Branch office links, big bandwidth needs drive SD-WAN evolution

The hype over the deployment of Software Defined-WAN technology and services is quickly becoming something more so far this year.

Just this week EarthLink announced a partnership with SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud to offer a managed WAN-SD service. And recently Verizon teamed with SD-WAN purveyors at Viptela to offer SD-WAN services. Also this month another SD-WAN player -- CloudGenix -- announced a partner program to build out its SD-WAN offering to the masses. AT&T and other players are in on the managed SD-WAN service world as well.

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In March researchers at IDC said that 30% of enterprises plan to migrate to SD-WAN within two years and that the overall market would be worth $6 billion by 2020. Gartner too sees big things for the technology saying by year-end 2018, 10% of enterprises will have replaced their WAN routing with some iteration of hybrid-WAN-based technology.

While adoption is clearly growing there are of course still some challenges in getting SD-WAN technology into the enterprise.

For example there can be a fair amount of convincing IT networking execs that they need new technology and services when their current systems of T-1s and MPLS are working fine.

But there are plenty of issues driving the pick-up of SD-WAN technology as well.

Cisco’s Kailem Anderson, managing director of Cloud & Managed Services, observed in a blog post this week a few key reasons enterprises might look to SD-WAN services. He wrote:

  • Oversubscribed MPLS circuits in the enterprise: Estimates indicate that enterprise WAN utilization is typically in the 30% to 40% range, resulting in severe circuit wastage.
  • Traffic bursts: Short bursts of intense traffic can degrade the performance for everyone.
  • A silo-based approach to addressing WAN management: Solutions such as WAN optimization, application delivery controller, routers, and security devices are widely deployed today but only solve part of the problem.
  • Management silos: Historically, different groups perform all of the management functions separately, such as visibility, performance, monitoring, optimization, and analytics. This can lead to long troubleshooting times and inefficient capacity planning.

“The rapid increases in the number and variety of devices connecting to corporate networks—along with other trends such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments, guest access, and the Internet of Things (IoT)—all add to these bandwidth demands that IT departments are trying to address,” Anderson wrote. “As a result of all this flux, application bandwidth at branch offices has become a major topic for many businesses. Factors affecting branch application bandwidth include application performance as newer applications consume more bandwidth and escalating carrier costs incurred when purchasing additional connections.”

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“Network connections bog down because the existing bandwidth at branch offices is not sufficient for the rate of traffic. Then traffic jams ensue, and users complain (to IT, of course) about slow and degraded performance. All of this indicates an approaching inflection point in the market which is gaining momentum toward hybrid WAN,” Anderson wrote.

Beyond the bandwidth, security of WAN connections is an issue that SD-WAN can address experts say.

“The ability to segment parts of the network end-to-end, support encryption and authentication are all key components of SD-WAN services, “ said Ramesh Prabagaran, vice president of product management at Viptela. Policies to manage specific segments can then be applied to control access particular locations. Customers can also more easily segment a portion of the network should an attack occur. Such features are particularly key to financial and healthcare enterprises, Prabagaran said.

Better automation features will also be a key driver of SD-WAN deployment. For example Verizon envisions its managed SD-WAN service will be able to detect when it needs more bandwidth and automatically turn it up. It will be able to back it off if necessary said Viraj Parekh, director of product and new business initiatives at Verizon. “We expect to be able to do that by the end of the year,” he said.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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