SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dennis H. Goodhart
Founded in 2007 by Dennis Goodhart, IP Network Consulting (IPNC) is a full-service independent Business Communications Technology consulting practice. IPNC...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Dennis H. Goodhart | July 18, 2017 |

 
   

Getting in the Know on SD-WAN

Getting in the Know on SD-WAN The trend toward SD-WAN is only likely to accelerate. Here’s a high level look at what you need to know.

The trend toward SD-WAN is only likely to accelerate. Here’s a high level look at what you need to know.

portable With application processing now taking place within the application itself, traditional lines between data, applications, processing, service providers, IT, managed services, carrier-provided services, and telecommunications continue to evolve and blur. At the same time, legacy networks are straining to keep up with cloud and SaaS applications bandwidth demand. Enterprises are addressing this challenge by adopting software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions.

In addition to the other tech evolutions like cloud and 5G on the way, your business would be wise to consider SD-WAN, because if you aren't thinking about it yet, you will be soon.

There are tons of resources out there on the Web to help you get in the know about SD-WAN. And of course, your local vendors and consultants can be valuable additional assets. Rather than try to make you an overnight SD-WAN expert, I'm going to use this space to provide an overview of key developments in the SD-WAN arena.

What is Software-Defined WAN?
In short, SD-WAN is a software-based networking application technology applied to WAN transport connectivity. It can give an enterprise the ability to consolidate and virtualize WAN connectivity and functions into centralized policies designed to ease the deployment and management of complex WAN topologies.

Gartner attaches the following four characteristics to SD-WAN:

  1. Must support multiple connection types including MPLS, Internet, and LTE
  2. Can perform dynamic path selection, allowing for load sharing across connections
  3. Offers a simple UI for WAN management with zero-touch provisioning
  4. Supports VPNs and other third-party services

From an economic standpoint, the goal of an SD-WAN network is to deliver WAN connectivity at a significantly lower cost than legacy networks. As an example, consider a typical WAN network, which might be used to connect several branch offices to a data center or central corporate network. These WAN connections might use a technology that requires special or proprietary hardware, or an expensive point-to-point or MPLS network. In this case SD-WAN uses a software approach to move network control into the cloud so that less expensive internet or public cloud connections can be used instead.

Market Overview
Businesses place a high importance on the availability of reliable high bandwidth, and the ability to rapidly deploy new applications and network and data security. With the advent and proliferation of network technologies that allow increased transport capacity and reliability, so arose increased complexity, management, and cost issues. Current typical WAN architectures fail in meeting many of the needs of heavy bandwidth usage for interactive communications, video, collaboration, and deployment of cloud applications. This, combined with legacy network challenges, leaves a gap in network managers being able to provide consistent, secure, and cost-effective services.

Wide Area Networks are heavily deployed and are an important component in today's enterprise infrastructure. However, WANs have many snags such as inconsistent performance, outages, packet loss, congestion, and jitter. This further irritates users, and prevents it from being the ideal transport method for applications like VoIP, video, and virtualized applications. It can also be expensive, not to mention difficult to manage and troubleshoot.

Earlier iterations of SD-WAN solutions suffered from weak security. Today, most SD-WAN solutions use IP-SEC encryption to protect transport data. Some may add additional security such as rotating keys, splitting designated application traffic across multiple links, which can prevent a hacker from being able to eavesdrop on an entire network segment. Some products use SSL/TLS encrypted tunnels, which allows traffic shaping for traffic from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Apps, Box, Salesforce.com, GitHub, and the many other Web applications that use SSL/TLS encryption.

SD-WAN solutions can help to mitigate many common challenges by enabling hybrid WAN solutions and providing better overall cost and operational efficiency.

The SD-WAN market represents billions of dollars in new revenues, and some research shows hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in SD-WAN startups already. Legacy companies have their work cut out for them, with many startups having different approaches to the market. For example, Silver Peak focuses on accelerating software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in the cloud, while Pertino and VeloCloud are focused on branch offices. Aryaka has built a global network so that companies can use WAN as a network-as-a-service (NaaS). Vendors such as Cisco and Riverbed, which make specialized appliances for WAN connectivity, are now focusing more on cloud-based WAN offerings in response to this new trend.

And the trend toward SD-WAN by enterprises is not likely to slow down. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN products in all their branches. Further, a Forrester Consulting study commission by Riverbed found that 90% of network managers are looking to evolve their WAN with a software-defined approach, as shown in the below graphic.

- portable

SD-WAN Business Drivers
The failure of a network link can severely negatively impact a user's business. The loss of access to a mission-critical application can reduce productivity and affect customer service. Manually trouble shooting and rerouting traffic to back-up links can mean that high-priority applications will now have to contend with other traffic for bandwidth. SD-WAN products can be an essential methodology for eliminating this type of situation and provide fast failover with little or no noticeable service interruption.

Customers are focused on cost, reliability, and security. As is now the case with many technologies, end users are moving away from proprietary products and single vendor shops, expensive fixed circuits, or specialized WAN technology that often involves expensive hardware. Enterprise customers want flexible and open, cloud-based WAN technologies.

Gotchas
Have we reached technology nirvana? Even with all of the benefits offered, selecting the optimal SD-WAN solution for your enterprise is not easy. As we learned with cloud, not all terminology used around SD-WAN means the same thing to everyone. Overall, SD-WAN is one of the better technologies that has come along. There is little to no downside side. Even as development continues, at this stage in its development cycle the benefits far outweigh any risks.

SD-WAN products for the most part have a very successful track record in lowering WAN costs, improving application performance, and enhancing business continuity. But there are significant differences in how vendors approach the market and implement their technology. When considering an SD-WAN deployment, it's important to understand these differences and which features will help you accomplish your goals.

Keep in mind:

  • Not all applications on the network need the same levels of service or network availability. Identify which of your applications require high performance, high reliability, and high service quality to meet customer expectations.
  • It is important that you can articulate your SD-WAN strategy. Define your success factors, understand what you want to accomplish by implementing SD-WAN -- your needs and goals are unique to your company. There are enough existing and emerging choices that you do not have to settle for a specific vendor's offerings if they don't meet your requirements.
  • Identify your goals, layout your migration path. Make sure all stakeholders are on board and understand how the transition will affect their business or operations in the short term, and what the longer-term benefits will be.
  • Do your due diligence. Just because the vendor says so, don't accept it on face value. Develop and implement a pilot with a check list of criteria that needs to be met.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.





COMMENTS



August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.