Category: SD-WAN

The right vendor designs SD-WAN according to the needs of the client.

Demand Customization in Your Clients’ SD-WAN to Ensure Success

The new enterprise has arrived. No longer are employees required exclusively to arrive at a set start time at a physical location, find comfort in a cube and churn out unrealistic outcomes. Today, technology has made flexibility possible through the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that help companies achieve success regardless of physical location. As such, professionals now work from home, the road and any other location that supports their focus on work-life balance.

The drive to implement software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) solutions is facilitated by the demand for improving branch office connectivity and mobile capabilities among those branch employees who must be able to be productive on the go. Plus, companies are looking for solutions that enable them to integrate existing services that meet the requirements of the customer base. The best way to accomplish this is with custom installations, initiated by experienced teams.

To truly get the benefits associated with SD-WAN, it’s also crucial that licensing is simple, and all-inclusive. This simplified connectivity ensures features are more easily configured to meet the needs of the customer, without adding to the price. The solution also needs to incorporate access to hybrid networks to solve connectivity challenges at each location. Wireless, of course, is a must as it is no longer a back-up service, but instead a key element of productivity.

Still, there are a number of different elements inherent in the operation of the multi-location company that must be considered before SD-WAN can be implemented and start to deliver value. For instance, a particular company understands they are ready to make the move to SD-WAN, but has long relied on multiple carriers to support branches across many states. In order to modernize the network, simplifying connectivity and network management is critical, while keeping application performance top of mind.

The best approach is to study the needs and usage patterns of each independent branch so as to truly understand the needs that must be met in order for SD-WAN to deliver value. Then, in the process of designing the right SD-WAN development plan, it helps to consider best practice applications that help meet the needs of the individual users. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies, for instance, help to leverage existing services, while preserving device and usage habits employees already have.

Working in collaboration with internal IT and IP teams is also essential, as they will bear the responsibility for the SD-WAN and anything supported through this new deployment. Their understanding, buy-in and support are essential to any project with the primary goal of changing the network so as to support leading-edge technology and new ways of doing business.

This is where MicroCorp comes in. Our experience in the industry revolves around understanding the needs of our clients through their lens, not ours. When we partner with you to deliver solutions to your clients, they’re focused on benefits and not processes. We’ll work with you to design solutions that best meet your clients’ needs, and you determine the best approach to customization through key collaborations. Contact us today to start those conversations.

Bigleaf’s John Hogan talks SD-WAN, Sales, and Advice for Channel Partners

As SD-WAN makes its way around the channel — challenging forecasts for MPLS, sales, and expertise — we reached out to John Hogan, VP of Partner Sales & Business Development for Bigleaf Networks to give us his scoop on SD-WAN as it stands today. We talk sales opportunities, the types of SD-WAN, and advice for partners. Check out the interview below:

Keenan: With all the buzz out there about SD-WAN, what are some of the essential points partners have to have in their arsenal when selling SD-WAN?

Hogan: I know the SD-WAN space can seem daunting and confusing – even for partners that consider themselves to be industry veterans. My best advice for partners looking to become educated on their SD-WAN options is to categorize the different suppliers into a few major categories, and then work with their MicroCorp support team to build a relationship with at least one solid player in each category.

At Bigleaf, we’ll be the first to admit that there really is no single SD-WAN vendor that’s the right fit for every customer. So it’s important to have a few options ready to go based on the customer’s applications and network architecture.

Here are three SD-WAN supplier categories that we tend to keep track of at Bigleaf:

Carrier-based SD-WAN platforms

  • Major focus: SD-WAN as an MPLS enhancement or MPLS replacement
  • Includes a Gateway component for cloud-based traffic

Limitations:

  • Typically replaces firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Ties your SD-WAN sale to a specific carrier
  • Support experience can be challenging due to broad product set, and the fact that the carrier is re-selling another vendor’s SD-WAN platform

Premise-only solutions (no Gateway component)

  • Major focus: Built mainly for site-to-site connectivity

Limitations:

  • Typically replace firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Not as strong for cloud-based traffic due to the lack of a Gateway
  • Some require large, upfront equipment purchases

Firewall/Cloud Agnostic (this is Bigleaf’s sweet spot!)

Major focus: Easy self-installation of SD-WAN for cloud-based traffic

Onsite router deploys outside the customer’s firewall (less complicated install)

Cloud Gateway network setup for any cloud-based traffic or site-to-site VPNs

Limitations:

  • Primarily designed for internet connections (not a fit for load-balancing with MPLS or Private-Line circuits)

Keenan: Are there any commonly misunderstood points about SD-WAN partners should be aware of?

Hogan: One of the greatest misunderstood points about SD-WAN is the common belief that SD-WAN is primarily designed as an MPLS enhancement or replacement. These talking points have been driven largely by the major carriers.

Frankly, if you’re a carrier with a large base of MPLS revenue, it’s going to make sense to target SD-WAN technology (and marketing) towards the concept of leveraging SD-WAN intelligence to load-balance existing MPLS networks with broadband to build a hybrid environment for site-to-site connectivity. And that can be a great use of the technology for an enterprise customer with a large IT budget and a long-term need for more traditional, site-to-site architecture.

At Bigleaf, we’re more focused on leveraging SD-WAN technology as a more robust, cost-effective access to cloud applications. We call our technology “Cloud-First SD-WAN”.  We chuckle when we hear people say that SD-WAN is disrupting MPLS. In our view, the cloud disrupted MPLS well before SD-WAN was popular.

For many customers that are migrating applications out to the cloud, their legacy network architecture no longer makes as much sense. Their major connectivity needs have essentially migrated from a hub and spoke model to a remote-site-to-many approach. Efficient access to hosted VoIP, SaaS, AWS or Azure, etc. have become more important than access to an HQ or single data center. Any remaining site-to-site connectivity needs can be addressed with VPNs that will always remain healthy and stable thanks to SD-WAN’s prioritization and seamless failover capabilities.

Clearly, the Bigleaf SD-WAN focus plays out more in the small to mid-sized customer base, and the carrier SD-WAN focus plays out more in the enterprise space.

Keenan: What’s the best way partners can educate themselves about SD-WAN and how to sell it?

Hogan: Like anything in telecom, it really comes down to a combination of learning the key technology, but then also building a good working relationship with a few key suppliers. Good technology is never enough by itself. It’s the combination of technology and good service that makes customers happy.

For MicroCorp partners, I would highly recommend the Ultimate Partner Training Series for an opportunity to do a deep dive on SD-WAN, data center and advanced hosted solutions. Bigleaf has participated in several of these events in the past couple years, and they accomplish both the education component and the vendor relationship component. Or, just schedule a personalized training call with Bigleaf Networks, and at least one vendor from the three major SD-WAN categories noted above.

Lastly, in order to truly understand the capability of SD-WAN, you need to work through a few real-life customer implementations to experience the installation process and hear your customers’ feedback first-hand. All of our order forms have a 30-day money-back guarantee, but we’re also happy to provide a 30-day free trial when needed to allow customers to test our technology risk-free. Use these tools to help close some early wins!

Keenan: How should partners look at MPLS now that SD-WAN is encroaching on its market?

Hogan: With any major technology migration, there are some that will see new technology as a threat. And others that will see opportunity in the evolution. MPLS is not likely to disappear anytime soon. But I think many people agree it will die a slow death over a period of several years. So it’s important to build an SD-WAN strategy moving forward. That strategy can be multi-pronged:

  • Begin working on a proactive migration plan for all of your MPLS customers that will play out for several years. That plan won’t likely mean getting rid of MPLS for all customers. Some cloud-centric customers may certainly replace MPLS with an SD-WAN-enabled internet solution. While others may incorporate more of a hybrid MPLS/broadband approach. Either way, the future of your customers’ WANs are likely to incorporate an SD-WAN component in some degree or fashion in the next few years.
  • Don’t forget about the cloud! One of the greatest benefits of SD-WAN technology is more cost-effective access to cloud applications that is carrier and physically diverse. Every SD-WAN sale is a potential pivot-point into future cloud application sales for that customer. Treat your SD-WAN sales as an excuse to have a conversation with your customer about their current and future application needs — and how those needs can be met through future cloud migrations — and you have a built-in roadmap to a cloud-centric business plan for your company. Every SD-WAN sale results in a purpose-built roadway to the cloud, so help your customers use it!
  • Embrace the “every quote” opportunity with SD-WAN. The market is quickly hitting a breaking point where most businesses can no longer afford to work with a single, dumb internet pipe. With the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications, site-to-site VPNs, SaaS, O365, etc, the internet has become a lifeline to most businesses. So educate customers on SD-WAN as a part of every internet/VoIP/cloud quote that goes out the door. It will increase your ARPU and help combat the eventual decline of MPLS revenue.
SD-WAN answers many of the challenges posed by security that demands a higher focus on networks.

SD-WAN Offers Answers to Network Security Problems

SD-WAN answers many of the challenges posed by security that demands a higher focus on networks.Enterprises often take a layered approach to security, deploying solutions for network, compute and application. With so many solutions increasingly being network-centered, such as Internet of Things components and cloud technology, many organizations are recognizing the need for a network-focused security strategy. In many cases, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is able to address the challenges of network security.

Networks are the area to which there’s been the most change in recent years, so it makes sense that security is more advanced in this realm. Here are five recommendations for implementing secure SD-WAN:

  1. Add encryption to your WAN transport. When they choose SD-WAN, companies have access to low-cost broadband and can encrypt all Internet flow to each site without the need for administrators to make manual configuration changes to routers after each change to the network. It’s also important to note that SD-WAN is more secure than most private IP services because there can’t be a breach to the data even if the carrier network is threatened.
  2. Make sure your cloud connection is secure. It doesn’t matter how secure your client’s public cloud service is, whether they’re accessing Amazon or Salesforce. Every time they transfer sensitive data over the Internet to get to the cloud service, it’s an opportunity for a security breach. The SD-WAN provider may offer granular Internet breakout so that your client can distinguish between security mandates to move traffic through particular secure gateways. They’ll also have next-generation firewalls stationed at your branch or in the cloud or data storage center. All of the inherent risks associated with cloud solutions is mitigated by SD-WAN.
  3. Cover local branch security. Each of your client’s branch offices will require security, especially in cases where there is direct Internet access. The cost of buying and configuring physical appliances for each site can be prohibitive, and this method requires an engineer to travel to each site. SD-WAN allows your client to deploy VPNs, firewalls or WAN optimization from a central location by using network functions virtualization. This makes it convenient to provide security coverage for each branch location.
  4. Meeting requirements for compliance. The rules governing healthcare and financial services, including HIPAA or PCI data security fit perfectly with SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN allows the enterprise to create virtual overlays to segment applications traffic.
  5. Create secure segmentation. Segmentation allows the IT team to isolate applications traffic for security purposes or to work with specific performance requirements. While legacy networks could do this, it was time-consuming and challenging. Segmentation with SD-WAN allows for consistency of configurations and best practices defined and enforced through business intent policies.

With security becoming a growing IT cost, MicroCorp anticipates more customers selecting an SD-WAN technology to create a secure and manageable cloud-based environment. As the demand for more agile, cloud-based WAN-technologies accelerates, we continue to provide focus to the variety of WAN technologies available. Contact us today to find out the best solution for your business.

SD-WAN

The Complications of Hybrid SD-WAN

SD-WANSoftware-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is creating a significant buzz in the IT world, but despite its myriad benefits, many companies that implement it aren’t doing so as a replacement for multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Instead, SD-WAN is being added to existing MPLS configurations to eliminate complexity and create differentiation.

The benefits of implementing SD-WAN are numerous, including cost savings, improved performance and agility, and better security and reliability than what can be achieved through an MPLS system. Many companies are adding SD-WAN into their existing MPLS systems rather than switching them, creating a hybrid SD-WAN situation.

The goal with these hybrid systems is to capture the lower costs for Internet traffic, and, in theory, to eliminate complexity in the network. What ends up happening, instead, is that enterprises end up with more complexity than they anticipated. Many providers of SD-WAN are now bundling managed services in a way that sidesteps a more complex configuration.

For instance, when a company has an existing MPLS system, and they decide they want to introduce another type of connection either as a backup or to access a lower-cost bandwidth, it can create some complications. The new connection requires a reconfiguration to achieve the goals the company is after to get the desired policy.

There are many determinations that have to be worked through before an enterprise can go live with an SD-WAN hybrid. The company has to decide which type of Internet traffic is set to go over certain lines by default, and which conditions will dictate another line (jitter, delay, latency). If a line is down, it must be determined how the Internet traffic will be prioritized until additional lines are available.

In this situation, you’re going from a single link where questions are simply of a quality of service (QoS) nature, to a conversation about load balancing and how to route Internet traffic.

Another topic that comes up with clients that want to implement an SD-WAN hybrid solution is the elimination of hair pinning with Internet traffic. An SD-WAN component allows traffic to flow freely between the cloud and the enterprise, but no longer between branches of the enterprise so it offers a much better situation for Internet traffic flow.

The introduction of SD-WAN is still relatively new, so providers are still getting a feel for the preferences of their enterprise clients in how SD-WAN fits into an existing MPLS configuration, or if there’s a desire to fully replace the MPLS. In many situations, a bundling of managed services strikes the right balance without introducing unnecessary complexity.

Talk with MicroCorp about creating customized managed services for SD-WAN for your clients. We can walk you through every consideration and benefit for including SD-WAN in the network setup for a particular enterprise. Give us a call.

 

Understanding the Differences Between SD-WAN and SDN

Wondering what the difference is between SD-WAN and SDN? MicroCorp has answers.There has been an explosion of interest in software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) as enterprises look for ways to quickly equip new branches with network access and address security needs for a growing IT infrastructure. As SD-WAN becomes more widespread, it is easily confused with its predecessor, the still-relevant and useful software-defined networking (SDN).

SD-WAN and SDN share similarities, most notably their separation of the control plane and data plane, and they both support the implementation of additional virtual network functions.

The original intent of SDN was to meet modern computing needs of local area networks (LANs) and service provider networks. It was developed as a way to support the changing needs of data centers and networks. IT professionals like it for its central control console and the agility achieved by being able to directly program the SDN.

Many of the same core principles are true for SD-WAN, but it has its own distinguishing features:

  • SD-WAN provides software-defined application routing to the WAN.
  • An enterprise’s locations, spread out over a large geographic area (even on a global scale) can be easily and quickly connected using SD-WAN, connecting data centers, remote and mobile users, as well as headquarters and branch offices.
  • While SDN is programmed and configured by the customer or user, SD-WAN programming is managed by the vendor, making it a simpler option for the end user.
  • SD-WAN’s focus is on connecting users across a geographic span, while SDN is concentrated on the local area network.
  • SD-WAN is routable through software-defined applications that can be run virtually, and SDN is enabled by network function virtualization.

SD-WAN is an application-based routing system, rather than a traditional, packet-based network routing system, which allows companies to use broadband Internet with better performance and quality, as well as at a lower cost than what they are accustomed to with multi-protocol label switching (MPLS).

SD-WAN allows for a centralized application routing governance, while improving both agility and flexibility. It allows you to easily identify which applications are traveling over the WAN and create guiding policies on how they are prioritized on the network.

Overall, SD-WAN simplifies the network management for the end user, allowing your IT professionals to focus on other areas of your technology management. It’s important, particularly if you are adding SD-WAN to an existing network structure, that you have a clear understanding of how this addition will impact WiFi, voice and video, as well as other areas.

Before choosing your network solution for a growing enterprise, talk with our team at MicroCorp. We can help you determine the best fit for your network needs and learn how SD-WAN will impact associated programs and your overall security coverage. Give us a call to talk more.

Comcast’s Cary Tengler Talks Sales, SD-WAN, and Partner Success

I sat down with Cary Tengler, Executive Director, National Partner Programs at Comcast to talk about how partners can find the opportunities to sell evolving technologies.

Join Microcorp and Comcast Business' Cary Tengler for a conversation on channel partner success.
As technologies evolve rapidly, it is the constant struggle of the partner to keep up with new solutions, and how to sell them. I talked with Comcast’s Cary Tengler to discuss what partners can do to stay up on technology trends, educate themselves to sell more, and to build complex sales. See our full exchange below.

How can partners become well-rounded in the channel, and be able to sell multiple services/technologies to build complex sales?

Tengler: I don’t actually believe that growth-oriented partners need to be well-rounded. Instead, I think partners must focus on specific verticals and solution sets in which they have – or can develop – a competitive advantage.  It used to be the case that partners could be very successful by being networking generalists and providing a quick turnaround on three quotes for a T1.

This clearly is no longer the case. The advent of cloud-based solutions has moved much of the IT budget and decision-making into disparate parts of the organization, including HR, sales, operations, and most importantly marketing. This requires growth-oriented partners to focus more on their customers’ business outcomes than transactional sales techniques. This is why MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training is so critical to the sales partner community. This in-depth training provides an immersive experience that truly teaches partners the “how and why” of positioning and selling emerging technologies like cloud connectivity, data center, and SD-WAN solutions.

As a leader in cable, fiber, and ethernet technologies, how do you see the growth of “bandwidth hog” solutions such as SD-WAN impacting the need for cable/fiber, etc.?

Tengler: With the caveat that SD-WAN is actually a solution for effectively managing bandwidth hogs, Comcast is a huge advocate of SD-WAN and we’ll be releasing our own solution later this year.

The principal benefit is that it frees the end-user from the tyranny of MPLS, a 20+ year old technology that is expensive, difficult to manage and totally unsuited for utilizing cloud-based solutions. Many end users continue to maintain their MPLS networks due to a toxic mix of fear and inertia.

Prior to SD-WAN, an MPLS customer seeking to upgrade their WAN was faced with significant technical and economic roadblocks (i.e., rip-and-replace) and often chose to live with an expensive sub-optimal solution rather than attempt a wholesale network replacement.

SD-WAN removes both the technical and economic barriers and allows end-users to mix and match network technologies to better manage their solutions and desired business outcomes.

And by removing the MPLS “requirement”, Comcast is highly confident that our coax and fiber services will be very well positioned to be the MPLS killer.

What is Comcast’s role in helping partners deal with and learn about these “bandwidth hog” technologies? 

Tengler: Since the inception of Comcast Business, we have led the cable and telecom industry in simultaneously reducing costs and driving bandwidth speed increases, so to a certain extent, we’ve been helping partners by providing the most reliable, cost-effective high-speed bandwidth solutions on the market.

More specifically, as Comcast expands its services portfolio beyond traditional data and voice into cloud and data center connectivity, premise-based services like Wifi Pro and Smart Office, and even IoT, we are investing heavily in training, operations, support, and, of course, in our master agents like MicroCorp.

Educating and enabling sales partners is hard and ongoing, for all parties involved, but ultimately it’s that three-way partnership that will position the channel as the primary solutions provider for next generation solutions.

We are constantly training our partners on evolving data center, SD-WAN, and hosted technologies. What would you say are some of the most important things partners need to consider when selling these solutions?

Tengler: I’ll go back to my first comment and suggest that partners identify the solutions and verticals in which they have or can establish a competitive advantage. The decentralization of IT budgets requires that sales partners speak the language of the “line of business” manager which typically moves beyond speeds-and-feeds into business outcomes. Focus, focus, focus.

And, no surprise here, I believe every sales partner must develop a familiarity with cable connectivity (at a minimum) and establish a selling partnership with the local cableco. As more mission-critical applications move to the cloud, having a diverse back-up connectivity solution is not just nice, but necessary. This redundancy and diversity is best addressed with cable.

How does Comcast work with master agents who focus on complex sales? How is the approach different from that of working with masters who focus on SMBs and smaller, individual sales?

Tengler: Comcast’s Master Agents are supported by an outstanding team of 75+ support and operations professionals, of which fully half are dedicated to complex sales support. Additionally, we have 22 partner sales managers and 12 sales engineers who work closely with local sales partners, primarily complex solutions design and other pre-sales issues. The sales engineers take the lead in our field-based partner training on a wide variety of solutions, including fiber, WAN, SD-WAN, hosted voice and UCaaS.

As compared to those Masters that focus on SMB sales, which are more transactional and operations focused, we invest disproportionately in the training and 3-wide teaming model that are necessary for success in selling and delivering expensive and complex solutions.

But don’t get me wrong – we love SMB and are happy to support those sales partners and customers as well. In fact, our 1Gbps coax (+ SD-WAN solution) is already making its way into more complex solutions sales.

How the Cloud is Driving SD-WAN

Learn how cloud adoption is driving SD-WAN.The adoption of Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is increasing, providing enterprises with a host of benefits. 451 Research reports that one in five companies indicate that they’ll adopt SD-WAN in the following year, and an additional 30 percent say that adoption of SD-WAN is on their radar.

The benefits of implementing SD-WAN include:

  • The ability to optimize connections to the cloud and secure those connections better than with current networks, which is a key driver of SD-WAN use
  • An application-aware approach to WAN, which is becoming more important to IT managers as cloud usage expands
  • Improved agility and cost-savings

Cloud Adoption is Spurring SD-WAN

The migration of companies’ software solutions to the cloud is an independent event, but the use of SD-WAN is occurring alongside it. As IT professionals pursue a transition to cloud software, they don’t want to sacrifice performance or security in seeking out the cost savings and agility that’s found in cloud applications.

A traditional WAN is set up with individual branches connected to a central location using a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connection or other dedicated circuits. Each branch has a router that acts independently, and traffic on the connection is managed based on static routing.

SD-WAN, by contrast, removes the control plane from the physical devices that are at each branch, which provides central control and visibility over the WAN. This means that enterprises are able to mix and match the connections that are being used and the various carriers, allowing for greater flexibility and agility.

This set-up trades a wheel-and-spokes structure for one where the enterprise can connect directly to the cloud. Additionally, IT professionals have more visibility to work with the entire network footprint and manage traffic for optimized cloud application performance.

As cloud migration continues to increase, it’s expected that SD-WAN will grow alongside it. The same 451 Research poll results indicate that 88 percent of respondents plan to increase their cloud and hosting budgets in 2017.

What’s Holding You Back?

There are some potential obstacles to implementing SD-WAN, and one or more may keep your company from embracing this technology:

  • The cost of new equipment that SD-WAN requires
  • Concerns about the maturity of the current offerings for SD-WAN
  • Internet performance
  • Security concerns

Some experts predict that cloud offerings may soon be bundled with SD-WAN, because the marriage of the two makes sense in nearly every situation.

MicroCorp is an expert in connectivity and the cloud. When you partner with us, you’ll have access to not only the ideal cloud solutions for your enterprise, but also the connectivity you need to support optimized performance and cloud management agility. Give us a call today.

SD-WAN: Contender or Just a Pretender?

Is SD-WAN the real deal?We are all learning the acronym SD-WAN, but to layer 2 and 3 OSI model aficionados, it can be hard to accept how an upstart layer 7 software application can potentially replace a stalwart layer 3 technology like multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Which begs the question: Is SD-WAN a contender, or just a pretender in the future generation of networks? 

MPLS: The Incumbent

When MPLS was introduced, medium and large businesses rapidly adopted the technology. Deploying an MPLS network to connect offices together provides users with the ability to have a predictable, secure, and high preforming environment. This is done by bringing all your data through a single provider and allowing them to prioritize your traffic at layer 2 or layer 3 using QoS.  

Providers can provide QoS through specifically designed networks with logical separation using labels to identify traffic, VRFs, and VRF tags to separate the customer traffic. They then allow customers to apply QoS tags to traffic types to reach higher levels of availability.

Let’s look at how this works in more detail, as this is the meat of what customers care about.

When designing MPLS, it is important to determine how you want to provide this QoS. The first thing to do is identify traffic of similar kind and then a degree of excellence. In a typical deployment, 4 quality queues are seen as defined below:

  1. Real-time traffic – This is typically voice, video, and/or VDI.
  2. Business Critical – This includes applications required for a company to do business. Examples might be an EMR for a medical company or credit card transactions for a retail company. 
  3. Business Important – This might be an intranet, active directory, email, or other application that is not sensitive to jitter, latency, or retransmits.
  4. General Traffic – This queue includes all other traffic.

Once customer traffic has been identified and tagged, the degree of excellence of those tagging/groupings must be defined. Most carriers offer a different service level for each queue and different bandwidth guaranteed to each traffic type across the entire MPLS network. As companies continued to converge, however, holes in this design were found. This brought forth the creation of SD-WAN.

SD-WAN: The Contender

Instead of using QoS (layer 2 or layer 3), SD-WAN uses software definitions. With MPLS, you must either use only a source or destination IP address or port. That would be the same as saying you can only relieve traffic congestion from where you started, where you are going, or based on the type of car you have. This would not be very helpful in a major situation where most traffic is destined for the same general area. But what if you could also consider important factors, like ensuring doctors and first responders were never caught in traffic? That one additional factor could change the landscape in most cities and potentially save lives. In terms of the company network, that would be the same as having a real-time queue.

This is what SD-WAN does to QoS. Video traffic can be prioritized to YouTube over Netflix, for example, or Office 365 email over personal Gmail accounts.

Not Beholden to a Single Carrier

With MPLS, the entire environment must be controlled by a single provider. This means that you cannot choose the most cost effective solutions for each location, which doesn’t work for customers with large geographical environments. SD-WAN allows the most cost effective solution per location be chosen. 

Significant Resilience Improvements

With MPLS, providing redundancy is very difficult as MPLS routing uses private IP. For the secondary connection, most customers choose to use a VPN over an internet connection. They then need a device that is intelligent enough to build the VPN and handle routing between the two solutions. Even then, routing with just layer 3 protocols doesn’t allow different levels of resilience or performance increases. Typically, customers settle on having the VPN be active/inactive (or hot/cold), meaning that the other connection is ONLY used when there is a total failure of the MPLS.

 With SD-WAN, the world of high-performing resilient networks comes with a lot of options. You can define and build it so that both connections are used, called active/active or hot/hot. You can prioritize based on application type; for example, real-time traffic can be forced down a high-quality connection with SLAs associated with it, and general web traffic can be sent down a more cost effective connection.  Other business critical or important traffic can be bundled to go out both connections, maximizing total bandwidth.

Conclusion

The flexibility and design options increase exponentially with the introduction of SD-WAN. MPLS still has its place and will for years to come, but for many customers SD-WAN provides a great alternative that may help them meet their internal goals.

SD-WAN: Panacea or Pandora?

Get the truth about what SD-WAN can do for your clients.SD-WAN is getting a great deal of air play in the industry right now, promising to solve every network challenge that embattled network architects and operators are experiencing today from insatiable bandwidth requirements and costs through simple network resiliency and management. But what is marketing fluff, and what is real? What are the real drivers behind this latest “transformational” technology, and what problems does it really solve?

More Affordable Network Needed

With increasing workloads and performance requirements, especially with the proliferation of cloud-based applications, the need for predictable, high-speed, secure, and diversified networks is escalating. It simply isn’t always financially feasible to deploy diverse MPLS links to multiple distributed offices.

SD-WAN enables companies to take advantage of less expensive internet access rather than managed private networks while still getting the benefit of the types of capabilities provided by an MPLS network. In many areas, tier one direct internet access actually (and maybe surprisingly) provides lower latency, lower jitter, and lower packet loss than its expensive MPLS counterpart, so companies with a large number of distributed offices can expect to see real cost benefits with an SD-WAN network versus a traditional MPLS network.

Simpler and Faster Deployment

MPLS circuits can take months to provision and turn up. The underlying internet access types that SD-WAN can take advantage of can be faster and easier to deploy. However, don’t be misled by the myth that SD-WAN is simple to deploy.  There is still a substantial amount of planning and configuration to be done. Beware of the “plug and play” misconception and investigate how each solution is deployed, as they are all different.

Management

Not all SD-WAN solutions are as easy to manage as you might think, and not all management portals provide the same functionality. Whether you are looking at a service provider-managed solution, your own “book end” managed solution, or are using a dedicated SD-WAN network provider, look carefully at what priorities you can set and what monitoring you can do. Are these to device level (MAC address) or location level (essentially just network aggregation and optimization solutions)?

And, most importantly, don’t forget about how software updates are applied and managed and how template policies are set and administered — the very things you would think about when managing routers in your network.

Security

There are claims made that MPLS is more secure than SD-WAN. In reality, an MPLS network is only as secure as the accuracy of the MPLS provider’s switching. The use of IPSec connectivity and additional service chaining in an SD-WAN environment should be more than sufficient to address most security concerns.

 

Vendor Maturity

You can’t simply turn to Gartner’s magic quadrant and pick a leader. The industry is too young, with many new market entrants. Whatever deployment method you are going to use, be sure to check the underlying equipment vendor’s track record.  Financial stability and investors are important. Ask for references and don’t forget to look under the hood at the vendor roadmap to understand future solution enhancements such as scalability.

MicroCorp was a pioneer when MPLS came along. We have over 30 years of experience delivering complex network solutions and helping businesses discover the right technology for their operations. Contact us to learn more about a partnership in adding SD-WAN and related technologies to your portfolio of solutions.