SD-WAN and the New Era of WAN Performance Improvement: Bandwidth Utilization, Application-Based Routing, and Analytics
As today’s enterprises are moving applications and services to the cloud, rigid WAN infrastructures are prohibiting forward progress. Many networks are sitting on unused resources, but excess bandwidth can’t easily be redistributed where it’s needed. The intelligent allocation of bandwidth resources and WAN performance improvement quickly becomes the crux of the problem.
All of this is why managed SD-WAN is experiencing big upticks. Tackling the bandwidth utilization challenge at its source, SD-WAN can help IT leaders aggregate all bandwidth (regardless of the connectivity type or speed) and use all available connections, all of the time. Enterprises get on-demand capabilities, allowing network services and capacity to be changed on demand.
Many executives see bandwidth utilization as the key to digital transformation, because it means their IT teams can stop micromanaging network performance and pivot to more strategic priorities. Specifically, three main tenets represent the modern world of WAN performance improvement. Want your resources to NOT go unused? These three capabilities make networks dynamically manageable with the ability to architect workload placement and redesign it as needs change.
Application-Based and Policy-Based Routing
Managing application traffic is a frequent pain point for IT managers, and application-based routing strikes at the heart of that problem. It continually monitors bandwidth utilization, packet loss, and latency to dynamically select the best path according to whatever parameters you choose. For example, you can always put your VoIP and video traffic on a low-latency link.
Here’s how it works. Application-based routing tools make it possible to set policies to switch transports on the fly based on your defined rules, as opposed to the old way of doing things: destination-based routing. With this tool, enterprises can programmatically identify the most important applications that should take bandwidth priority and then cascade down from there. The network routes traffic accordingly.
Buyer Tip: Application-based or policy-based routing are considered “table stakes” offerings with SD-WAN. Don’t fuss too much over whether your solution supports dynamic routing protocols such as BGP or OSPF. It’s pretty easy to program static routes and let the centralized management portal propagate them for you.
Dynamic Application Steering
This SD-WAN feature intelligently steers IP traffic over public and private WAN links to maximize available bandwidth. Dynamic Path Control is important because most companies have multiple WAN links for redundancy’s sake, but limitations in routing protocols have made enabling the simultaneous use of multiple WAN links complex. Those idle connections used as a backup waste perfectly-good bandwidth. But with Dynamic Path Control, if you experience a network outage on one link, the system automatically steers network traffic to a secondary connection in less than a second. When all links are active, all available bandwidth is utilized.
Buyer Tip: Some Dynamic Path Control features allow you to set policies on a variety of links and apps. This helps to fully use all available bandwidth--public and private--to boost performance on the company’s various business applications.
Centralized Management with Real-Time Performance Analytics
In today’s rapid-paced world, the only certainty is change. This makes it vitally important to see what’s happening in your network (right now) and have the ability to react instantaneously. Centralized management web portals allow you to view network and application performance data for the entire WAN in real-time and give you service controls to make adjustments on the fly.
Real-time application performance visibility is one of the biggest advantages of SD-WAN and software defined network platforms. Networking partners layer analytics and service controls directly into their software defined platform for both “traditional” network services and managed SD-WAN. From a single pane of glass, you should be able to get forensic network and application intelligence regardless of the connection types being utilized. Clients can “spin-up” an unlimited number of WAN environments, and every virtual instance created should include embedded real-time analytics and service controls.
Sophisticated Service Controls Include:
- Rapid deployment features and mobile apps, so you can modify bandwidth and provision new SD-VPNs, virtual network functions, and offices from any location--even your lounge chair on the beach (watch our video!)
- The ability to view and filter traffic by application, port, protocol, IP address, quality of service plane, and also see which IP addresses generate the most traffic
- Tools to pre-schedule one-time and recurring network modifications
- Flexible capabilities to spin up as many virtual network instances and segmented environments as you need without paying exorbitant fees
- Real-time, trend and peak analysis, with filtering to isolate user behavior and anomalies
Buyer Tips: In some cases, providers have bolted on a portal login that is not truly integrated with the rest of their network portal, which is not ideal. You want analytics and controls that are directly embedded into the software defined network. While this might be a difficult area to tease out the differences in vendors, patented capabilities and natively built software defined network platforms serve as an indicator of leaders versus laggards. Dig into the details and see what level of visibility, flexibility, and control the solution provider offers. And don’t forget to ask how many virtual network environments (the number of access loops per circuit) you can create without triggering add-on fees.
Bringing all your WAN connections under one roof and making full use of available bandwidth has never been easier. Secure, software defined hybrid networks aren’t just the trend for 2019, they’re how industry leaders are leveraging the WAN as a competitive advantage. With agile IT infrastructures, executives can accelerate cloud migration, be better prepared for IoT- and AI-based advancements, and more easily keep pace with rapid technology innovation.
When you’re ready to refresh your WAN infrastructure, call on Masergy for a free WAN evaluation and consultation.