There are many moving parts to a well-oiled WAN these days—routers, firewalls, SD-WAN edges, multiple carriers, WAN optimization, performance monitoring, etc. – but the greatest change in the last 5 years is WHERE your apps and data are located. The hyper-fast growth of Saas/IaaS means that in addition to a corporate datacenter most companies now have business-critical apps located “off-net” from their corporate WAN, or in other words, a Hybrid WAN. This could be something common like hosted email or voice, or Salesforce, or it could be something more complex like business critical apps that you have decided to host in the cloud. How do you provide the enterprise-grade performance and reliability that your customers expect when you’re no longer in control of both ends?
MPLS networks can deliver reliable service to your fixed locations, but they add unnecessary latency when accessing SaaS/Cloud services from remote sites. By adding direct internet access at remote sites you can reduce that latency - but wait, aren’t those the same broadband connections whose poor reliability helped you justify MPLS in the first place? The challenge for Network IT teams is to provide performance and reliability for all apps and all data on the extended Enterprise network, regardless of location. It’s crucial to get it right and you will need a flexible solution if your users need to access business-critical apps and data hosted both in the Cloud and in enterprise data centers. In recent years SD-WAN has become a big deal, and for good reason because there are huge benefits for those who take the plunge. The main benefits of SD-WAN are:
- Increased overall WAN reliability
- Lowered Telecom costs
- Adding low cost bandwidth (to an existing network)
- Improved architecture for Cloud access
- Automation of network management
SD-WAN is an overlay network that encompasses your entire WAN, including all of your locations and all of your discrete WAN links. Each network link is constantly measured so the best path from a user to the needed resources is always a known, and it’s just an issue of implementing policies, such as application priorities, to realize the optimized performance. Some SD-WAN solutions also include classic WAN Optimization features (ex. Data compression, round-trip reduction) which can be turned on or off based on policies and mostly whether the result is worth the cost and effort.
While SD-WAN offers clear benefits it can also be daunting to deploy without disrupting your network and users. It’s critical to start with a network design refresh to account for the changes and then determine how to sync the new elements with the legacy architecture. While the vendor powerpoints make it look simple to deploy SD-WAN, the reality is that you are making major changes to your network architecture and that should never be done lightly. It’s absolutely critical to work with partners who have the experience of implementing SD-WANs, and WAN Optimization, for many other customers to avoid making mistakes that can impact the live network. Many customers will require a Proof of Concept test prior to making any decisions, that that requires a completely separate design that production and requires both experience and technical expertise to do correctly.
Regardless of your existing WAN implementation—MPLS backhaul, hybrid WAN, split tunneling, internet VPN, or a mix of everything—SDWAN solutions can bring a new level of simplicity, reliability, performance and cost-effectiveness to your enterprise.