In my previous article, I discussed the importance of mitigating risk when embarking on an IT integration project. This is one of two critical factors I believe companies need to focus on post merger or acquisition. The second critical factor is building in agility.
It’s clear that technological readiness has an important role to play in the IT integration process, as the right technology will enable integration to happen at speed. The faster all systems can talk to each other, the more effective the combined business will be. And this is where Software Defined Networking (SDN) – and particularly Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) technology can offer a competitive advantage.
Just like server virtualization and the cloud before it, SD-WAN is also now recognised as offering businesses a competitive advantage in terms of increased agility and greater flexibility. SD-WAN takes the concepts of software abstraction layers and central orchestration from server virtualization, and applies them to the world of routers, switches and concentrators. Where previously individual devices needed to be (re-)configured based on features and individual capabilities, SD-WAN enables intent- and policy-driven management. It’s all about central orchestration and automation, which brings with it speed and efficiency.
One of the most fundamental goals of SD-WAN is the abstraction of application data flows from the physical transport layer, thereby providing transport independence. In plain English this means enabling Wide Area Networking traffic flow completely independent from providers and hardware. This is also nothing new, but in the past required highly skilled engineers to build complex device configurations which took a lot of time and effort to set up correctly.
Now put SD-WAN technology into the post M&A environment. Post M&A IT Integration projects are by their nature outside the scope of standard network planning, and also have complex requirements. You may need to re-architect parts of the network, think of IP numbering, traffic encryption, moving applications from one data centre to another or even to the cloud. This all requires a lot of network design and engineering and high impact changes – potentially even network downtime.
SD-WAN promises to significantly reduce this network engineering and reconfiguration work. SD-WAN combines abstraction with policy-based intelligence, thus providing a simple way to prioritize certain applications, giving much greater freedom, flexibility and independence from network design. For example, moving an application from one data centre to another – which is a very common task during consolidation projects post-M&A – will have an impact on bandwidth. SD-WAN allows you to dynamically route lower priority traffic over other providers or network technologies as it can aggregate data transport over two or more WAN connections, including MPLS, Ethernet, broadband and cellular Internet connections.
So my final piece of advice for any company active in the M&A space is to consider the IT integration programme as an opportunity to start an SD-WAN pilot. This technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the time and effort needed for reconfiguration whilst also improving agility, and reducing costs. The sooner the IT integration starts, the sooner it can be completed. The quicker departments are able to work in virtual teams across both organizations, the quicker they can provide highly anticipated revenue synergies. At the end of the day, that’s a good foundation for increasing shareholder value across the board.