Software-defined networking: WAN users have spoken
So profound is the impact SD-WAN can potentially have on businesses that Gartner released a market guide last year, with a list of criteria for enterprises to evaluate solutions against, before making a buy decision.
At that time, Gartner had also pointed out that software-defined Wide Area Networks or SD-WAN solutions were only just emerging, and already the technology is forecasted to have far-reaching effect upon a company’s network, application and cost performance.
No doubt, the WAN solution that businesses decide to invest in today, will determine their networks and application performances, further down the road.
SD-WAN on the rise
With more SaaS deployments like Office 365, Workday, Salesforce, YouTube, Google and so on, this fundamentally changes the way you design your Wide Area Network or WAN.
The cost benefits of public cloud can no longer be denied and Gartner observed 75-percent of organisations already use public cloud services today. Seventy-eight percent plan to increase cloud investments over the next three years, cementing SaaS’ place in the enterprise today.
Now, more enterprises are also recognising the viability of a broadband Internet connection, instead of only MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) and are exploring options to deploy a hybrid WAN that uses both connectivity technologies.
A hybrid WAN is possible if that WAN has a SDN controller-centralised overlay technology to seamlessly manage edge devices at branch offices. This ultimately is to optimise the performance of applications across hybrid Internet and MPLS connection architectures. Hence the attractiveness of the software-defined WAN.
The SD-WAN market is evolving quickly as a result, with a range of different vendors from different backgrounds, entering the market.
Gartner observed that they all have the critical ability of simplifying WAN operations and reducing cost, but more is needed of a WAN solution, much more if it is software-based.
SD-WAN is a market that is doubling every year and is expected to be worth USD100 million in 2017. By end of 2019, thirty-percent of enterprises will use SD-WAN technology in all their branches, a significant from just one-percent in 2015.
ONUG and Gartner
The Open Networking User Group (ONUG), is a user-focused group of businesses that advocate open, interoperable hardware and software-defined infrastructure across the entire IT stack. In January of 2015, they defined what SD-WAN should be, in terms of the value it should ideally create for businesses.
Gartner echoed these requirements in their market guide, stating that SD-WAN solutions must provide a lightweight replacement for traditional WAN routers and be agnostic to WAN transport technologies, be they MPLS, public Internet, satellite, LTE and so on.
SD-WAN solutions must also allow for load sharing of traffic across multiple WAN connections in an efficient and dynamic fashion, basically allowing the pooling of WAN bandwidth from any number of service providers that are serving the business. This load sharing would be based upon business and/or application policies so for example, less mission-critical mission apps would use the public Internet.
Optimise, optimise, optimise
Gartner has conceded that is very complex and difficult to obtain visibility into application performance across the hybrid WAN, and to ensure that applications receive appropriate prioritisation and are forwarded over an appropriate WAN path.
The research company found that Silver Peak’s key differentiator from other vendor solutions, is its ability to monitor leading SaaS applications. Silver Peak also allows businesses to act upon that information, by feeding application performance back to the enterprise WAN to ensure optimal routing.
So, how does a business control performance of an app across the public Internet? What Silver Peak did was create a cloud intelligent portal that allows a business to create a shortest path first routing table for the public Internet for up to 40 SaaS.
It is able to do this by determining where the actual service is being offered from (its data centre location) and to (end user location). There is visibility into which route yields the optimal performance from each application.
With deep roots in performance optimisation, Silver Peak has evolved ten years of monitoring tools in the WAN optimisation industry and is able to offer good monitoring tools to help provide visibility, understanding of the network and troubleshoot.
For example, they are able to prove to telcos that their networks are performing as per SLA and that traffic is being delivered to and from apps without error and with high integrity.
Boxes to tick
Back to Gartner’s market requirements for SD-WAN solutions. It recognises that at the end of the day, it’s all about the performance and accessibility and security of business apps.
In March last year, Silver Peak passed 9 out of 10 Gartner-required feature sets for SD-WAN, a well-earned achievement after launching a concerted effort to understand their customers’ requirements and improve their offerings.
SD-WAN is enabling a critical change in the way networks can be controlled, but ultimately it must allow businesses a way to seamlessly manage their business applications, be they in the cloud or on-premise.