SD-WAN Featured Article

Did Someone Say SD-WAN?

January 13, 2016

By Maurice Nagle, Web Editor

Innovation is in the midst of a software-defined frenzy. From the data center to the conference room, this movement is improving efficiency, productivity and the bottom line along the way. One area getting a software-defined makeover is enterprise networking, Software-defined Wide Area Network, or SD-WAN, alleviates the headaches of manually configuring and managing a firm’s network via central control, policy setting and automation that can greatly reduce complexity and WAN cost while increasing flexibility.

Manual network configuration is an undertaking to say the least. Ensuring router protocols are in place is an around the clock job, as they don’t adjust to network scenarios like excessive jitter, packet loss or congestion. There are two basic SD-WAN approaches.  One that is an orchestration solution: SD-WAN automates the above process,  the network team programs how traffic is intended to be managed and the implementation handles the rest. In this case it’s not that SD-WAN removes network complexity, the technology simply masks it. The other SD-WAN approach is to actually not use routing protocols and instead use application sessions and flows to move traffic.  In this case the network team sets application policies; the application priority, security and the available paths, and then the solution continually monitors the applications and moves traffic based on which path best meets the SLA. In this case complexity is actually removed and replaced with a new method.

An SD-WAN deployment can allow a firm to build a hybrid WAN to rely less on private links and potentially more heavily on broadband or 4G.  SD-WAN solutions can often actively monitor network endpoints to ensure high quality. And when broadband quality is inferior, traffic can be pushed to the private link. This can mean lower costs for the enterprise, as companies can place more investment in broadband and shrink the amount of costly private links in use.

Flexibility, an integral piece to any firm’s network is one of the primary benefits of deploying an SD-WAN solution. The beauty of an SD-WAN deployment is that if a firm enables an active-active hybrid WAN it can adjust to network conditions automatically.

It is vital to do one’s due diligence when selecting an SD-WAN solution. A recent whitepaper from CloudGenix illustrates what the key components of SDN are needed for a complete SD-WAN solutions. These components are as follows:

  • Analytics: This is an integral piece, as the network data collected can be leveraged to make automated network adjustments in real-time via analytics.
  • Forwarders: By sending traffic across the WAN, a forwarder serves a similar role to that of a router.
  • Central Controller: Consider this the air traffic controller of the system, directing traffic as it acts as a unified network control plane.
  • Policy Manager: SD-WAN allows for the network to be managed from one portal. Operators are able to leverage policy manager software to apply the desired settings to the WAN fabric—i.e. QoS characteristics, traffic classes and security parameters.

By going through the proper paces, a firm is able to select an SD-WAN solution that improves operations by solving real business problems. This nascent technology is only beginning its ascent, I’d suggest hopping on board for the ride—your team members (especially IT) will appreciate it.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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