I’m probably a little late to say that network connectivity at any location is not optional anymore; it is almost a necessity, just like water and power.
The years for limited- or low-bandwidth connections are also gone, and in today’s world, high-bandwidth connections are available at an affordable cost. The bandwidth requirements for any organization have risen exponentially not just because of the infrastructure and application cloud movement, but because of the requirement of the rich media content for running your business.
The affordability of multiple high-speed internet connections has compelled many organizations to change their network design and unleash the power of high speed with the same reliability they had on traditional multiprotocol label switching networks. Network speed and improvement in reliability aren’t the only reasons software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology is a rising choice for retail and office locations; having complete control of network traffic management is also a great advantage.
My company was one of the earlier adopters of SD-WAN, and I was involved extensively in testing different aspects of the new technology and implementing it in my organization. The power of SD-WAN, which manages the network based on applications, provides a lot of flexibility to an enterprise to manage the network traffic the way it wants to. It not only helps to route traffic depending on the type of application, but you can also choose the path based on source and destination, and some of the solutions also allow you to create your own custom application.
Many technology providers can help to generate real-time reports on bandwidth usage, which can be used to identify bottlenecks and check response times on different network paths. These reports help to identify immediate issues like who the top talkers are in your network, and they can also assist with long-term capacity planning.
SD-WAN technology can select the best possible path to the destination by continually probing the quality of a network connection and checking its health as it accounts for latency, jitters and other parameters. If a network path is demonstrating poor quality, the network traffic gets routed to the other data connection.
This active-active usage of two network links optimizes network performance even when one network link is being highly used, and this technology can help to implement the concept of split-tunneling effectively. With the ease of a button, you can decide whether you want to send the network traffic (based on the type of application) directly to the internet or your data center.
The same SD-WAN appliance can have some firewall features built in to protect your network assets and data. There is no need to manage one or multiple access control lists to protect your local area network from outside access. The appliance allows you to create various zones inside your network, and you can easily block access based on the protocol or designated ports. You can completely control your Interzone traffic by only allowing selected ports or protocols.
Before you decide to trust new technology, you need to test or review old test results that demonstrate device stability and technology reliability. In addition to this, a big question is how easy it is to adapt and whether it’s secure. You should perform a qualitative or quantitative risk analysis to ensure that this technology is a possible solution for your problem statement.
To test the SD-WAN appliance, you should work on setting up a proof of concept so that you can verify the solution in terms of the various attributes mentioned earlier. You should be ready to make small changes in the network architecture, such as a change in advertising routes from one area to the other, to minimize impact and simplify the design.
I will be publishing an upcoming article that will provide details on how to adopt the changes in your traditional network. However, it is due to these advantages that SD-WAN is becoming a popular choice of network hardware to provide connectivity to retail locations and branch offices.