Vodacom sees SD-WAN as the backbone of digital transformation in SA

vodacom logo 2, sd-wan

While 5G is still firmly on the agenda for Vodacom in 2019, the company’s also looking at other budding technologies to expand its business division and push digital transformation.

On Tuesday the telco giant outlined its quickening plan to offer its SD-WAN services, or Software-Defined Wide Area Network, for businesses throughout South Africa.

SD-WAN is incredibly difficult to picture without visual aids, but can be described as a network design that provides redundancy, a higher bandwidth threshold and reduced costs for businesses when compared to a traditional network design.

What’s the point?

Vodacom Business’s Ermano Quartero, the company’s executive head for special products, has a more succinct explanation.

“[In the past] we’ve had our traditional networking, where companies would build their own private networks, and invest a lot of money and infrastructure,” he told reporters.

“SD-WAN allows corporates to make use of an internet service which is open, ubiquitous, they can access it from anywhere, and use that as the underlying network.”

The cloud plays a big role in SD-WAN’s infrastructure, and to that end, allows businesses to control their networks centrally and from multiple connection points.

Businesses are also able to access the network using multiple existing technologies, like 4G, fixed internet and decades-old MPLS, as well as 5G once it finally arrives in a commercial capacity.

Above that, the technology’s cheaper too.

Quartero added that an SD-WAN should cost some 30% less than a traditional network.

SD-WAN in South Africa

All this isn’t really new. Network firm Cisco has been chatting about SD-WAN since 2014. But only recently have conversations about the advantages of the technology flared up in South Africa.

With this, Vodacom believes that local companies will be swift to adopt it.

Adam Rabie, Vodacom Business’s Western Cape executive head noted that the company has already “deployed an SD-WAN with one of the large retailers in South Africa”.

A large schooling group is also onboarding Vodacom’s SD-WAN infrastructure, Quartero added.

“The biggest driver in schools now is smart learning. To get that right, the school needs a tremendous amount of internet access. A school with a 1000 students would each need to be connected to the internet.

“If the internet service is down, the students can’t learn.”

Vodacom believes that SD-WAN solves this issue.

What does SD-WAN mean for consumers?

For the end user, the technology likely won’t be one that’s visibly beneficial.

It’s not something like WiFi 6 which promises more bandwidth and range, or 5G, that promises greater capacity in dense cities.

But for expanding businesses moving towards digitising their operations and moving to the cloud, the technology does make a lot of sense.

Vodacom’s rivals have also seemingly caught wind of the changing South African business landscape, too.

BCX in February announced that it would be offering SD-WAN suites to companies in the country.

Citrix in May also joined the conversation, announcing its plans for a push the technology into African markets like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

In July, MTN revealed its plans to deploy SD-WAN infrastructure to manage NarrowBand-IoT devices (NB-IOT).

Feature image: Andy Walker/Memeburn

Andy Walker, former editor


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