be used where there are very expensive or sensitive applications for employees such as lawyers or engineers. SD-WAN extends the network edge to the person’s house and gives them a better experience.
[06:53] Ben: The benefits of security and connectivity change the perspective on cost. SD-WAN may actually become a solution that makes both financial and business sense for widespread home office use.
[07:56] John: There are other factors that also affect how far SD-WAN gets implemented. If a company is thinking they’ll bring their employees back to the office eventually, SD-WAN is likely not a sensible investment. But for those companies who are moving to permanent work from home, it definitely is.
[09:19] John: All the SD-WAN vendors are looking for ways to bring their solution costs down to capitalize on the home office trend.
[10:20] Ben is also hearing many, many conversations with the vendors and customers about ways to make SD-WAN more accessible and affordable for a home office.
[11:18] Ben: When you look at the total cost of ownership, SD-WAN is typically cost-neutral.
[14:09] John: Some companies will need to start compensating their employees for their internet connection especially if they want some say in minimum speed and download capabilities. This does make the internet connection a company cost.
[16:53] John: As the cost for SD-WAN comes down, you’ll definitely see more companies rolling it out because it’s easier to manage than VPN. But cultural changes, specifically supporting a permanently remote workforce—will also have to happen.
[18:40] Ben: Companies that need security and reliable connections will adopt the technology sooner but it will eventually push everywhere.
[19:23] John: Start with showing the business need and the business benefit of SD-WAN. Segment your employees by role and needs, as different kinds of work have different ROI on an SD-WAN deployment.
[21:45] Ben: There are some many SD-WAN vendors and solutions, and not all are created equal. Different products have different strengths. That means you should really work with a technology partner who understands what’s out there and how to match the solution to your requirements.
Links from this episode
- Working from Home Could Expand SD-WAN Edge to Residences
- Michael Dell: Work From Home Will Be ‘Permanent Feature’
- 5 Big Things to Know About the HPE-Silver Peak Acquisition
- John Fruehe (blog)
- John Fruehe on LinkedIn
- Ben Niernberg on LinkedIn
- MNJ Technologies
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