SD-WAN – Facilitating the Agile Business

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In last week’s BLOG article entitled SD-WAN An Integrators Perspective, we briefly introduced SD-WAN and explained how we saw the technology can change the way that businesses operate. The article was written from the perspective of the Telecoms Integrator and it served to identify not just average benefits but those that we (BLU) have personally witnessed after implementations. There were six (6) benefits identified last week; Agility, Increased Visibility, Cost Reduction, Increased Security, Increased Application Performance and Reduced Network Complexity and Administrative Overhead. For the next few weeks, I would like to dive deeper into each of the above benefits and provide examples of exactly how they can be realised; all in the context of normal business. This week I would like to focus the article on AGILITY 

Agility

In today’s business landscape the success of the organization is directly linked to its ability to scale up and down as needed. In multi-site organizations, it is often difficult and expensive to add new locations. This normally includes the need for complex and expensive routers and communications links, not forgetting lengthy configurations. SD-WAN allows the business to add and remove sites by deploying the required devices and pushing the necessary configuration from a single management platform. This also reduces the management overhead; freeing up Technology staff to operate strategically

It’s important to note that the degree to which a company may benefit depends on many variables, for example, the topology that they are transitioning from, existing technology, reasons for implementing SD-WAN etc.

The Scenario: ABC Customs Brokerage Company Limited (ABC)

ABC Customs Brokerage Company Limited has four (4) locations; three (3) Branches and the Head Quarters which houses the Corporate Data Centre and all home-grown business applications.  All sites are connected using an MPLS WAN supplied by the local Telecoms Provider.

ABC employs what is referred to as a Centralised Internet Strategy; this is where all locations need to traverse the MPLS WAN to the Head Quarters for Internet services.  The same strategy is employed for access to all corporate applications.  ABC is also transitioning to the Cloud; they are migrating all its users to Office 365 for productivity applications.  From the diagram below; the path to access all Cloud applications is also centralised and via the Head Quarters.  This model is very common and from our experience is one of the most employed network and traffic flow topologies used presently.  The thinking back then was focused on control and standardization of rules and access.  This game has changed drastically… let’s dig in further….

High Level Wan Topology - BLU Networks Consultancy Limited

The Challenges (Some of Them):

The above topology has served many customers for a very long time, and it will continue to be the go-to design choice for some even in the future.  As an Integrator we are obligated to present more effective and efficient ways of achieving, in this case better value.  Let’s do this by first identifying the challenges with the above model:

  1. High Traffic Latency – as is evident by the traffic flow above, almost all traffic must traverse the WAN and backhaul to the Data Centre. This topology is prone to higher latency just based on the imposed traffic flows.
  2. Inefficient Support for Cloud Apps – Cloud applications are designed to function better with direct access to the Internet. To get to Office 365 or any Internet based application, traffic is subject to the same high-hop flow across the MPLS WAN and via the Data Centre.  It should also be noted that this can also create a bottleneck at the Internet egress point.
  3. Complex Programming & Devices Required – each location in this model will require a router to terminate each site. Each router will require potentially over 1000 lines of code and the configurations are often complex and require specialized skills.
  4. Lacks Flexibility – the above topology has much to desire when as it relates to flexibility; all traffic is restricted to configured flows, if changes are required it often requires serious thought and planning.

How Does This Affect Business Agility?

ABC Brokerage Company has a few key strategic projects; all of which requires the use of the WAN to realise its results.  ABC has partnered with over to ten (10) Skybox companies locally and through-out the region to be able to deliver brokerage services.  These Skybox companies have all realised that it will be more economical to outsource the brokerage expertise.  This allows them to focus on their core business which is shipping and logistics.  ABC must set up a few offices to be able to deliver the required services at the quality that they are known for.  The four (4) challenges identified above all scream inflexibility and would introduce higher costs and timelines.  The organisation needs a better option.

The SD-WAN Option

The diagram below shows the ABC Brokerage Company network re-casted using a basic implementation of SD-WAN.  All sites are still connected using MPLS but they are also connected using local Internet Links at each site.  The critical change in the design is the use of the SD-Wan Edge devices and the SD-WAN Orchestration Platform.  The SD-WAN Edge devices replaced all routers at the Branches and Head Quarters. These devices are responsible for termination of all communications links.  The SD-WAN Orchestration platform is responsible for the management of all configurations on the platform.  Let’s see how implementing this solution can allow ABC to respond to the business challenges.

High Level SD-WAN Topology

Benefits to Business Agility

  • Increased Flexibility – ABC will have the ability to deploy and tear down new sites in record time. Each edge site can be built by simply pushing the necessary Business Rules.  The edge devices can be shipped to the location and they will download the necessary configurations when they are connected.  NO more complex routing and programming required.
  • Increased Resiliency – Communications links fail all the time; this solution will allow ABC to benefit from the use of dual links (MPLS and Internet) that will facilitate seamless failover and continued business. It should be noted that the traditional topology shown initially in this article can also facilitate this feature.  The difference is the amount of work required to achieve it using the traditional model.
  • Faster Cloud Access – Each site has an Internet link that can facilitate direct access to cloud-based applications rather than the traffic having to be sent to the Data Centre then to the Internet. The Edge devices, via the Orchestration Platform can be programmed to do some edge security to ensure that only traffic destined for the approved cloud platforms utilizes the Internet link, and all Data Centre destined traffic still uses the MPLS link.  ABC can now have faster access to the cloud applications required to deliver their day to day operations, from any location that they desire.

The above benefits may seem small and insignificant, but in businesses with more locations and more pressing variables, the ability to positively respond can determine whether they survive or closes their doors.

For more information on SD-WAN as a technology you can look at the links below.  These links are not overly technical, and they show the business benefits of the technology.  Please note that these links are in no way advertisements for the vendors, but we think the content will really add value to persons trying to understand the concept behind the technology.

  1. Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2N7q1w26Mg
  2. What Is an SD-WAN? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Tv-Lf8_3NM
  3. Why SD-WAN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzD9s53oMRg
  4. How Does SD-WAN Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQKhSQ_ZofY
  5. What is SD-WAN say GOODBYE to MPLS, DMVPN, iWAN… w/ SDN, Cisco and Viptela https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isMnWZqAh0k

Give me a call @ 1(868)223-1576 or email me @ sheldon.paul@blunetworks-tt.com  if you need to understand more about SD-WAN can benefit your company.

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