Taking full advantage of SD-WAN with unified service assurance – Part 1
With SD-WAN, it’s all about flexible, assured connectivity. Software-Defined Wide-Area Networks offer a long laundry list of benefits for both enterprises (that use them) and service providers (that offer them). If you’ve been following the SD-WAN conversation, you are undoubtedly familiar with many of the claimed benefits:
- SD-WANs increase business agility by enabling service providers to provision or reconfigure new connections in minutes or hours, instead of weeks or months with automation and orchestration.
- SD-WANs improve the user experience by empowering IT to prioritise the most important traffic, so video sales calls aren’t handled with the same priority as plain old emails.
- SD-WANs bolster service quality by allowing traffic to fail over to backup paths on alternative WAN technologies, if needed.
- SD-WANs save money by routing traffic over commodity-price Internet broadband links while offering improved service quality at a lower cost than a traditional static WAN.
- SD-WANs also enable enterprises to take advantage of service provider’s as a Service (NaaS) offering (and for service providers to offer one).
SD-WANs leverage virtualisation, network programmability, and orchestration to make it easier, faster, and less expensive for enterprises and service providers to route network traffic in ways that best suit business requirements, to connect branch offices, to build hybrid clouds, to deliver IoT services, etc, says Chris Purdy, CTO at CENX.
For service providers, SD-WANs open up new service opportunities that respond to the ever more complex connectivity needs of enterprises. SD-WANs also promise to reduce costs, primarily in the form of reduced truck rolls, reduced inventory cost, and reduced costs of manual provisioning.
As a technology, SD-WAN sounds great, and it is – it offers tremendous promise for service providers and customers alike. The benefits, however, aren’t the whole story. As an emerging technology, SD-WAN also involves a certain amount of risk and requires a certain amount of change.
Service agility is important; service quality is essential
In a crowded market driven by customer Quality of Experience (QoE), service quality is a key differentiator for connectivity, and that includes SD-WAN. An enterprise with a traditional, private, static WAN already has a high-availability, ultra-dependable network for their critical traffic. For enterprises without a private, static WAN that want a better experience than broadband, assured service quality of a SD-WAN solution is also critical to perceptions of value.
There remains, however, some debate about whether SD-WAN can match the quality and capability of a traditional, static WAN. Technologically speaking, SD-WANs replace physical, single purpose devices with commodity hardware and programmable software that can be centrally managed. Can the virtual infrastructure that underlies SD-WAN deliver the same low latency that physical infrastructure can? What about jitter?
For SD-WAN to be successful, assured service quality is a must for customers. Calls can’t drop. Applications can’t time out. Cloud back-up processes can’t fail. Insert here all the other reasons reliable connectivity is critical.
Similarly, from the service provider perspective, the benefits to offering SD-WAN solutions must outweigh the risks. Static WANs are a known quantity, and they’re highly reliable. New technologies involve learning curves, cultural change, risk to reputation, potential churn, and other challenges.
Questions aside, however, the technology is moving forward.
The author of this blog is Chris Purdy, CTO at CENX.
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