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DIY Not the Best Approach to SD-WAN

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Wide area networks (WANs) were not designed for the load that most enterprises need them to handle today. Demand for data across the distributed enterprise is growing exponentially; virtually all enterprises are using cloud technology in some form; and the Internet of Things is growing expanding the scope of networks far beyond servers, PCs, tablets and smartphones. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many are eagerly turning to software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) to deal with those growing needs.

SD-WANs reflected the ongoing movement to software-defined IT assets and increasing reliance on virtualization to make those assets available where and when needed. But few organizations have the fortitude—or budget—to rip and replace core pieces of their existing infrastructure, such as MPLS, which provides Class of Service prioritization and Quality of Service management.

MPLS has been the go-to solution for connecting branch offices to headquarters and data centers, as well as interconnecting branches to each other. But provisioning services with MPLS can be time-consuming and relatively inflexible when it comes to modifying bandwidth to suit changing business needs.

Flexible, dynamic

SD-WAN provides a flexible, more dynamic network infrastructure that allows organizations to move quickly in provisioning and managing digital services. It is a specific application of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology that efficiently routes data traffic across a WAN by choosing the access connection for optimal performance.

“Typically in the past customers would have a single connection to their branch offices, but SD-WAN enables companies to aggregate multiple types of network connections into a branch office and have a software management platform that enables high availability and can automatically prioritize traffic,” explains Brandon Butler, Network World senior editor.

“SD-WANs can save on a customer’s capital expense of installing expensive customized WAN acceleration hardware by allowing them to run a software overlay on less-expensive commodity hardware,” Butler adds.

Do you want to stack boxes?

But simply dropping SD-WAN appliances into branch offices is not necessarily a simple solution to complex network needs.

“Companies need more than just an SD-WAN in branch offices,” writes Network World contributor Steve Garson, founder of SD-WAN-Experts. “They need firewall, IPS, anti-malware, URL filtering and anti-virus for security. Internally, networking calls for Active Directory, DHCP, DNS, and print services. Externally, the edge may need WAN optimization, bandwidth management, QOS, traffic balancing, and, yes, SD-WAN.”

Few organizations have the internal resources to integrate and manage an environment of stacked network appliances, particularly if they’re also looking to leverage existing infrastructure. Rather, they’re more likely to benefit from SD-WAN services that provide dynamic hybrid networking with the ability to integrate multiple network connections using MPLS, IPsec, broadband, and LTE so they can best meet the needs of disparate branch offices.

That’s where the value of a service provider becomes clear. AT&T is providing multiple SD-WAN offerings, including its SD-WAN Network Based solution that combines the economics and flexibility of a hybrid WAN with the deployment speed and low maintenance of a cloud-based service. With the ability to combine MPLS AT&T VPN service quality and lower cost internet at each site, it provides an optimal balance of performance, security and cost as enterprises strive to make their WANs more productive and flexible. For more information, visit AT&T’s SD-WAN Network Based resource page.