Tag Archives: SD-WAN

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.

Cloud: How It Changed Itself, and Us

How have cloud services changed the way that channel partners do business?Today’s cloud environment has picked up steam from a “customer acceptance” point of view: customers are adopting cloud in general at a much faster rate than we had expected them to. We no longer pitch cloud — our clients ask us about it. And, while cloud has been a boon for many, it’s important to remember that new technologies can come with a set of challenges that are shifting the telecom and IT markets in various ways.

Cloud Evolution

Cloud started on the email side with products like Office 365, then moved into phone systems with hosted technology; now we get questions about moving servers to the cloud. The transition from email to phone to infrastructure was rapid, and all three are still growing. From the transformation of backup (moving from tape to cloud) to the developments from giants like AWS, cloud is an ever-evolving beast. And we expect to see more in the way of private cloud infrastructure in the future.

Price Erosion Forces Change
Price erosion on connectivity and network deals is a big concern in the telecom world these days, and cloud offers the opportunity to pivot and go deeper with customers by offering more solutions. But it’s important to call out our experience here at SinglePoint in this regard: we have not felt the effects of price erosion the way we thought we would because the need for bandwidth has kept up with the erosion.

Where we were selling 10 Mbps, we now sell 100 Mbps. Where we were selling MPLS, we are now selling SD-WAN. While pricing does keep going down, market trends have pushed us to rethink our partnerships and our sales model as well as to adopt and use cloud as a product. It has forced our hand to move more into IT from the pure telecom sphere we used to work in, and we have made partnerships in order to conduct IT risk assessments and build upon private cloud architecture.

Cloud Changes the Market
There have been continual mergers and acquisitions across carriers, and as the big get bigger, we have fewer and fewer providers. Now, we see all these new providers coming up; not as carrier services, but as cloud companies and hosted phone companies. Where there used to be 50 CLECs, there are 100 new hosted phone companies and hundreds of new SD-WAN companies. As they come out of the woodwork, we see cloud changing what businesses are offering.

What’s in Store
In 2015, our core carrier products (internet, MPLS, voice services, etc.) were 90% of our sales. In 2016, 40% of our sales were non-traditional telecom products such as cloud systems, hosted contact management solutions, hosted phones, cloud-based architecture, and cellular. That huge shift tells us to expect more change, and to think ahead about our offerings.

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.

SD-WAN Technology Will Continue to Expand in 2017

SD-WAN adoption continues to boom. MicroCorp can help you take advantage.Enterprise tech experts believe that 2017 is going to be a big year for integrated network technologies, particularly with regard to appliances. Integrated networks are now far easier to deploy and manage than they were even a couple of years ago, and many pundits are predicting that the enterprise space will see a sharp rise in the number of network appliance deployments this year. Somewhat surprisingly, SD-WAN technology has proven to be a major driver of this shift.

When the integrated network trend first surfaced, it seemed as though NFV technologies were going to be the go-to option for network design and deployment. However, they require a significant investment of IT resources, and many enterprises don’t want to handle all their integration requirements in-house. SD-WAN solutions have stepped in to fill the void, in large part because they offer centralized control and configuration features that greatly reduce the amount of care and feeding the network needs for peak performance.
Major Factors Driving the SD-WAN Trend

In particular, there are five major reasons why SD-WAN has become the solution of choice for integrated networking:

  • An application-oriented focus. Because SD-WAN is so centralized, it supports superior network adaptability and application-level reporting. By contrast, branch networks powered by multi-vendor solutions do not achieve nearly the same level of consistency.
  • Flexibility and responsiveness to change. This adaptability carries over to the service, integration, and policy spheres. Generally speaking, SD-WAN networks are the least rigid and most suited to change and flexibility, making them a better fit in a constantly shifting technology landscape.
  • Better processor technologies. Today’s processors have made it possible to assign a wider range of functions to hardware than ever before, without any loss of performance. SD-WAN networks exploit this to their advantage.
  • The rise of cloud computing. Because the cloud has shifted a great deal of Internet traffic to links, SD-WAN has emerged as a prime solution because it vastly reduces the workload placed on other network resources.
  • An “easier is better” mentality. Today, enterprises expect technologies to be easy to use without requiring a great deal of setup. SD-WAN fits the bill, and because it is so much easier to create and deploy, it is supplanting older networking techniques that are comparatively complicated and thus seen as outdated.

The connectivity and communication professionals at MicroCorp offer industry-leading expertise and a comprehensive suite of business-oriented, SD-WAN-powered integrated networking solutions. Please contact a MicroCorp client services representative to learn more.

SD-WAN: Get Past the Hype

Get past the hype and learn what SD-WAN can truly do.While SD-WAN officially flew past the hype stage of Gartner’s emerging technologies cycle in 2015, but it is still in that stage for many a partner, agent, and CIO.

It’s important to step back and recognize what SD-WAN can and cannot do for businesses. With all the noise out there, SD-WAN is still in its “wild west” phase. How do we cut past the industry buzz and get to the heart of what SD-WAN is all about?

Examine how its benefits apply to your customer’s business.

Not everyone needs SD-WAN, contrary to what you’ve been hearing. Additionally, some SD-WAN providers have crafted marketing to make it seem like their solutions apply to everyone, but they can’t look at each business’s network. Partners should look at what applications their customers are running to determine if SD-WAN is for them.

If your customer is primarily a mid-market account that’s not doing much other than running voice across a WAN and their apps are in-house, that is a perfect case for SD-WAN. But if you’ve got an organization that is highly regulated (such as banking, healthcare, or government), they are going to be slower to adopt, and it might hamper their business instead of bolstering it. Remember: they were also slow to adopt MPLS.

Oh yeah, what about MPLS?

Great question. MPLS is not going away — it’s a proven technology. There are likely to be some improvements to MPLS because the SD-WAN market is forcing the hand of the providers to change the way they deal with MPLS from a customer standpoint.

Some carriers are urging not to sell SD-WAN against MPLS, but instead, with it. This is an important point considering that not all businesses need SD-WAN, and some are going to continue to do just fine with their MPLS solutions.

So, if some verticals aren’t suited best to SD-WAN, which ones are?

Retail is a great example of a market that will benefit. With dispersed malls, various stores, and large footprints, those outlets are running on slim margins, so they want good bang for their buck.

Where does security fit in?

This is tied to the vertical point. Banks need high-level security, and some SD-WAN solutions aren’t there yet. While every business needs top-shelf security (including retail), those businesses that consistently deal with classified or confidential information might need something stronger than what many SD-WAN solutions can offer right now. This is why partnering with the proper provider, can help layer on additional services that SD-WAN does not solve.

SD-WAN is on the incline that’s getting ready to peak, but there are a lot of things left to prove with this technology. Security is one of them.

As SD-WAN entrenches itself in the networking world, education will be a consistent requirement for partners. Contact us today to learn more about how the latest changes to the software-defined world affect how partners can succeed with new technologies.