Although enterprise WAN offers many benefits, it is notoriously expensive and can often become the source of frustrating outages, latency, and congestion. In fact, WAN technology is consistently one of the weak points in modern network infrastructures. MPLS and similar technologies offer superior quality of service (QoS) controls and performance capabilities, but typically companies choose the lowest amount of bandwidth to help control operating expenses. However, that type of “saving” generally leads to output declines in every area of operation. Without a dependable connection, enterprises experience costly delays that frustrate both employees and customers.
As technology makes new strides, cutting edge WAN solutions are available that provide dependable network performance, protection, and affordability. Instead of purchasing expensive equipment and optimization appliances, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) generates these benefits using an “as-a-service” model. Understanding how it works and how to orchestrate its inclusion can help companies reach their KPI and performance goals, all while working within their budget.
Wide Area Network Evolution
When telecommunications providers began shifting WAN technologies from frame relays, synchronous optical networking (SONET) rings, and other standardized protocols that transfer multiple digital bit streams towards IP and Ethernet technologies, network performance was enhanced. However, the cost to provision the equipment with sufficient bandwidth became a hindrance.
Another solution involved using VPN tunnels and commodity broadband for securely connecting site-to-site traffic. However, these solutions also have drawbacks. A total lack of QoS controls requires that a single MPLS or Carrier Ethernet link be installed at the remote site, along with a backup VPN tunnel to provide redundancy. However, this type of construction isn’t able to leverage both connections simultaneously.
Enter Software-Defined WAN
In a software-defined architecture, cloud connectivity is utilized, giving the network the ability to automatically manage the data flow to take the most optimum path. The flow is decoupled and centralized, providing end-to-end visibility and intelligent routing in real-time. The software is low-cost and can be deployed quickly, without requiring expensive hardware.
Some companies benefit from allowing a managed network provider to implement and support their entire infrastructure. Service-level agreements (SLAs) can be arranged to allow swift scalability when required. For example, professional service companies who experience high, seasonal volume can increase performance and capacity when needed. Moreover, the network responsibility is shifted to the provider, which reduces operating expenses.
Meeting the IT challenges companies face today means establishing network performance and agility in order to provide a consistent end-user experience. SD-WAN has that capacity, and includes added cost reductions that make it a next-generation solution for any size enterprise.