SP Derek

Software-defined WAN architectures up the ante for app and network performance

A router-centric Wide Area Network (WAN) implementation, can’t keep up with the traffic demands of the enterprise today as applications continue to migrate to the cloud. This is the reality that Silver Peak’s VP of Product Marketing, Derek Granath shared when talking about why more and more enterprises are replacing routers at their branches, with software-defined or application-driven wide area network (SD-WAN) architectures.

Granath shared, “When we introduced our SD-WAN solution in 2015, it didn’t initially support routing protocols.” This changed over a year and a half ago when they added routing protocol support into Silver Peak’s SD-WAN solution, Unity EdgeConnect, and as more and more enterprises adopt SD-WAN solutions like Silver Peak’s, it actually makes sense to extend the easy usability, agility and convenience of software-defined network capability to other network functions like routers, firewalls, WAN optimisation and so on. Now customers are starting to retire conventional routers and replacing them fully with SD-WAN architectures.

Rather than the focus being on siloed network functions like routing, security, application performance acceleration and management, WAN edge simplification has become a front and centre objective.

“The traditional way is to have four different boxes (each with its own network function) to support the WAN edge. You probably have four different user interfaces also; if you consolidate it all you save power, you save space and you streamline management of all these functions,” Granath said.

A router-centric model requires an hour per month per router, to manage. The VP of product marketing shared that with an application-centric router, it takes only 6 minutes or even less.

A unified software-defined platform for network agility

According to Granath, Silver Peak combines all these network functions into a single solution, and one appliance is better than four. “All these functions are designed and delivered as one via a unified platform,” he pointed out.

Enterprises seem to gravitate towards a unified approach as well, and an April 2018 survey of 850 companies by Frost and Sullivan corroborates this.

When asked about their router strategy, 69-percent of US respondents say they will replace their routers with an SD-WAN solution that integrates routing. Outside of the US, companies are also planning to replace their existing branch router with an SD-WAN architecture that can support routing functionality at some of their company sites.

Customer premises equipment or CPE-based stateful firewalls are also another function, albeit a security function, that organisations are interested to retire or augment with firewall capabilities integrated into SD-WAN solutions.

All in all, the survey indicates that when it comes time to renew maintenance contracts or refresh hardware-based firewalls, routers, and WAN optimisation solutions, unified and software-defined alternatives are looking very, very appealing to businesses.

Last but not least, the growing uptake of SD-WAN is propelling the software-defined value proposition forward.

The SD-WAN scene

SD-WAN or software-defined wide area networks is a high technology priority, as Frost and Sullivan also discovered with their end-user survey. Ninety-four percent of company respondents are planning to deploy an SD-WAN solution within the next 24 months, if they haven’t already.

As the solution begins to prove itself in the market, survey results show that businesses want to rollout SD-WAN at scale, with the number of company sites to deploy to, increasing from the 11-25 range (13-percent of respondents) to 51-250 number of sites range (56-percent of respondents).

Most analysts believe that SD-WAN adoption is moving beyond the early adopter phase into the early growth phase, and Granath shared,” Silver Peak is seeing many prospects deploying our solutions without needing to go through pilot tests.”

Eighty-five percent of global respondents choose improved customer experience as a key business driver for them, and SD-WAN being a top technology priority seems to underline that companies are starting to understand the role SD-WAN can play beyond just saving costs.

SD-WAN offers enterprises the choice to use dynamic, hybrid networks and among many other benefits like more granular security policies, it supports the IT environment with hybrid IT architectures – private cloud, public cloud, virtual appliance instances, and so on.

So, why Silver Peak’s?

Today, Silver Peak serves over 1000 customers around the world with their SD-WAN solution, Unity EdgeConnect.

Granath also shared, “There are 62 companies that use the letters “S-D-W-A-N” in their marketing messages. Nearly all offer only a basic SD-WAN solution, but only a few deliver a rich set of advanced WAN services.”

In fact, a recent solution enhancement now sees Unity EdgeConnect upping its value proposition even further. Unity Orchestrator is a centralised orchestration tool that configures business intent overlays for how traffic gets handled from the Quality of Service (QoS) and security point-of-view, Granath said.

“For example, now security segmentation can be orchestrated from end-to-end: from LAN to WAN to data centres,” he pointed out.

This powerful end-to-end capability to orchestrate network changes, applications and handle traffic impairments, is thanks to Silver Peak doing what they have been doing over the years.

Granath explained, “We have been delivering high-performance WAN solutions for 15 years to some of the largest companies in the world. This large customer base has exposed us to their needs, requirements and requests over the years.

“We have heritage in WAN performance capabilities which gives us experience in what customers care about: QoS, security and how to manage it, how to fix it, how to visualise it, not to mention we continuously monitor transport services.”

All this leads to the company being able to automatically detect and maintain high availability for networks and applications.

“We continue to innovate to further automate the WAN edge,” Granath said. “That’s our mission: to deliver a wide area network architecture ‘that just works’ based on the needs of the business.”

Gartner has stated that by 2020, at least 50-percent of router replacements at the branch will be in favour of SD-WAN based routers. And as router maintenance contracts expire all around the globe, Silver Peak is appearing to be a more than ready alternative to legacy routers at the branch.