As consumers, we demand cutting-edge digital experiences whether we’re shopping, banking, or ordering a meal – and it’s all built on modern-day networks. Networks drive applications, empower consumers, and enable business workflows. It truly is an invisible technology fabric that brings magical experiences to life, and its rising role in today’s world means leaders must focus on making networks reliable and resilient.

Think of the superstore today. The network powers IoT cameras, electronic shelf labels, handheld scanners, as well as the free Wi-Fi and the mobile app that guides customers to the right aisle so they can find everything to make their favorite dishes quickly and efficiently. As a result, leaders that operate superstores are obsessed with their organization’s networking architecture and leveraging it to deliver the best quality of experience they possibly can.

The modern network is not just a plug-and-play Wi-Fi router. There’s a lot more to it. In fact, customers, staff, and devices in a superstore all get their very own network so that they serve the users seamlessly without hindering anything or anyone else. Technically known as ‘segmentation’, it’s a feature of SD-WAN which powers the vibrant networking needs at each of these stores.

We’re all familiar with SD-WAN; it first played a critical role in the digital transformation of  organizations, and later, in enabling secure remote work. However, in the new normal, it has become a norm in and of itself and enables connectivity to multicloud architectures, remote ‘offices of one’, and more.

In the past, businesses did not have the ability to measure the quality of experience (QoE) of users in relation to network performance – Cisco’s ThousandEyes makes this possible. But it goes beyond, and when paired with the right solutions that weave visibility, observability, and automation, it brings predictive, self-healing networks to life.

For Cisco’s customers, SD-WAN seamlessly plugs into a variety of security solutions to create a strong secure access service edge (SASE) architecture and brings devices online without causing worry or concern about cyberthreats.

This technology works in the superstore to keep customers secure while they use the network to browse for recipes and ingredients, compare in-store prices with competitors online, access their bank account to unlock their debit cards as they make payment at the counter, and so on.

It also keeps the connected devices separate from the core network of the store secure so that nobody can hijack the connection and use it to sneak into the network and tap into the organization’s data. In the case of POS terminals, for example, SD-WAN enables the creation of independent connections to secure the connection in compliance with PCI DSS standards. It also works to keep employees safe as they access the organization’s key digital solutions to manage inventory, report sales, and tally the accounts.

But SD-WAN hasn’t gained prominence as a technology today just because it connects users to applications of their choice. It’s ability to deliver security goes a long way in making it a weapon of choice in the arsenal for any of Cisco’s customers building a resilient, future-ready enterprise.

The superstore, for example, relies on Cisco’s SD-WAN to keep customer’s financial data safe. Our SD-WAN solution leverages ‘forward error correction’, ‘data redundancy eliminator’ and ‘packet duplication’ to ensure credit card information is transmitted to the payment gateway via the point-of-sale terminal with minimal packet loss. This feature also enhances the application experience for users at the store as transactions have a higher chance of succeeding the very first time.

This capability can make both, staff and customers, feel secure when making a transaction. It inspires trust and confidence – much like when you buy something online from a website with an SSL certificate (indicated by a green lock on the address bar) that enables an encrypted connection – although SD-WAN is much more secure.

Network visibility, security, and automation go hand in hand

For the most part, Cisco’s SD-WAN solution is hardware-based, but it’s the software that brings it alive and gives it the superpowers to transform today’s superstores.

Let’s talk about vAnalytics, vManage, and Thousand Eyes WAN Insights – as examples.

They make it possible for administrators to observe how users are connecting with applications, data centers, cloud solutions, and more – in real-time – and enable them to deploy policies that manage ordinary events as well as exceptions. This allows them to focus on delivering the best possible experiences to all users, irrespective of where they are, what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it.

More specifically, vAnalytics performs key functions in an organization running SD-WAN.

It enables administrators to quickly assess their overall network and applications health. It allows them to look into the long-term historical behavior of applications and network performance metrics to establish benchmarks. It also helps understand ongoing trends such as a drop in the quality of application experience (QoE) and a rise in application usage or latency.

vManage, on the other hand, not only makes automation possible through policies (created with insights and benchmarks from vAnalytics), but also helps keep applications performing seamlessly, provides better visibility across the entire network, and enables compliance.

ThousandEyes WAN Insights gives organizations the ability to look at their top applications, the experience of specific sets of users, and how that can be improved by learning from past behaviors. It helps organizations like superstore operators move from a reactive state to a preventative state with their SD-WAN environments.

Intelligence collected via SD-WAN flows seamlessly between these software tools to help the team provide answers when there’s an issue beyond their control.

If a customer shopping online is facing an issue because of their network provider or a business user is struggling to connect to the default spreadsheet application, the network administrators will find out and provide the right guidance.

In the modern superstore – many of which have been set up with Cisco’s technology – the seamless connectivity and security that SD-WAN provides has become a ‘standard’. It’s what staff and customers expect. Nothing less will do.

With every visit, however, there’s the expectation to be delighted a little more – and those that are leveraging all the capabilities of their SD-WAN deployment will deliver that ‘therapy-like’ experience time and time again.

Truthfully, SD-WAN can transform every business – do you know the full impact it can have on yours?