Determining how multi-site wide area networks (WANs) benefit from software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) requires an understanding of the pain points associated with managing a multi-site WAN. From congestion to complexity, there are a number of issues that SD-WAN solves.
As your enterprise grows, adding branch locations and increasing your roster of remote employees, network needs become more complex. Enterprises often implement virtual private networks (VPNs) to build secure tunnels between locations, opting for either a hub-and-spoke or a mesh topology to connect branch locations to network resources.
These topologies have advantages and drawbacks. The main issue for hub-and-spoke is the congestion that occurs in the central network hub. For mesh topologies, it can become challenging to link all sites as the enterprise grows larger.
Adding to the complexity of branch locations and remote teams is the increasing use of cloud solutions, which often have greater bandwidth demands and increase the volume of data transmissions. Enterprises are also investing in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for communications, which requires a network infrastructure focused on eliminating the possibility of jitter, latency, and dropped packets.
Enter SD-WAN. Learning how multi-site WANs benefit from SD-WAN begins with a virtualization of the network. SD-WAN places a virtual layer over the physical network, separating the control plane from the underlying operations. This networking approach introduces a variety of important benefits for growing enterprises pursuing cloud migration:
Centralized Management: With virtualized network management, administrators access configuration, troubleshooting, and management tools from a centralized dashboard. This means they can take advantage of zero-touch provisioning and assist a branch location with network troubleshooting or bring them online from headquarters.
Traffic Segmentation: This is one of the key ways multi-site WANs benefit from SD-WAN. The SD-WAN router is able to automatically determine what type of pathway is best for any given data transmission, based on business policy. If a link is congested or at risk for jitter or another performance-compromising element, it will redirect the transmission to the next best pathway. It can also prioritize traffic that requires real-time connectivity, such as video conferencing, over traffic that can lag slightly, such as email.
Supporting Mobility: Remote employees are becoming more mainstream as enterprises embrace the productivity and reduced-overhead benefits of employee mobility and telecommuting. SD-WAN extends the network beyond any physical boundary, equipping remote employees with the ability to access network resources no matter where they are working.
Cost Reduction: The demand for bandwidth is ever-increasing, and enterprises looking for ways to cut WAN costs should consider the benefits offered by SD-WAN. Traditionally, VPNs have been run on multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) pathways, which are secure and reliable. The trouble is that MPLS links are relatively costly compared to broadband or other types of pathways. SD-WAN allows enterprises to eliminate MPLS or reserve it for high-priority transmissions and run other traffic across less-costly links.
In addition, when you implement SD-WAN for your network infrastructure, there’s no initial investment in hardware and you’ll pay for your networking through a monthly subscription.
Failover Support: Whether due to a problem with the Internet service provider (ISP) or another reason for an interruption, you need protection against downtime. When you use SD-WAN for a multi-site WAN, you’ll have automatic failover. When there’s an interruption in the MPLS line, the SD-WAN device will automatically route traffic to public Internet links, for instance.
Scalability: Adding a new location with other network infrastructures can be a time-consuming and costly process. With SD-WAN, you can scale up or down in minutes. This is a particularly attractive benefit for enterprises in retail or other industries where seasonality is a factor, or where kiosks and pop-up locations need to tap into the network for short periods of time.
Simplicity: Depending on the way you access SD-WAN (outsourcing to a managed service provider versus managing it with in-house network teams), managing the network can become far more simplified. You’ll be able to drill down to granular levels of network functioning in the centralized dashboard, and also generate reports that help you evaluate performance and pinpoint where adjustments are necessary.
Optimized Performance: Through extensive traffic segmentation and prioritization capabilities, network administrators can evaluate Quality of Service (QoS) for applications and align network settings to support the needs of each application. For instance, if a specific cloud solution has low latency tolerance, the routing can be adjusted to prioritize traffic from that application to a reliable, high-bandwidth pathway.
If you’ve been contemplating how your multi-site WAN can benefit from SD-WAN, contact us at TailWind. We can assist you in leveraging the right networking solution for your enterprise that supports your branch location’s connectivity and ensures that performance standards are met. We offer on-site certified technician support for a seamless transition to SD-WAN, as well as ongoing assistance for continued success. Take a look at this free download to learn more.