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Why every business needs to look into SD-WAN. Right now.

At this time last year, prominent analyst firm Gartner predicted that Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is going to be significantly relevant in the next few years:

"By the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will have deployed SD-WAN technology in their branches, up from less than 1% today."
   - Gartner, December 2015 (Source: http://blogs.gartner.com/andrew-lerner/2015/12/15/predicting-sd-wan-adoption/)

Gartner, who has a good history of getting this stuff right, thinks that 30% of ALL enterprises are going to have some type of SD-WAN in their network in the next 3 years. That's an incredibly short amount of time for a whole lot of market penetration to occur. Earlier this year another trusted source for market research, International Data Corporation (aka IDC), predicted SD-WAN would reach $6B in revenues by 2020:

"In its first forecast of the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market, International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that worldwide SD-WAN revenues will exceed $6 billion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 90% over the 2015-2020 forecast period."
   - IDC, March 2016 (Source: https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS41139716)

90% CAGR growth and 30% of enterprises in 5 years? What is going on here?! How can SD-WAN possibly make that big of a difference to networks to warrant this level of adoption and investment? Let me tell you the reasons why we're seeing companies switch and the use cases that make up what I call the "value trifecta" (faster, better, cheaper) of betting on SD-WAN:

  • Carrier WAN Replacement: Those who have branch locations with MPLS will know what I'm talking about. There will always be locations which make sense to run a private connection like MPLS to such as headquarters, the datacenter, your disaster recovery site, larger offices with a high number of employees, etc. But there are also smaller sites that you need to make work with key applications at such as voice, video and business critical apps. You hate to lock into 3 year contracts on those lower bandwidth, long provisioning and more costly MPLS circuits for these sites, but what choice have you had if you wanted them to work well and reliably? SD-WAN presents the ability to use multiple, faster AND cheaper broadband circuits, procure them in a week to 10 days (vs 3-4 months for MPLS) then load balance and run QoS overtop of all of them. There are many modern network advancements such as newer load balancing techniques, jitter buffering and forward error correction (FEC) that come together to make this possible. We have seen the value of these nascent features on real networks and they definitely help to make business critical apps work over commodity broadband services.
  • Cloud Based Apps: Microsoft Office365, Salesforce.com, Google's G Suite (formerly Google Apps), Amazon Web Services, Azure, hosted voice over IP (VoIP) and many other web based ERP and CRM systems are hosted as cloud services on the Internet. Businesses are finding it makes more and more sense to move their business workloads to Software as a Service offerings on the cloud versus hosting these applications onsite. Most of the initial security and reliability concerns have shaken out now so hosting on the cloud has become fairly common and for most upstarts, almost a given. With that, legacy MPLS networks make less and less sense because the apps are hosted in the cloud on the Internet, not privately in infrastructure managed by the business. SD-WAN gives organizations moving to the cloud the ability to make these Internet hosted apps to route directly to their destination instead of backhauling them over an expensive private MPLS network. This reduces latency of the applications and utilizes less expensive broadband circuits to carry this traffic, making access perform better at a lower cost.
  • Per-Application Prioritization and Control: Organizations have struggled for decades over the best means to prioritize real time apps like voice and video, how to steer applications over the appropriate links (i.e. private traffic over MPLS, public traffic over Internet links, etc) and rate limit or deprecate non-critical traffic to preserve precious bandwidth. Good examples of this would be making sure your voice and videoconferencing data gets first dibs, that enough bandwidth is set aside to make sure that Office365 and Salesforce are adequately responsive and streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu take a back seat or are dropped entirely when the network is busy. The way to do this traditionally has been to "tag" this traffic with class of service (CoS) markings that you then treat differently based on the intent for that class of service. This can get very complicated and difficult to maintain based on device configuration options, only having available a few queues to prioritize hundreds of applications and network service providers not honoring or simply dropping these "tags" altogether. SD-WAN presents the ability to express business policy and intent into software then push it into the network, using easy to understand interfaces depicting very clearly the applications, source and destination classification rules to do so. There is no more mapping to "tags" in order to make prioritization work well, you simply spell out the apps you want to work, how you want them to work and the software takes care of the rest.
  • Network Reporting and Statistics: Let's be honest, a lot of organizations don't really know what is happening in their network. There are some that are utilizing expensive monitoring systems and tools like Netflow to analyze traffic across the network to identify exactly what is going on at any given time, but I wouldn't say it's as common as it should be. This is often something that has to be built by the IT or network team and can take a great deal of time to integrate and operate which requires resources that not every organization is willing to dedicate. Because of the application control and visibility that SD-WAN has to prioritize and steer traffic, there's a lot of data to utilize for statistics and reporting. This can range from the top-talking applications, to top-talking hosts, to how much latency, jitter and packet loss is currently on a given pipe. We've had folks shocked to see that YouTube was their top network app, that half of their employees are streaming Netflix all day and that the cable modem line probably needs replaced because it consistently has 5% packet loss all month long. These insights are invaluable and rarely can you find all of this information in one network monitoring tool that is easy to use. Also invaluable is the ability to limit or stop use of these applications as they're identified if you wish to discourage their use and to help the network run better.


It's these reasons and more that organizations are making the switch. It's not just one of these features, as with many paradigm shifts of this size, it's all of the factors together that truly make it a compelling solution. If you want to talk more about SDN or SD-WAN, please feel free to contact us. For more information, visit http://wandynamics.com, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call at 877.400.9490. We'll be happy to discuss your needs and find a solution for you!

 

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