VeloCloud's SD-WAN puts packet steering on steroids to optimize performance

Branch device enables locations to use inexpensive Internet connections for rich applications like voice and video

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Many vendors are racing to compete in the burgeoning software-defined WAN space. Each competitor has its own strategy of how to implement the network overlay that makes the network connections, provides virtualized services and steers applications. It all comes down to what the SD-WAN vendor wants to help its customers achieve.

VeloCloud has an entry in this race, and the company has two goals: to simplify the way companies set up their branches within their wide area network, and to improve the performance of the WAN. There are several specific problem areas VeloCloud is setting out to address.

As companies roll out more branches, they typically don't increase the number of IT personnel necessary to support those roll-outs. Oftentimes remote sites don't have people with the knowledge and skills to set up the network equipment, and it's expensive and time-consuming to send IT experts from headquarters.

Speaking of expensive, let's talk about the connectivity options at the branches. Many enterprises use MPLS to connect branches, which is more costly than a plain vanilla Internet link but is more reliable, especially for rich applications like voice and video. Still, it would be nice to have an Internet link as an alternative (or additional) choice.

Another problem stems from existing WAN architectures. Companies now rely on more applications in the cloud. This means traffic is being backhauled from the branches to a central data center, only to be routed back out via the Internet to the cloud. Why not connect the branch offices directly to these cloud applications? Unfortunately the migration of applications to the cloud is not supported well by the existing architecture, which tends to be static.

VeloCloud built a "transport independence" solution to address those challenges. The solution is said to be easy to install and connect, so non-IT personnel in the branch can do the work. It allows the branch to use any type of physical transport connection they want: MPLS, cable, DSL, cellular LTE, and so on. VeloCloud accommodates all the intricacies and specialties of these various connections to improve their typical performance, even for rich applications. And of course, application traffic can be steered as needed so that branch offices can go directly to the SaaS applications on the Internet without going through the corporate data center first.

Branch implementation starts with a thin device called an Edge. It's basically a plug-and-play device that can be shipped to a remote location. Once VeloCloud has the IP address for an Edge device, the vendor automatically recognizes the lines attached and begins to characterize them, and then connects them to VeloCloud's cloud platform.

VeloCloud's secret sauce is embedded in the Edge device and in the cloud. It monitors the characteristics and real-time performance of the connections and steers packets to achieve the optimal performance. If the branch has more than one connection – which VeloCloud recommends – the packets can be switched between the lines on a per-packet basis using a technology called Dynamic Multi-path Optimization. This is best explained with an example.

VeloCloud SD-WAN tool for branch office networking

The illustration above shows a snapshot out of a real VeloCloud customer's system. This branch location is connected to two networks: Verizon Networks and a Clear Wireless network. The traffic is a voice conversation. In the "before" scenario, if the traffic had been traversing only the Verizon network or only the Clear Wireless network, there would be some disruptions in the conversation (illustrated by the red and yellow bars).

With VeloCloud's service, the traffic is switched between the two lines and remediated when necessary, so when one line has performance issues, the packets are automatically routed to the other line during the same session. If both lines have problems at the same time, VeloCloud does its best to reconstruct the packets using error and jitter correction. VeloCloud can work with more than two lines to improve the performance even more. The end result is that the branch can get good quality performance with less expensive connection choices.

VeloCloud recently issued an Internet Quality Report in which the company reported real results of its Dynamic Multi-path Optimization across all of its customers. VeloCloud found that 25% of the time, during business hours (defined as 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., local time, Monday through Friday), regular Internet links could not deliver enterprise-quality experience for real time applications. However, by combining sub-second per-packet application steering and on-demand remediation, VeloCloud's cloud-delivered SD-WAN solutions help achieve good performance 99% of the time during work hours using these same Internet links.

Of course, one of the big advantages of SD-WANs is the ability to steer applications easily and cost-efficiently. The illustration below shows how the VeloCloud architecture enables application steering.

15.05 velocloud 2

In this illustration, a couple of branch sites are connected to each other and to VeloCloud through an Edge device at each location. There is an Internet transport layer, a private MPLS transport layer and the  VeloCloud connection from the branch office to the enterprise data center. The graphic also shows SaaS applications, a cloud data center and an on-premise data center as well. From the branches, users can go to an application that is in the on-premise data center. They can go to an application that is in the data center but requires on premise access. They can go to a SaaS application, or to a cloud data center. All of that complexity is hidden through a zero-touch solution. The cloud networking and orchestration eliminates complexity. VeloCloud has the flexibility of different types of connection options from the data center.

The VeloCloud solution is offered as a pay-as-you-go subscription model on a per-branch per-month basis. In addition, for very large enterprises and very large service providers, VeloCloud can provide them with the technology to run their own service, that being VeloCloud as a product. Having both business models is rather unique in the SD-WAN space.

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