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Imagine driving on a busy expressway. You're cruising along, then you see a barrage of brake lights ahead and suddenly the flow of traffic becomes bumper-to-bumper. The cause is easy to spot: Multiple lanes are shut down, forcing everyone to merge into one. There's a detour available via a nearby exit, but it's hard to reach from your position, plus it would require a circuitous route just to get back to your original path. The lost time and fuel would be considerable.
This conundrum is similar to what mission-critical, performance-sensitive applications (such as hosted VoIP and videoconferencing) face when traversing typical wide area networks (WANs). These WANs are predominantly MPLS-based and backhauled through data centers, two core design characteristics that limit their flexibility and scalability while imposing significant costs on any expansion in capacity. Accordingly, it's tough to make sure high-priority app traffic has an open "lane" available, with minimal jitter, latency and packet loss to support acceptable performance.
Enter software-defined WANs (SD-WANs). Andrew Lerner of IT research firm Gartner declared SD-WANs a mainstream technology in the summer of 2017, with more than 4,000 product implementations at that time, up from virtually none in 2014 – but what's behind their sudden success? An SD-WAN delivers numerous improvements over traditional equivalents, including:
In terms of technological sophistication, SD-WAN has a clear advantage over standard WANs, as these specific features demonstrate. How does its technical edge translate into operational efficiencies, though?
The gulf between SD-WAN and its predecessors is perhaps most apparent in how they support cloud-based applications. On an old-fashioned WAN, ensuring safe passage of traffic from apps such as Salesforce and Office 365 between branches and the cloud requires a double hop, i.e. the forwarding of traffic over both WAN and internet connections. This process incurs a major performance penalty as the traffic passes through security devices such as firewalls.
End users notice the effects and become dissatisfied with how their key applications behave. At the same time, they often struggle with other problems created by outdated WANs, namely the protracted deployment and maintenance windows at branch sites. Adding new infrastructure can take a long time, meaning that what the WAN can deliver is frequently out of step with what users require from it. For example, they might want to leverage bandwidth-intensive hosted VoIP and video, but not have access to these apps since they're not in the main office. It's the IT equivalent of being trapped in that bumper-to-bumper traffic, knowing it'll be a while until it's possible to break loose.
With SD-WAN, branch expansion is straightforward. Configuration is quick and capacity can be added at acceptable cost since the organization is no longer as dependent on MPLS and can instead explore alternatives like commodity internet. SD-WAN performance can even help in negotiating more favorable plan rates from MPLS service providers down the line.
An SD-WAN system from Telesystem maximizes convenience for your company. We include software licenses, equipment, built-in firewalls, a consolidated management portal and options for much more within our platform. Pair our SD-WAN with one of our business voice solutions, such as hosted VoIP, for the best possible experience. Contact us today for more information or request a quote.