What is a Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)

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The trend for software or applications to manage technology and its processes has become commonplace in the world of enterprise IT.  So common, in fact, that it has created its own prefix for IT solutions, Software Defined or SD. Virtualization software from companies like VMware revolutionized the way the enterprise built datacenters and coined the phrase “software defined network”. Today this concept has expanded out from the corporate datacenter to the Wide Area Network (WAN), and ultimately to the enterprise branch offices and even to customers. The Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) can simplify management of the WAN and significantly reduce the cost of the telecommunication circuits that create the WAN.

What’s a WAN?

A Wide Area Network, or WAN, allow companies to extend their computer networks to connect remote branch offices to data centers and deliver the applications and services required to perform business functions. Historically, when companies extend networks over greater distances and sometimes across multiple telecommunication carriers’ networks, they face operational challenges. Additionally, with the increase of bandwidth intensive applications like Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and video conferencing, costs and complications grew. WAN technology has evolved to accommodate bandwidth requirements. In the early 2000’s Frame Relay gave way to Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). However, MPLS technology has recently fallen out of favor, primarily because it has remained a proprietary technology.

Why SD-Wan?

MPLS, a very mature and stable WAN platform, has grown costly and less effective with age. The business enterprise needs to select one MPLS vendor and use them at all sites. That MPLS provider needs to look to a local telecom provider to provide the last mile to remote branches and possibly even the head end. This has historically brought unwelcomed blame and finger pointing as the circuit develops troubles or is out of service. It also creates a very slow implementation timeline for a new site. MPLS solutions are typically designed with one Internet source at the head end that supports the entire WAN for Web browsing. This will create a poor internet experience for the branch and many trouble tickets and frustrations for the IT team at the head end. SD-WAN can eliminate these problems unless it isn’t designed correctly, in which case it has the potential to create problems of its own.

SD-WAN uses broadband internet connections at each site for connectivity. The software component of the solution (SD) allows for the management and monitoring of these circuits provided by multiple vendors. The broadband connections are ubiquitous and inexpensive, provided by local cable TV providers. Broadband internet connections offer more bandwidth and are much less expensive than an MPLS node. Additionally, broadband circuits can be installed in weeks instead of the months required for a typical new MPLS site. In an SD-WAN deployment, each site has its own internet connectivity, the same broadband circuit that is delivering connectivity. This greatly increases the satisfaction of the branch users for internet speed and reduces total traffic over the WAN. However, it creates a challenge for the cyber security of the enterprise. When each remote site has its own internet, each site needs its own cyber security solution. Producing a valid cyber security solution can reduce the cost savings that result from the broadband internet.

Gartner recently has labeled SD-WAN as a disruptive technology due to both its superior management of a WAN and its reduced costs. Implementation of an SD-Wan implementation requires a partner with expertise. Some providers today pride themselves on having the best database to find the cheapest broadband circuits for each site. However, it is vital to pick a partner that also can provide an ongoing management of the circuits at each site and a deep understanding of the cyber security risks of an SD-WAN solution.

If you need assistance designing your SD-WAN Solution please contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@outlook.com      www.twoearsonemouth.net

#sdwan #sd-wan

 

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