Manufacturing companies have long led the charge on wide-area networking. Every industry must have real-time sharing of information, although manufacturing has a unique need to ensure connectivity across operations as well as locations, suppliers, and partners.
Because manufacturing must always push towards efficiency across all its processes, it cannot overlook IT operations and WAN connectivity. More and more large-scale manufacturers are embracing software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) over traditional WAN solutions.
Fuelled in large part by the ever-increasing demand for mobile devices, real-time data, and cloud computing, SD-WAN has emerged as a cost-effective, powerful solution. It provides performance, security, and scalability across platforms.
Datacentres are no longer the single control point for business applications with the emergence of Edge and Fog Computing. With the rise of big data and the efficiency of cloud applications, SD-WAN is fast becoming critical to the manufacturing operations.
SD-WAN General Overview
SD-WAN is an intelligent, cloud-based WAN architecture that enables organisations to integrate any combination of services they may have. Those include LTE, MPLS, fibre and broadband services. Any configuration of connectivity connects users to the organisation’s applications. SD-WAN incorporates a centralised control to direct traffic across the most efficient network path. As a result, the applications can be offered greater bandwidth, lower latency, enhanced performance and reduced IT costs.
Traditional WAN design is not particularly cloud-friendly, or at least not ‘traffic efficient’. All traffic is back-hauled to the Datacentre for the compute function, even traffic that should stay local and not find its way to the cloud. This unnecessary delay impairs performance and hampers productivity, particularly for real-time data and analytics.
By contrast, SD-WAN when combined with Edge and Fog computing can ensure that local traffic can stay local to increase overall performance.
How does an SD-WAN do this? It intelligently directs traffic across the WAN, handling it based on priority, security needs, and service quality. Because many manufacturing organisations have a global footprint, adopting SD-WANs makes sense. It helps businesses remain competitive, take advantage of cloud technology, and become more agile.
Will Manufacturing Benefit from SD-WAN?
The short answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” SD-WAN has many benefits for the manufacturing industry. Foremost, it increases productivity and improve user satisfaction, whether those users be employees, vendors, partners, or customers.
No matter how large the organisation, SD-WAN is easy to configure, provisions, manage, and later expand as the organisation grows. Moving to an SD-WAN solution streamlines WAN optimisation into a single, powerful, and scalable platform.
SD-WAN can boost productivity by strengthening the organisation’s business agility and network responsiveness. This, in turn, improves network security, all while simplifying the WAN architecture. Such streamlining reduces WAN costs significantly. These and other benefits are all discussed in greater detail in the section ’10 Benefits of SD-WAN for Manufacturing’.
The Future of Manufacturing WAN Usage
Traditional WAN architecture simply wasn’t made to integrate with cloud and edge technology. As a result, those manufacturing entities that have not yet invested in advanced software-driven networks continue to experience security and latency issues.
Migrating to an SD-WAN platform means improved, software-driven security features as well as enhanced performance. Companies can use multiple cheaper direct to internet broadband lines bonded together to handle application traffic. By combining MPLS with direct to internet allows businesses to increase their bandwidth while lowering costs, but at the same time keeping the SLA’s of MPLS.
For these reasons, large and small manufacturing organisations alike will continue to replace their legacy WAN systems with the more robust SD-WAN. Cloud computing is here to stay, as the old WAN methodology just isn’t making the grade.
10 Benefits of SD-WAN for Manufacturing
Let’s now delve deeper and discuss 10 benefits of SD-WAN for manufacturing.
1. Cost Saving
SD-WANs reduces costs (both Capex and Opex) mainly by saving on expensive bandwidth and equipment. Compared to a full MPLS design, a global SD-WAN using a hybrid design of MPLS and Direct to Internet can be cost positive. If it’s a fully-managed service, then the company will free up its in-house IT resources. The IT staff can focus on business initiatives and other projects that best serve the needs of the organisation.
Put simply, a resilient SD-WAN cuts down (or cuts out) network downtime. SD-WAN technology can detect outages in real-time and automatically move to working data paths to mitigate system downtime.
By design, an SD-WAN has added resilience. The technology allows you to prioritise and balance particular WAN links. Then, in the even a line fails, the platform can reroute to one of the remaining SD-WAN lines. The interruption is almost undetectable by network users, resulting in little to no downtime or lost productivity.
Businesses in any industry can use SD-WAN technology to improve customer experience, especially with the rise of cloud computing. As many as 90% of manufacturers now use cloud‑based applications, and many are moving to Edge and Fog design models and incorporating SD-WAN also.
Another example is IoT connectivity. SD-WAN can manage IoT endpoints and prioritise traffic. While this is somewhat of a new concept for manufacturing, future factories will have to accommodate IoT growth, as the retail industry has. Factories will soon have to get on board with smart-factory design, and SD-WAN technology poises them for that next stage.
Large networks grow quickly. An organisation often need to add dozens of global network locations within days rather than weeks. For example, if your organisation sees sudden growth in a new offshore market, a traditional MPLS ervice may not be the perfect option.
SD-WAN can overlay an existing network, which enables you to establish new branches and locations quickly. More importantly, you can do so without disturbing the current infrastructure configuration. Your network remains stable.
SD-WAN helps manufacturing entities meet the ever-changing IT demands by making provisioning and integration simple. Your in-house IT department can control all the installation and configuration functions. Also eliminates the need for multiple duplicate devices like firewalls, routers, and WAN optimisers. Instead, it streamlines cloud migration and optimises SaaS and other communications.
Whether you are adding or expanding your network, your IT staff can easily prioritise applications to maximise performance. From there, the system routes traffic dynamically and per your business demands. Because SD-WANs tap into high-speed broadband, your organisation’s risk for downtime is minimal.
6. Efficiency of Data
SD-WAN enables your IT department to set traffic prioritisation for the most efficient movement of data. The SD-WAN identifies the type of traffic coming in or out and then forwards real-time traffic first to it’s destination. Edge and Fog computing can go some step further and ensure local traffic stays local for the compute function.
This is remarkably efficient compared to the old WAN connections, which backhauled all traffic to a centralised datacentre. From there, the data became bottlenecked and created network delay and potential downtime.
7. Ease of Provisioning
Provisioning is one area that has not yet seen much improvement even with cloud and related technologies. SD-WAN, however, can cut down provisioning times and the associated costs for new sites. This is possible by it;s simple centralised provisioning model that is template driven.
SD-WAN reduces the time organisations typically spend on provisioning network changes by up to 80%. Your IT team can use the SD-WAN’s configuration templates and provision correctly, the first time.
8. Reduced Data Complexity
For most manufacturing companies, network complexity is an ongoing challenge. Most organisations use a combination of edge and cloud-based applications along with local applications. All these compete for bandwidth and threaten to slow down the entire network.
SD-WAN can monitor and then alert on the performance of differing data types. Doing so ensures that there is enough bandwidth allocated to high-priority low latency applications. Those applications that must have lower latency can use the most efficient path for greater performance.
9. Centralised Management
By centralising the management of WAN services thanks to SD-WAN, you also centralise the security platform for all sites (discussed in the next section). Accomplishing centralised management reduces your overall WAN operation expense.
So, you need fewer localised resources, less IT staff focusing on the platform and your overall bandwidth costs are reduced. Centralised management also means network emergencies are detected sooner and less support tickets for your IT department.
10. Enhanced Security Features
SD-WAN provides enhanced security features for all sites that is managed from a central location. It does so through visibility into all sites WAN network traffic, including activity at single WAN sites, the cloud, edge or fog environment, and any corporate datacentre.
These heightened security capabilities counteract the waves of malicious attacks through IoT devices as they become more prevalent in manufacturing networks. Hackers are always lurking for personal data and proprietary information.
SD-WAN can ensure that all traffic is encrypted as it leave a site to protect against unauthorised access. Like any part of SD-WAN, your IT folks can manage this centrally. They can secure a virtual perimeter around the local network and include remote locations as well.
To ensure continued success, manufacturers need an agile, scalable, robust network. It must be able to handle expansion without compromising essential infrastructures. The company’s WAN connects everything and everyone. Without it, collaboration, communication, and production fail.
SD-WAN for manufacturing is becoming essential as it allows the business to prioritise and direct network traffic as per demand. Furthermore, that traffic can be encrypted to ensure no unauthorised access. Finally, it outperforms the more expensive single MPLS model, which requires more time to provision and additional resources to maintain.
The SD-WAN hybrid approach consisting of a combination of cheaper direct to Internet lines plus cost effective managed MPLS services is the solution we recommend to all our customers.
Please get in touch to discuss your future SD-WAN requirements in more detail.