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This article was written and contributed by Palo Alto Networks.  

Embracing Elastic Networks: The Future of On-Premises Branch Offices

Branches are facing fundamental shifts. With a hybrid workforce here to stay, 74% of businesses have already implemented a permanent hybrid work model. In addition, the ubiquitous adoption of modern collaboration and videoconferencing apps that has helped organizations with business continuity is accelerating. The number of these devices is expected to grow six times by 2025. These changes require branches to reimagine the existing networking infrastructure to accommodate the high-bandwidth usage and needed flexibility.  

Legacy networks do not account for the reality of today. They are often rigid and complex with multiple-point solutions, constantly needing to refresh the HW appliances. They rely on expensive dedicated private links that fail to provide flexibility to accommodate the demand in capacity. Most importantly, their data center backhauled architecture limits direct-to-app access, resulting in poor user experience and application resiliency.

Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) was created to solve such problems–and it did deliver to some degree. For instance, SD-WAN does allow direct app access to cloud and SaaS apps…but at the cost of core SD-WAN functionality, including:

  • Active-active connections on all WAN transports
  • Limited application SLAs
  • Limited security enforcement for these apps

The future, however, lies in adopting networks that offer flexibility, resiliency with zero routing complexities at scale. 

Core SD-WAN Capabilities to Deliver Flexibility 

The right SD-WAN solution should flexibly support carrier-independent and higher bandwidth connections like direct internet, 5G, and support for MPLS while providing a resilient architecture that supports highly available appliances with seamless failover.

Organizations also require an SD-WAN solution that eliminates all routing complexity with a centralized controller-based architecture to automatically deploy, manage, and update the network for consistent, uninterrupted end-to-end connectivity. 

By implementing an elastic network, organizations gain the agility and scalability necessary for meeting distributed workforce demands.

Elastic Networks Starts with a Next-Gen SD-WAN 

Elastic Networks Starts with a Next-Gen SD-WAN 

Palo Alto Networks Prisma SD-WAN is a next-generation SD-WAN solution that ensures customers can build a robust, agile network at scale without the complexity of routing technologies by delivering:

1. Flexibile Connectivity on any WAN Transports

Prisma SD-WAN enables customers to connect broadband, satellite, 5G, and even MPLS in a fluid, active-active manner. Prisma SD-WAN is implemented as a top-down model starting from Layer 7 applications, unlike other SD-WAN solutions. Prisma SD-WAN forwards application sessions, not packets. This helps build application-based business policies that include any of the above WAN links for all applications. 

A top-down model also allows Prisma SD-WAN to distribute application sessions across links based on bandwidth availability, capacity, and performance. Ultimately, issues commonly associated with an active-passive model are eliminated.

2. Edge Resiliency Preserves WAN Capacity During Device Failure

Prisma SD-WAN offers a unique, high-availability model that preserves 100% WAN capacity at the branch, even when one device in the HA pair fails. 

The innovative technology built into every Prisma SD-WAN Instant-on Network (ION) appliance ensures that fail-to-wire capability automatically kicks in upon device failure. 

For instance: Suppose there are two connections and devices. Connection A goes to device A, and connection B goes to device B. Device A goes down. If device A is a router or any other SD-WAN solution, it will take down the WAN connection - connection A associated with it.

With Prisma SD-WAN, the failed device can still forward traffic on the connected WAN transport, thereby preserving 100% WAN capacity of both connections.

3. Controller Architecture That Eliminates All Routing Complexities

Finally, there needs to be a network fabric that connects branches, data centers, and the cloud, establishing access for all applications seamlessly. 

Previously, customers have dealt with significant routing complexity to accomplish this. In fact, over the course of the last two decades, the complexity of these environments has only grown. Prisma SD-WAN ensures customers can build the entire network with little to no routing.

Prisma SD-WAN's controller-based architecture automates end-to-end connectivity, like building a full mesh across the enterprise and building, managing, and updating network topology, including automating complex routing operations like setting router filters, prefix filters, etc.

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