So, what’s the hype with SD-WAN? Our customers are talking about going to SD-WAN. But why? SD-WAN means different things to different people and its often confused with SDN.
SDN is more about defining a network and something a telco or a very large organisation might use to optimise the operation of their network by dynamically changing and configuring the network, usually in the Data Centre in Realtime via software.
Both SDN and SD-WAN aim to virtualise network resources, provide better performance and visibility, automated deployment and most importantly reduce total cost of ownership.
However, SD-WAN is all about delivering business solutions and not just providing infrastructure. When you break it down, it promises four main outcomes:
- Transport Independence by virtualising the network to introduce multiple independent network paths;
- Application optimisation via centralised network visibility and control of QOS and bandwidth to improve productivity and user experience;
- Intelligent path control with policy based routing including automatic best path selection based on loss, latency and jitter to help ensure high network availability;
- Secure connectivity using AES encryption to help secure communication with cloud applications, remote office and data centres.
One of the strong messages from the many SD-WAN vendors is the emphasis on removing private networks and replacing the traditional WAN with broadband tails. However, these TCO’s are based on the cost of MPLS network tails in the US where MPLS tails are very expensive and broadband is very cheap. This is quite a different story in Australia for example in the US MPLS tails are charged around $150-300 per Mb, where as in Australia we see prices around $5-$20 per Mb.
This dramatic price variance may mean that moving away from MPLS networks in Australia might not be the answer, particularly as the NBN is only a broadband network and has yet to mature into a business grade service that matches the quality we enjoy from fibre or bonded copper.
So, I see SD-WAN being introduced as more of a Hybrid solution by mixing MPLS and the underlying transport technologies, and using the features of the SD-WAN with the MPLS network particularly as we become increasingly security focused. As businesses strive to ensure their most critical applications perform, whether customer-facing or productivity tools for their employees, SD-WAN will continue to evolve and will play a key role as network managers continue to search for a new approach to WAN infrastructure.