Policy-based WAN Brings Control to You

  • Aki Anttila

In the world of communications, “Software Defined” has been a fashionable term in recent years. The most recent addition to the list of options is SD-WAN (Wide Area Network). According to Baird Equity Research, SD-WAN represents a rapidly growing area of ​​technology that has the potential to make a visible change in the ways corporate WANs are built. According to IDC, in 2015 the size of the global SD-WAN market was approximately 225 million dollars and it is expected to grow to more than six billion dollars by 2020.

SD-WAN can be roughly described as a technique to implement a corporate WAN either as a combination of traditional MPLS and Internet connections or as a combination of one or two Internet connections. The whole thing is managed by a centralized controller which can be used to define data access policies for e.g. edge devices in offices. This enables smart use of connections in a manner satisfying each need. For example, the traffic for business-critical applications, such as ERP and CRM, can be directed to use a connection providing better quality than a connection used for less important traffic.

There are two main reasons for using SD-WAN technology in companies. The first is the increased use of cloud services. In large enterprises, the number of cloud services may rise to more than a thousand. Most of these are normally used without the knowledge of the IT administration, but nevertheless they use a large amount of the Internet connection capacity. And because Internet access in a typical corporate network structure is handled centrally, via the head office for example, all Internet-based services exploit the WAN capacity before users in branch offices can reach the Internet. If the branch office and the Internet connection are geographically close to each other and the WAN performance is good, the user experience is not usually affected. However, if the distance increases or if the WAN capacity is used up, the user experience can be very bad indeed. This may prevent or even hinder the use of the popular Office 365 cloud service, for example.

SD-WAN helps to improve the user experience by bringing the Internet connection alongside the traditional WAN connection in corporate offices. Policies can be used to direct Internet-facing traffic to the Internet connection and, correspondingly, business-critical information to the traditional WAN connection. In this way, the user will always receive an optimal service, and the corporate WAN network need not be unnecessarily used for transmitting Youtube videos, for instance.

The other reason for using the SD-WAN technology is purely financial. Since cloud services are being used more and more (they include social media), additional capacity is needed for all the traffic. Usually, a corporate WAN is implemented via the operator’s MPLS service and increasing its capacity can be very expensive. Since SD-WAN typically utilizes more affordable Internet connections parallel to traditional MPLS connections, it is possible to increase the capacity of the Internet connection only and leave the MPLS connections to run the more traditional traffic involving the company’s business-critical systems. According to the report published by Gartner in 2015, for example, an enterprise with 250 offices saved more than 60% of the construction costs when it used the SD-WAN technology to build WAN connections.

In addition to the above benefits, SD-WAN also provides a good view of the entire WAN and its traffic. The latter aspect in particular is becoming very important from the point of view of network operators. Without reliable information on the network traffic it is impossible, for instance, to develop and scale capacity in the right direction.

Implementation of SD-WAN is easy. The next time your WAN contracts are up for renewal, please contact Santa Monica Networks’ sales department (sales@smn.fi). Our expert salespersons together with our top specialists will prepare an offer for an SD-WAN solution and related services. You can purchase the equipment and software for the SD-WAN solution, but, if you wish, we can also do everything for you on a turnkey basis. And if you do not have time to maintain the WAN, we can provide a managed service to meet your individual needs.