Enterprise networking professionals have a cloud problem, even if they don’t know it. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions can help them solve this problem.

Many network managers are unaware that their enterprises are consuming IaaS infrastructure and SaaS applications until someone comes to them with a cloud-related problem. In some cases, users can’t connect to the cloud and they want network operations to figure out why, a tall order for a networking team that didn’t even know the company was using such a cloud service. Or a line of business manager will come to the networking team with the unhappy news that there has been a cloud-related data breach, and the network team needs to help clean up the mess.

According to EMA research, network managers say that more than 40% of traffic on the their networks is traceable to external cloud services now, and that’s just the cloud traffic network managers know about. The network infrastructure group needs to take control.

Unfortunately, many MPLS networks are not architected to support cloud connectivity, especially from branch offices. Legacy networks typically route cloud traffic from branches to a data center or regional hub, where the enterprise has established a secure and/or direct link into the cloud provider’s environment. This hub-and-spoke approach isn’t ideal. It introduces latency, jitter, and packet drops. In fact, more than half of enterprises tell EMA that they prefer to let branch offices connect directly into cloud services. As enterprises lean more heavily on cloud, they need a better solution.

Software-defined WAN technology typically offers a variety of capabilities that address the cloud connectivity challenge head on. SD-WAN solutions create a hybrid WAN overlay that lets branches use a mix of MPLS and broadband for primary network connectivity. More importantly, SD-WAN can identify cloud application traffic, apply security and quality of services (QoS) policies to that traffic locally, and allow it to go directly from the branch into the cloud without need for hairpin turn into a corporate data center. This architecture improves the cloud application experience at the branch and ensures that the traffic is secure.

Also, SD-WAN can do all of this programmatically. With most solutions on the market today, network engineers can establish these overlays with cloud-specific QoS and security policies from a central graphical user interface (GUI). There is usually no need to configure individual routers via command line interface (CLI).

SD-WAN solutions will vary in how they support cloud networking. Many have deep insight into application traffic, and they will identify unsanctioned cloud applications, which will allow the network team to adjust or enforce policy as needed. SD-WAN solutions also offer diverse integrations into popular public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. These integrations support more sophisticated VPN architectures, network segmentation, traffic optimization, and more.

The bottom line is this: Enterprises are adopting SD-WAN today. Don’t get left behind.

To find out more about how SD-WAN can help enterprises cloud-enable their networks, join me and many other experts for Cisco’s FutureWAN virtual event.