Exploring the SDN WAN use case

While deploying SDN technology to improve data center operations gets a lot of attention, utilizing SDN to improve the quality of service in the private wide area network (WAN) is an application that can bring significant benefits to an organization. By providing lower cost and easy to deploy software solutions, SDN will expand the use of WAN optimization by enabling adoption by a wide range of large, midsize and small businesses.

Leading IT trends are putting considerable stress on the quality of the links in the enterprise WAN. These trends include:

  • Software as a service
  • Private cloud data centers
  • End-user device proliferation (BYOD)
  • Mobility - user demand for anytime, anywhere access to applications/data
  • Requirements for low-latency traffic (voice and video)

The result is the requirement for highly reliable, secure WANs that deliver low latency traffic to end-users independent of their location or device type. End users need to be able to access information and applications securely anytime, anywhere with any device.

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SDN can help enterprise IT achieve the goals of a high quality WAN without necessarily upgrading the individual WAN links - an expensive proposition. SDN can enable IT to prioritize key traffic types (e.g. voice, video, data center-data center) and applications, and manage the quality of service and latency of the WAN instead of treating all traffic the same. SDN implementations can bring additional benefits, including:

  • Ease of provisioning for new sites, new applications, and changed traffic priorities
  • Improved security (e.g. encryption) of WAN links
  • Ability to leverage APIs to link specific applications directly to the WAN
  • Secure remote access to files and applications

What's more, the SDN technology that can solve enterprise WAN challenges is ready for use today. Suppliers that have announced software to facilitate WAN quality of service include Riverbed, Cisco, Citrix, Juniper, Brocade, ADARA, Pertino, Glue Networks and Silver Peak. A number of SDN WAN use case examples are publicly available, including

Google has deployed OpenFlow to improve its WAN QoS, reliability, manageability, as well as to reduce costs.

• ADARA has deployed its SDN solutions with several enterprise IT customers (in the transportation and health care verticals) to improve their WAN QoS.

• Pertino helped a small business manage virtual connections with remote employees. In another case, Pertino enabled a school to deploy secure remote access to its students and faculty.

• Glue Networks enabled a global pharmaceuticals company to automate the deployment and management of a WAN to their regional branch offices.

At a recent forum of enterprise IT professionals focused on SDN (Open Networking User Group or ONUG), a number of leading edge IT organizations expressed interest in leveraging SDN to better manage their WAN links.

Enterprise IT professionals will be challenged to maintain high quality, secure WAN connections given the trends towards SaaS, BYOD and mobility. SDN provides solutions to enable a broader range of business customers to deploy WAN optimization technologies to provide secure links with high quality of service.

Lee Doyle is principal analyst at Doyle Research. Doyle Research provides targeted analysis on the Evolution of Intelligent Networks: SDN, OPEX and COTS. Lee Doyle has over 28 years experience analyzing the IT, network and telecom markets. For more information please see doyle-research.com, email me at ldoyle@doyle-research.com, and follow me on Twitter @leedoyle_dc.


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