Essentials of SD-WAN

The networking industry has been undergoing a radical digital transformation over the last few years. Major enterprises, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, and even individual consumers, have been adopting SD-WAN (software-defined WAN) with broadband bonding at an accelerating rate, and the SD-WAN market has boomed. An IDC report from last year, “SD-WAN Infrastructure Market Poised to Reach $5.25 Billion in 2023” states that “This important segment of the enterprise networking market [SD-WAN] will grow at a 30.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023 to reach $5.25 billion, according to IDC’s SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast.”

And another report this year by Dell’Oro Group claims “SD-WAN Market Expected to Increase 168 Percent by 2024” and should reach $3.2 billion by 2024.

This astonishing growth rate is the direct result of SD-WAN solutions proving themselves to companies of all sizes in terms of economics and performance. In fact, some of these solutions are so good, they are driving the networking industry one step closer to fully automated, self-driving networks, i.e. networks on autopilot.
Let’s take a look at some of the essential features that broadband bonding, SD-WAN appliances and solutions should provide to help take your company one step closer to realizing fully automated networks.

SD-WAN Critical Capabilities

  • Self-healing operation – Your SD-WAN appliance should be able to continuously monitor network performance regarding how all the individual WAN links are behaving. If a link goes down, or starts having other bandwidth, latency, or jitter-related issues, the device should detect this automatically and dynamically route your traffic using the best available path at all times.
  • Application-centric performance optimization – Another essential feature is the ability of the SD-WAN device to perform application-centric optimization. The device should constantly be assessing the health of each aggregated WAN link in terms of bandwidth, latency, jitter, and other parameters. For applications such as VoIP, live video, and other business-critical and/or public/private/hybrid cloud applications, the optimal WAN link for that application at any given time should be the primary carrier of that particular traffic. As network conditions invariably fluctuate, your SD-WAN should route individual packets to the optimal line without requiring any human intervention.
  • Enhanced session continuity and failover – Once a connection has been established and traffic has begun flowing, any critical performance degradation should be shielded from the user and session continuity should be maintained. If a large file download is being performed on a given WAN link and that link fails, the SD-WAN device should be able to continue the download without re-initiating the session and without losing the already downloaded part of the transfer. This naturally covers automated failover as well, as the network will “failover” to a good link if an active link goes down.
  • Dynamic operation – Naturally, to support the above essential features, any SD-WAN device must be dynamic and operate based on real-time network conditions. Continuous monitoring of the WAN links and overall network and device performance is critical.
  • Support for wireless networks – Being able to integrate both wired and wireless networks is another essential function for SD-WAN devices. Wireless channels can be used as emergency failover circuits or emergency bandwidth suppliers. Wireless channels may also be the only transport available for certain remote locations or other challenging environments.
  • Ease of configuration and installation – Often, SD-WAN appliances are used in branch offices in order to provide high-performance, high-availability Internet connectivity to data centers, headquarters, other branch offices, and/or public/private/hybrid clouds. It is important that the SD-WAN appliance is easy to install at each branch location. Ideally, the device comes pre-configured from the vendor, with knowledge about your WAN/LAN infrastructure, so it becomes essentially, “plug-and-play”. You want to be able to simply plug all your WAN links into the appliance, connect to your LAN, and forget about it. And when your network infrastructure inevitably does change, you want a simple, web-based GUI or CLI that allows you to change your configuration on-the-fly, in only a few minutes.
  • Ease of monitoring and telemetry – It’s critical to be able to monitor all of the SD-WAN devices your company uses. Ideally, your SD-WAN provider gives you convenient and instantaneous access to all your devices using some sort of monitoring portal – a website or app that allows you to see all your devices under a single pane of glass. The portal (and devices) should support telemetry to allow you to see real-time and past performance history of any individual device as well as diagnostic and log messages.
  • Enhanced features – In order to support the above functionality any SD-WAN appliance should also come equipped with easy-to-configure advanced features such as traffic identification, filtering, and shaping, deep packet inspection, dynamic quality of service (QoS), and basic security capabilities including unified threat management (UTM) and various encryption options.
SD-WAN Checklist
  • If you agree with any of the following statements, then you need SD-WAN in your network.
  • Our VoIP and/or Video Conferencing (VC) systems suffer from dropped calls, poor quality, echoes, and hissing and gaps in conversations.
  • We need to increase our simultaneous VoIP call capacity and quality.
  • Our legacy MPLS network is too expensive to maintain and upgrade and creates a single point of failure.
  • We need to shield ISP and other network problems from our customers.
  • Network downtime is affecting mission-critical operations such as VoIP, EHS and Citrix.
  • We need to cost-effectively connect multiple branch offices with high reliability and performance.
  • Our reliance on corporate networks for webcasting and live streaming is resulting in unsatisfactory performance.
We need faster and more reliable WAN.
  • Our cloud-based services require high-performance Internet connectivity and guaranteed fault tolerance.
  • We need a cost-effective Internet connectivity solution that will return its investment quickly (quick ROI).
  • Our legacy Internet lines are no longer adequate to handle new data transfer and QoS requirements.
  • We need high quality, live video streaming capability from tradeshows or other remote locations using bonded cellular SIM cards.
So What Are You Waiting For?We’ve discussed many of the essential functionalities that SD-WAN devices should have, and also presented a checklist that you can compare with your own company’s situation. If any of the statements in the checklist apply to your company, then an SD-WAN solution may be right for you.The best-in-class of the SD-WAN appliances should include broadband bonding, advanced layer-7 routing, monitoring portals, dynamic quality of service, deep packet inspection, and application performance optimization for various flow types including live video, VoIP, cloud-based apps and other business-critical applications.
Incorporating SD-WAN devices in your network will help get you one step closer to fully automated, self-driving, networks on autopilot.

Rob Stone, Mushroom Networks, Inc.
Mushroom Networks is the provider of Broadband Bonding appliances that put your networks on auto-pilot. Application flows are intelligently routed around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss. Network problems are solved even before you can notice.

Read more.