5G wireless technology and flexible, high-performance software-defined WAN or wide-area network have converged, creating the next big thing in the modernization of networks. The fusion of the two technologies will change the whole networking landscape for businesses far beyond what 4G did for wireless/mobile communications.
Not to discount the impressive anticipated benefits that 5G is expected to bring consumers, such as augmented/virtual reality experiences and thrilling online gaming – the real impact of combining 5G with SD-WAN will be mostly felt in enterprise branch networking along with data, interconnecting systems, cloud-based systems, along with “things” at the edge.
Cheaper, programmable 5G links may serve as a replacement for the existing wired services in some once interconnected to the public internet and SD-WANs. Still, it is likely that these optimized networks will coexist with and complement these networks. Given that, it is critical for enterprises to have a strategy for developing digital infrastructure that leverages seamless interconnection between the branch and edge locations, 5G, SD-WAN, and legacy wired networks.
How Networking Is Being Transformed By Digital Transformation
Digital transformation, exhibited through the adoption of cloud services (SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS), is becoming the dominant method for the delivery of services and applications to users at branch offices, edge locations, and data centres. This is driving the extension of network services by enterprises closer to user populations and points of data consumption and creation, such as the WING global IoT platform by Nokia.
The increase in application and data transfer demands a great deal of bandwidth across enterprise WAN backbones. A market study published by Equinix, which is the fourth annual Global Interconnection Index (GXI), estimates that the global installed interconnection bandwidth capacity needed to directly and privately exchange traffic among providers, partners, and enterprises is expected to reach over 16,300 Terabits per second (Tbps) by 2023.
SD-WAN is increasingly becoming an attractive option for businesses as WAN bandwidth demands increase rapidly to meet the needs of expanding digital infrastructure since it enables flexible WANs capable of blending expensive wired circuits, such as MPLS, with the cheaper public internet connections that bandwidth-rich. It is particularly critical for establishing communications to edge “pop-up” locations, such as mobile retail kiosks, temporary branch offices, or even emergency response command posts.
Recent deployments have established permanent infrastructures where mobile communications/telecommunications providers, such as AT&T, are equipping sporting venues with SD-WAN and 5G to offer internet connectivity to facilitate the streaming of live events to a growing number of fans online.
SD-WAN makes the most of industry-standard hardware by combining multiple physical WANs into a single, logical network. It delivers services such as load balancing and traffic prioritization, thus accelerating the performance of applications at the locations they are deployed, i.e. edge locations, branch offices, core data centres, or in the cloud. It also provides higher reliability, improves internet link security, and allows organizations to increase WAN bandwidth capacity significantly.
Enterprises need to develop digital infrastructure that leverages seamless interconnectivity between legacy wired networks, 5G, SD-WAN, along with branch and edge location.
Digital transformation has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, thus translating to greater demand for SD-WAN. These virtual networks have been critical to the delivery of essential bandwidth to key online collaboration services like Cisco Webex, online education, and telemedicine to distributed users. IDC actually predicts that by 2024, the worldwide SD-WAN infrastructure will be worth $6.2 billion.
The fact that 5G is capable of transforming the ability of businesses to create new use cases that take advantage of its higher networking capacity and speed is not in doubt. IDC actually estimates that by 2023, subscriber IoT and 5G mobile connections will reach 1.01 billion. Use cases include VR/AR, robotics, and IoT in the modernization of industries like transportation, construction, healthcare, and public safety.
SD-WAN and 5G mobile broadband will facilitate new services that will either complement or serve as an alternative to fixed, wired broadband connectivity with equal or greater performance. The key benefits of an interconnected SD-WAN and 5G architecture include:
- Rapid provisioning for temporary or permanent locations
- Enhancing reliability
- Lower costs
- High-speed bandwidth capacity
How to Prepare for the SD-WAN and 5G
Organizations looking to develop digital infrastructure that incorporates the new capabilities and capacity of the modern SD-WAN and 5G architectures should leverage a global platform that allows for easy access to virtual network devices along with software-defined interconnection to multiple clouds and networks.
The complete architecture solves the integration challenges when interconnecting 5G and legacy circuit networks, as well as SD-WANs, other network function visualization infrastructure (NFVI) and services.