SD-WAN - responding to the needs of distributed enterprises

By Bruce Askham, business development manager: Citrix at Drive Control Corporation (DCC).

Read time 3min 40sec

Today, South African organisations are looking for solutions that drive down technology capital outlay while simplifying operations. The reality is that with the emergence of SaaS and cloud-based applications, business data centres must readily meet this new model of on-demand software.

In turn, connection requirements of businesses have outgrown the ability of MPLS WAN (multiprotocol label switching wide area network) private services to interconnect remote offices and data centres.

SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networks) has emerged as a compelling solution that allows for the creation of hybrid networks that join multiple access technologies such as Internet services, dynamic traffic routing, and real-time connection provision, based on available bandwidth or selected criteria as well as reducing aggregate bandwidth costs.

Value of SD-WAN

SD-WAN uses cloud-based software and technology to simplify the delivery of WAN services to remote offices. Software-based virtualisation allows network administrators to more easily manage network services through abstraction of higher-level functionality.

SD-WAN also enables IT and business managers to easily deploy Internet-based connectivity, quickly, with quality, security and reliability. This offers benefits such as ubiquity, better bandwidth and lower costs.

Furthermore, with the emergence of cloud-based and SaaS applications such as Salesforce, and Office 365 and remote storage like Dropbox, users need immediate access and subsequent bandwidth, and unfortunately, traditional MPLS networks cannot offer the low latency and high performance needed to access cloud-based applications.

Also, management and security requirements as well as the inherent complexity of remote operations must be taken into account.

SD-WAN: Factors to consider

When evaluating SD-WAN deployment, network administrators and business managers should consider the following:

* It's easy to roll out and administer. A key benefit of SD-WAN is its ease and speed of deployment to remote offices.
* Most organisations have distributed MPLS deployed in remote offices. Companies can deploy SD-WAN solutions without changing existing networks and, over time, migrate it to Internet-based architecture.
* Automated traffic management. SD-WAN prioritises traffic, which provides network managers with intuitive tools to easily and automatically configure priorities, based on the real-time network load of remote operations.

SD-WAN: The benefits

What are the real life, tangible benefits of SD-WAN to organisations today?

Business agility. The rapid roll-out of WAN services to remote offices without the need for on-site IT support. The bandwidth can easily be adjusted (increased or decreased) depending on business needs.

Bandwidth savings. Internet connection is readily available, quick to deploy and comes at a much lower cost than equivalent MPLS networks. SD-WAN provides the reliability and security benefits of WAN services at "Internet prices".

Architecture optimised for the cloud. SD-WAN frees organisations from the traditional inconveniences and constraints of MPLS networks and bundles security, performance and connectivity between cloud and office, which significantly improves the experience for users in remote offices when they use SaaS or cloud-based applications.

Citrix solution

Gartner's Market Guide for Software-Defined WAN found that Citrix has a catalogue of virtual WAN solutions that will facilitate SD-WAN deployments, many of these, according to the report, primarily in subsidiaries and remote offices.

Looking at the Citrix solution, NetScaler SD-WAN can join multiple WAN connections to create a single, secure, logical link to increase WAN throughput. The logical connection guarantees the reliability of critical application traffic and allows the automatic re-routing of traffic at packet level, which ensures a constant throughput independent of network fluctuations and bandwidth availability.

NetScaler SD-WAN binds MPLS and multiple broadband paths into a single logical path. With virtualisation of the WAN, high priority applications are guaranteed to function optimally, taking full advantage of the bandwidth on all routes.

Additionally, critical business processes are protected against network outages. NetScaler SD-WAN measures transfer delay between WAN components, monitors performance, MPLS connection health and quality and uses this information to apply quality of service to the data, route selection, traffic shaping, failover and other functions.

Lastly and importantly, it allows organisations to manage priorities for each application.

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