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Healthcare WAN Edge Infrastructure Supports Evolving Networks

Evolving technology and network requirements force healthcare organizations to consider SD-WAN and WAN edge computing as a means to support digital transformation.

healthcare WAN edge infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare wide area network (WAN) edge infrastructure is evolving as organizations need to support more dynamic networks that include on-premises and cloud-based models.

“By year-end 2023, more than 90% of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) platforms or software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) software/appliances versus traditional routers (up from less than 40% today),” according to Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant.

Enterprise organizations are looking to deploy a decentralized network infrastructure that allows network connectivity from distributed locations. As a result, the networking market has evolved from traditional branch routers to accommodate the needs of digital transformation. The WAN edge market includes software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).

“WAN edge functionality can exist on or off the enterprise premises via physical or virtual appliances, and is typically sourced from network equipment providers (and their channels), network service providers (NSPs) or managed service providers (MSPs),” Gartner explained. “WAN edge infrastructure must be agnostic to the underlying network transport provider and services.”

This transition makes traditional branch routers unable to sustain strong enough connections to support the influx of network activity within and outside the organization.  

Emerging trends in networking will also factor in to the rise of WAN edge infrastructure such as internet substitution for MPLS connections, and automation and agility.

“Many enterprises hope to fund their WAN expansion/update by replacing or augmenting expensive MPLS connections with internet-based VPNs, often from alternate providers,” said the report. “However, suitability of internet connections varies widely by geography, and service providers mixing connections from multiple providers increases complexity.”

SD-WAN has dramatically simplified this approach for the following reasons:

  • Due to the simpler operational environment and the ability to use multiple circuits from multiple carriers, enterprises can abstract the transport layer from the logical layer and be less dependent on their service providers.
  • This decoupling of layers is enabling new MSPs to emerge to take advantage of the above for customers that still want to outsource their WANs.
  • Traditional service providers are responding with NFV-based offerings that combine and orchestrate services (SD-WAN, security, WAN optimization) from multiple popular vendors.

Automation and agility is also a large factor when it comes to WAN. Currently, the majority of WAN changes are manual, but the technology exists to move to a more automated approach.

Gartner sees the WAN edge market driven by five main factors:

  1. Refresh of existing branch office networking equipment that is at its technological or support limits
  2. Renewal of NSP or managed service contracts, where a new service provider also means new equipment
  3. The changing traffic patterns resulting from the increasing use of cloud resources, which renders the traditional hub-and-spoke WAN architecture obsolete
  4. The expansion of capacity (i.e., physical build-outs) within existing locations
  5. The desire to increase agility and automation in order to address the needs of digital business transformation and to lower operational expenses (and maybe the growing realization that WAN operations do not need to be the burdensome operational burden of the past)

“Moving forward, Gartner views SD-WAN and vCPE as key technologies to help enterprises transform their networks from fragile to agile,” said report authors. “We believe that emerging SD-WAN solutions and vCPE platforms will best address enterprise requirements for the next five years, as they provide the best mix of performance, price and flexibility compared to alternative hardware-centric approaches.”

“Specifically, we predict that by 2023, more than 90 percent of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on vCPE or SD-WAN appliances versus traditional routers (up from less than 40 percent today).”

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