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Hybrid SD-WAN Enhances Healthcare Network Management

Hybrid SD-WAN can improve healthcare network management by giving IT administrators more visibility and control over the network.

Healthcare network security supported by hybrids SD-WAN.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- CenturyLink announced the release of its managed hybrid software-defined networking in the WAN (SD-WAN) solutions that will allow organizations to manage traffic flow across the broadband network as well as private MPLS networks. SD-WAN significantly improves healthcare network management.

The solution uses application-aware routing to identify the best network path based on preset requirements, application requirements, and network latency. This ensures that users are getting access to information be quickest way possible regardless of where the application lives.

SDN uses virtualization to remove the intelligent management software from network hardware. By doing so, SDN creates a centralized, more intelligent, and easier managed network architecture.  

SDN separates the network into several different planes, which allows IT to dynamically shape the network depending on what tasks must be accomplished. The data plane and the control plane are the two main planes.

The data plane is made up of the hardware, such as switches and routers, allowing data to travel around the network.

The control plane is a set of management servers with centralized software management controls that communicates with the data plane and tells it how to move the data around the network.

CenturyLink’s tool also helps organizations digitally transform their infrastructure by providing a hybrid-WAN environment. The tool gives organizations more control over their integration, operations, and performance management but gives IT administrators full control over the network.

"Businesses are looking to evolve their networks to better support their mission-critical business and cloud initiatives," CenturyLink Vice President and Product Manager Troy Trenchard said in a statement. "The SD-WAN solution enables businesses to leverage their existing investments in MPLS while adding next-generation network capabilities. By using these offerings, businesses can deliver high application performance and security across the WAN, especially for cloud-hosted apps."

The tool also includes security features such as built-in encryption, segmentation, and secure policy control. The hybrid-WAN network can be deployed and managed centrally over multiple locations.

Healthcare wireless networks are complex to manage due to wireless networks supporting various types of data. Organizations need to be able to prioritize signals based on their origin and purpose. Advanced network management is necessary as entities continue to implement devices that are connecting to the network on-premises and remotely.

Healthcare organizations face challenges when it comes to prioritizing certain signals over others.

A healthcare network needs to be able to tell the difference between a clinician accessing an EHR in the emergency room, and a clinician accessing an EHR during a routine checkup. SD-WAN can be used to add a centralized management layer to the network so IT administers can automate certain custom network processes and gain an integrated view of the network.

report published last year by Webtorials found that access to the public cloud and virtual desktops was one of the WAN services in highest demand.

The Webtorials report indicated that the two biggest factors driving interest in SDN were better utilization of network resources and the ability to perform traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of the network.

While utilization of network resources can be experienced by implementing SDN in the LAN or the WAN, end-to-end network visibility can only be achieved by implementing SDN in the WAN.

Healthcare organizations have been generally hesitant to embrace SD-WAN because it strips away the intelligent software from network hardware, which is much different than what entities are used to deploying.

However, the simplified approach SD-WAN takes to network management gives IT administrators much more control over the different types of devices accessing the network and different access priorities.

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