Today’s enterprise is increasingly utilizing cloud solutions to improve productivity and optimize the customer experience. These solutions not only demand high levels of bandwidth, but they are also particularly sensitive to latency, jitter, and dropped packets. At the branch level, these problems can be more daunting because a traditional branch router run with a multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) line allows for no visibility into connectivity operations. An upgrade to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is the answer to these challenges.
SD-WAN improves the reliability and effectiveness of branch offices through features like application identification, traffic segmentation, bandwidth management, and, in the best SD-WAN offerings, baked-in security. These technologies enable branches to implement solutions like unified communications (UC), improve the performance of cloud applications, and offer centralized management and troubleshooting.
SD-WAN offers a simplified alternative to branch routers and addresses many of the limitations of branch routers to meet business demands:
Application Agility: Routers operate at the packet level, so they offer little visibility into applications or ability to meet bandwidth and specifications that optimize application performance.
SD-WAN is able to recognize the particular bandwidth needs and performance requirements of an application and then segment traffic to the appropriate pathway for optimal experiences. For instance, a video conferencing transmission is prioritized to a highly-reliable MPLS line while email communication may be designated for a pathway that isn’t dependent on a real-time connection.
Scalability: A sudden spike in data traffic, such as multiple UC connections or the need to process large volumes of data, can overwhelm MPLS lines on a branch router. In addition, adding a new branch location or onboarding new applications can require weeks or months and an on-site network technician.
By contrast, SD-WAN can be scaled up and down to match demand levels, and new locations can be added in a matter of minutes. The solution is centrally managed, with zero-touch configuration, so enterprises save on travel costs for network professionals.
Investment: Branch routers incur expenses along with the cost of site management, and MPLS, while reliable, becomes costly as cloud solutions demand more bandwidth.
With SD-WAN, the solution is invoiced in a monthly subscription format, and the provider handles all of the hardware maintenance and investment. It also allows for some relief in connectivity costs, because network teams can route traffic to less-costly broadband and public internet options when appropriate.
Potential Challenges: A successful SD-WAN implementation relies heavily on planning, but it’s also important to note that there are differences in solutions and providers. Enterprises need to prioritize choosing a solution that has integrated security, rather than security features bolted on after the fact. They also need to talk with the provider about whether they are equipped for regional deployment or covering broader geographical areas as the enterprise grows.
When it’s time to transition your branch locations to an SD-WAN solution, contact us at ITBroker. We can help you leverage the best technology to support cost-effective connectivity across your locations.