Below is a rough “marketing blog” that I wrote for Edge. Forgive some of the marketing speak, but I wanted to share this here as SD-WAN is a big hot topic with a lot of exciting potential. If you want to swap ideas and compare notes… hit me up!
Is your wide area network a source of stress? Office boundaries are blurring as campuses evolve and expand, more and more services are being stored in a centralized location, and just about everything is moving to the network, making wide area network connectivity a proud member of the “mission critical” realm. Without a well-designed WAN you are sure to have some headaches!
There are two predominant WAN solutions out there today – MPLS packaged with related services like VPLS, and a network of point-to-point VPN tunnels over the internet. Each has their own advantages and drawbacks. For example, MPLS can offer a higher level of guaranteed service and can host a variety of services like Metro Ethernet but it can be expensive. VPN tunnels over internet are more affordable but because they go over the internet they can be more susceptible to jitter and disruption, and managing a full mesh of VPN tunnels can be a hassle without the right hardware and an ADVPN based or similar solution. The standard “Hybrid WAN” approach balances these options by bundling the two services together and routing traffic across the links via policies, often using MPLS for critical traffic and a larger broadband link for less sensitive applications.
This standard static routing definition does leave something to be desired. First, you are still paying a substantial amount for the high performance circuit. On average, a private WAN subscription will cost 10x more per Mbps than a broadband link. Second, you are often paying for bandwidth that you aren’t using … even though a broadband pipe can be sized up to multigig speeds, it is often underutilized because it has a bad reputation for being less stable. However, broadband internet is improving and in some cases is able to offer latency that would be acceptable for mission critical applications. What if you could closely monitor the performance of that broadband link and intelligently use the excess bandwidth for your prioritized traffic, but only when the health of the pipe meets your application’s criteria? A software defined WAN could give you that capability.
The world of SD-WAN has emerged to solve classic WAN problems like the ones listed above. Manufacturers have different definitions for SD-WAN technology, but the underlying intent is the same – to simplify your wide area network administration and utilize your bandwidth more intelligently. This can be done through a variety of methods. Some manufacturers provide hardware that coordinate tunnel creation through a management platform and gather real time link health information so traffic is sent down the best path. Some companies do this via a software platform that can be installed in a public cloud like AWS, allowing for easy migration to a hybrid cloud model. Some remove all responsibility from your premises and provide peering locations on the web that take over the WAN for you and get the traffic where it needs to be. Several manufacturers are capable of monitoring each individual packet as it traverses the WAN and collecting real time telemetry, allowing for packet by packet forwarding decisions, millisecond failover between links, and session continuity even in link failure. Even better, with the level of insight and QoS that the telemetry can provide you can start moving away from expensive MPLS subscriptions entirely and instead start bundling multiple broadband links together to provide a resilient WAN. The desired result is a seamless and high performance WAN that can support the new generation of collaboration tools.
There is no “one size fits all” SD-WAN solution, as every network has its own unique set of requirements and challenges and every manufacturer has their own take on this new technology. But that’s why Edge is here to help. If you are interested in learning more about how you can use SD-WAN to lower your bandwidth bills and enhance your user experience give us a call!