In a world where crucial businesses processes need unmeasurable accessibility, something was bound to change. While software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) were first introduced in the early 2000s, these innovative systems took over a decade to take root and truly address network issues.
Let’s start with the basics. At its foundations, an SD-WAN is a software-defined approach to wide-area networking. For enterprises and companies with multiple network endpoints — this is a revolutionary step forward. What does this mean for network managers?
An SD-WAN allows for automated business policies, routing freedom, and the ability to monitor performance and usage for end-to-end visibility of the entire wide area network.
Network Management & SD-WAN: The Basics
Network Management Definition
Let’s get the boring information out of the way.
- The process of managing, operating and administering a data network through a network management system.
Today, we combine both hardware and software to collect and interpret data. Network management best practices leverage a centralized server to harness and analyze this data. Yes, this is an incredibly basic way to explain a very complex infrastructure. But it should help provide some framework for how an SD-WAN can improve your company’s network management processes.
What About SD-WAN?
Think of an SD-WAN as a virtual version of a more traditional WAN infrastructure. It allows a business to utilize existing transport services, such as MPLS, broadband, and LTE internet services, to connect users to company applications.
In its current state, SD-WAN leverages a centralized control function to direct traffic in a secure way across the WAN. SD-WAN checks all of the boxes with network management best practices as it both speeds up functionality while also lowering overall cost.
SD-WAN at a glance:
- Enables cloud-based enterprises
- Provides superior application quality of experience (QoEX)
- Empowers application-aware routing for faster service
Let’s Go Back in Time
Before fully understanding how an SD-WAN can simplify your company’s network management processes, we need to take a trip back in time.
Back in 2003, the world was a much simpler place. This was true only in general terms but also regarding network management. Companies that relied on remote offices relied on rudimentary software and applications to run operations. Most businesses needed email, a standard enterprise resource planning software (ERP), and a handful of custom applications.
In addition to these remote offices was a data center that housed a wide range of servers. To connect these two points, multiprotocol labeling switching (MPLS) offered a reliable and high-quality connection. The issue was the expense.
An MPLS connection was incredibly costly and required each office and data center to have individual routers that weren’t cheap.
As the years progressed, applications became more complex, and cloud-based software began to take hold — the amount of traffic a business relied on for everyday operations became incredibly taxing on an MPLS connection.
Sending cloud traffic that is destined for the internet back to headquarters doesn’t make much sense. By relying on this outdated method, companies suffered from:
- Added delay
- Degraded application performance
- Costly lease line bandwidth consumption
Where We’re at Today
Today, these MPLS connections are dealing with the same basic requirements of facilitating email, ERP systems, and custom applications. However, they are now overburdened with certain modernities.
From social media and SAAS programs to the countless cloud-based systems needed to compete in the current marketplace — the ways of yesteryear simply can’t keep up. The classic WAN structure that relies heavily on traditional routers was not designed for the cloud.
Now, companies need a better way to manage network processes that prevent backhauling cloud-destined traffic to and from data centers. SD-WAN systems offer:
- Improved business productivity
- Better user quality of experience
- Accelerated business initiatives
- Potential to lower costs
How SD-WAN Can Simplify Your Network Management Processes
Your users don’t care about where their apps are hosted. Whether it’s in a SAAS, data center, or the cloud — they simply expect optimal performance and fast speeds.
If you were to ask users whether their online performance is better at home versus the office — most answers would state that their home provides faster speeds and more reliable connections. That’s because when they are at home, they are accessing applications directly through the internet instead of dealing with countless traffic backups that exist in a modern business.
So, let’s answer the million-dollar question: How can an SD-WAN simplify your company’s network?
A software-defined wide area network with the right features gives companies the ability to securely utilize the internet as a way to reliable route for WAN transport, expand (and overtime even replace) MPLS services.
Internet speed, accessibility, and reliability is the catalyst for a high-performing business. It’s not rocket science. But, it doesn’t stop there. SD-WAN systems offer a solid bedrock for future innovations and changes within both cloud-based systems but also emerging technologies.
SD-WAN offers four unique benefits for businesses struggling to integrate existing applications with cloud services.
- Increased security by removing traffic vulnerabilities.
- Boosted performance by centralizing control functions.
- Lower costs by cutting down on hardware reliance and network management.
- Optimized cloud experience through automation and augmentation to organize tasks and allow for faster remote accessibility.
Take Charge of Your Company’s Network Management
As cloud-based systems continue their conquest, it’s become a necessity for businesses to make changes to their network management best practices.
For companies that rely on branch offices — an SD-WAN offers a way to lower traffic overhaul that could lead to slow speeds. This is because SD-WANs offer a way to customize the orchestration of channels and traffic. Not only will this make UX more consistent, but will also make the network far more reliable, even if you have existing MPLS connections.
Resource-intensive network administration such as installing, upgrading, and maintaining software for network performance can also be drastically reduced through SD-WAN systems.
Whether you’re looking to completely revamp your company’s network management process or want to slowly transition to an SD-WAN system, the choice is yours. At the end of the day, you’ll receive faster, more reliable performance for a fraction of the cost.
In today’s fast-paced world, where business is increasingly conducted electronically, infrastructure reliability and network up-time are crucial. Infrastructure weaknesses can lead to network downtime, and outages can prove costly for businesses.
Network uptime can be affected by three primary factors. Focusing on adding redundancy to these three elements can help ensure network reliability and decrease the likelihood of an outage.
Servers, like any piece of equipment, have the potential to overheat if proper steps are not taken to control their temperature. Servers typically run uninterrupted, unlike desktop PCs that are powered down, or go into idle mode throughout the day. Servers also are often housed in small rooms, and in close quarters with other network equipment. These server rooms can quickly warm to levels that can jeopardize equipment.
Whether a business is housing its own equipment, or outsourcing network and server functions to a third party or cloud provider, it is critical to ensure that network infrastructure is properly cooled. At least two cooling methods should be employed to ensure there is a backup in case one cooling method fails. Possible cooling solutions include rooftop air conditioning units, external condensers, and computer room air conditioning units.
Sometimes the most obvious point of weakness is the most overlooked. Infrastructure equipment requires power to function, and reliable data center power with a backup power solution for redundancy is critical.
An A+B power feed, which creates two independent channels from the public power source to the infrastructure equipment, should be at the top of the requirement list for data center power. This eliminates potential single points of failure when power channels are shared at any point.
Some of the power options that can be included in each feed are uninterruptible power supply, utility power, back-up generator, maintenance bypass panel, internal server power, mains distribution panel, and an automatic transfer switch. Each power feed should have at least one of these options, and should be able to handle the entire server load at peak usage independently to create redundancy.
The equipment used to connect infrastructure to the Internet is another potential point of weakness. Routers and switches wear out relatively quickly, and should be properly maintained and replaced in a timely manner. Integrating backup connections to create redundancy can help prevent network downtime. In addition, connections from the data center to the external Internet network are crucial for network uptime. Peering arrangements with multiple connections create redundancy and reliability, and can optimize performance.
Another important key to making sure potential network failure is mitigated is to choose network and infrastructure providers that are committed to reducing or eliminating single points of failure by adding backups and redundancies. Network downtime is costly and unacceptable, but there are simple ways to build in redundancy. Cutting corners on infrastructure reliability leads to network downtime and service interruptions that can ultimately cost more than building redundancy in from outset.