WAN optimization has always been a focus of network teams. From maximizing application performance to reducing latency, the need for optimization techniques like protocol acceleration have not changed. Many enterprises are adding software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) as a way to manage many of the challenges that cloud adoption has introduced, but it doesn’t remove the need for WAN optimization.
Cloud Adoption Is Changing Network Infrastructure Requirements
The adoption of cloud technology puts new levels of pressure on the network. From performance requirements of specific applications to increasing bandwidth demands, network administrators need better tools for detecting the root of performance issues and new ways to address bandwidth requirements.
Further complicating the enterprise network is the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the increasing importance of remote and mobile employees. The security plane has broadened with these technologies and the perimeter of the network is all but erased.
SD-WAN Addresses Specific Challenges
SD-WAN provides a timely solution to the evolving needs of the cloud-era enterprise network. It introduces a virtual layer to the network, providing new levels of control and visibility for configuring, troubleshooting, and provisioning of network resources. Administrators can set automated traffic prioritization rules that direct traffic based on how critical its transmission is and what its transport requirements are.
There are a number of important benefits that SD-WAN introduces, including agility, flexibility, and scalability. It allows for a level of autonomy in network management because instead of being limited to a particular type of link, such as multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), administrators are able to route traffic along less-costly pathways, such as broadband Internet or 4G LTE.
While the cost savings related to SD-WAN vary based on any given organization’s particular connectivity and performance requirements, some enterprises cite significant cost reductions. What may be more accurate to note is that SD-WAN introduces a pathway for more cost-efficient management of growing bandwidth demands. While you may replace some of your MPLS lines, you may also have exponential growth in bandwidth demand in the next decade. SD-WAN helps mitigate that cost.
The Need for WAN Optimization Remains
While SD-WAN is an important and even revolutionary approach to network management, it doesn’t replace the need for WAN optimization. In fact, these two technologies work best when integrated into the network.
Despite the important capabilities that SD-WAN introduces, WAN optimization is still necessary to support the performance of certain applications or to equip geographically remote locations. And because SD-WAN and WAN optimization solve fundamentally different challenges, they work best in a complementary fashion.
One of the key reasons WAN optimization is still necessary is the issue of latency. Latency is the amount of time it takes for data transmission to move from sender to receiver and then back again. In a remote location or in a place where there are long backhauls, latency can become a problem that affects application performance.
Latency is often the first thought when trying to solve a connectivity or performance issue in the network and it generally can’t be addressed by simply adding more bandwidth. Instead, it’s related to the time it takes to deliver packets over a long distance and how many times the data must be resent in order to transmit properly.
When there are specific requirements for latency reduction or for a data-intensive application, WAN optimization remains important. In fact, the Frost & Sullivan 2018 SD-WAN global survey shows that 67% of IT professionals indicated that WAN optimization is important to them and they would like to see an integrated solution with SD-WAN.
SD-WAN and WAN Optimization Create the Ideal Network Experience
With more and more enterprises turning to as-a-service, pay-as-you-go IT solutions in the cloud, the opportunity for a similar model for WAN optimization is growing. Providers recognize that enterprises may have specific applications or remote geographic locations that require additional measures to reach the level of performance and speed required. This option lowers the total cost of optimizing the WAN.
An SD-WAN solution that includes unified WAN optimization is the ideal approach to a high-performance WAN. It maximizes the end-user experience across all applications and locations for an optimal network infrastructure. Enterprises interested in this level of network performance should prioritize selecting an SD-WAN with a fully unified, single platform with WAN optimization integrated. This flexibility allows for WAN optimization on-demand.
There are also options out there where providers offer a multi-tiered SD-WAN solution, with some introducing a WAN Optimization as a Service. This solution offers performance benefits to the enterprise but only requires them to pay for the services used. Like all cloud solutions, the scalability and flexibility with this type of offering makes it an attractive way to boost network performance where it’s needed.
For more information about pairing SD-WAN with WAN optimization, contact us at TailWind. We regularly work with enterprises that have geographically dispersed locations for bundled, high-performance, optimized network solutions.