As workforces have become more geographically dispersed, the WAN has become increasingly important to maintaining high levels of productivity and customer service. The WAN connects branch locations and remote workers with critical business applications and allows them to securely share data, regardless of location.

However, the WAN has become more difficult to manage. Organizations are now relying on applications and services from multiple public and private clouds, so many branch locations are connecting directly to the Internet. This creates a fragmented, complex WAN with a high risk of downtime. Administrators have limited visibility across disparate WAN links, making it difficult to identify internal and external issues that cause performance problems and even downtime.

The mission-critical nature of the WAN and the need to simplify management and improve visibility are driving adoption of the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). By applying the software-defined model to the WAN, organizations can centrally manage and monitor various types of WAN connections across the extended enterprise.

The top use cases for SD-WAN are to simplify WAN infrastructure and aggregate multiple connections to improve performance and availability. Bandwidth optimization, consistent application security, and improved automation and self-provisioning were identified as the top reasons for considering SD-WAN adoption.

However, in a recent SD-WAN survey conducted by IDC, nearly three in 10 respondents said network outages remain a top WAN concern. The same number say that improvements in visibility and analytics are required to reduce the risk of outrages and better manage application and WAN performance.

WAN connectivity problems can be difficult to troubleshoot even with SD-WAN. Issues can arise in the service provider’s network, the SD-WAN, firewalls or security appliances, or other parts of the infrastructure. Because these components are typically siloed it can take hours to manually correlate information and find the root cause of problems. Meanwhile, one or more branch locations don’t have access to the network.

By providing end-to-end visibility across WAN connections, as well as application and WAN performance, SD-WAN analytics tools enable organizations to better understand and troubleshoot issues. Whether the application is hosted in the cloud or a remote data center, the source of the issue can be identified more quickly to speed problem resolution. Some tools also analyze WAN traffic and provide administrators with recommendations for corrective action.

Organizations can also use analytics tools to forecast the impact of WAN policy changes on application performance and get recommendations for improving the user experience. To avoid the growing pains that are common when deploying new technology, analytics tools help organizations identify stress points on the WAN and the policy changes needed to address them. Applications and services can be deployed more quickly across all branch locations, while and administrators gain the insight they need to optimize bandwidth utilization.

If not addressed, WAN connectivity issues can cause extended downtime, affect application performance and contribute to a poor user experience. SD-WAN analytics tools aggregate data from across the WAN and provide the analytics administrators need to troubleshoot problems quickly. Improved visibility helps eliminate WAN blind spots, maximize application performance and provide a superior user experience.