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The promise of Software-Defined WAN

Data traffic flow inside enterprises is changing rapidly and forcing a rethink of the enterprise WAN or Wide Area Network.  According to IDC, about 60-percent of all enterprise traffic is going through software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

Historically, enterprise traffic was connected by MPLS or Multiprotocol Label Switching, and apps were at least ‘predictable’.  It used to be the case that everybody knew where apps were coming from ie. from HQ out to branches, and the number of users.

In this situation, it was easy to scale, design and deploy those solutions.

Well, over the past few years there has been a significant rise in SaaS-based applications and cloud computing traffic, and IDC also states that worldwide SaaS enterprise applications market will increase to a total of USD50.8 billion by 2018.

With more SaaS deployments like Office 365, Workday, Salesforce, YouTube, Google and so on happening in enterprises, that fundamentally changes the way they need to design their Wide Area Network or WAN.

Of late, many companies are asking themselves these questions: If a significant portion of enterprise traffic now goes to Internet-based applications, why not connect those applications over a broadband Internet connection? If I can deploy enterprise-grade broadband Internet for my WAN that is cheaper, why should I still be stuck with MPLS?

These are questions that Silver Peak, a WAN specialist, is helping these businesses answer with their software-defined WAN or SD-WAN solution.

Broadband your WAN

In January 2015, the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) had defined SD-WAN, identifying a few broad areas SD-WAN should be able to address.

First, they wanted an augmented transport solution using the Internet, that wouldn’t replace MPLS all at once, but allows companies the flexibility to take a gradual approach via Hybrid WAN that uses both MPLS and the Internet. Users want to use the Internet in an active-active network architecture and have a high quality and secure experience.

ONUG also identified that ease-of-management and deployment as well as app management, as key criteria.

According to Silver Peak  one of SD-WAN’s aspirations is to start to look at business applications, be they in the cloud or on-premise, and manage them ubiquitously for performance. This is thanks to overlay technology that provides visibility into all applications, and capacity to centrally control and optimize all WAN traffic.

For example, with packet-based routers, it has been difficult to isolate applications and give them a WAN-wide performance policy. But, with SD-WAN that is possible, and it offers a real critical change in the way that networks can be controlled.

But, that isn’t all.

In essence, software-defined wide area networks or SD-WAN, is a WAN transformation that allows businesses to use any form of Internet connectivity to augment or replace their current WAN connections.

According to WAN experts the Internet is five times cheaper than MPLS, and businesses can potentially get more byte for their bandwidth, per dollar.

With budgets unlocked from using MPLS, so that they can be used for Internet, Silver Peak customers are finding themselves building their WAN differently, and more cost efficiently than in the past.

Silver Peak technologies like path conditioning, dynamic path control, and WAN hardening are addressing concerns that businesses have about the public Internet’s reliability and security.

With the public Internet, there is no control of latency or packet loss.

To counter packet loss, Silver Peak has path conditioning which overcomes dropped and out-of-order packets. A technology called forward error correction cleans up and recovers packets, up to 80-percent, providing private-line-like performance over the public Internet.

As soon as you can deliver business-grade Internet, what is the difference between it and MPLS?

Silver Peak is able to confidently deliver 60-70-percent cost savings in an MPLS-Internet hybrid WAN solution.

What it finally boils down to – user experience

The industry has undergone a paradigm shift.

They don’t care what happens with packets, but their applications. They want an application view of the network and a performance policy framework to control apps in a consistent way across the WAN, that offers high quality performance ie. voice across any connectivity like satellite.

With applications, profiles can be created ie.  a profile for voice calls that is extended around a business’ network, so that it can get consistent and repeatable quality for that app.

That’s the promise of SD-WAN.


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