SD-WAN Woes? Focus on the Cure Instead of Treating the Symptoms

Three factors are driving the need for SD-WAN: the dramatic increase in services migrating to the cloud, the increasing availability of inexpensive Internet circuits, and the high cost of MPLS services. If your WAN is sick and needs a cure, why would you just give it another aspirin? It’s time to move beyond treating the symptoms and find a lasting cure with SD-WAN and CloudGenix.

In my blog post this week, I want to explain what SD-WAN is and present some of the major problems it can help you solve.

First, it’s important to understand that the following industry developments are behind the increasing need for SD-WAN:

  • The dramatic increase in services going to the cloud.
  • The increasing availability of inexpensive Internet circuits.
  • The high cost of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) services.

Second, the approach most vendors have taken does not solve these underlying problems. In fact, most SD-WAN technologies do more to treat the symptoms of the problem than to tackle the main problems head on.

Let me offer a typical scenario:

A branch office might have a primary MPLS service, with a backup VPN connection to a primary datacenter. This configuration is most often an active/passive arrangement. Between the two circuits, 50 percent is utilized at any given time, even though services that may require SLA guarantees like voice and video may only need a fraction of that MPLS circuit.

How could we address this scenario using traditional means? And should we even invest in traditional solutions when a new approach is available?

Let’s take a deeper dive and find out!

High MPLS Cost Is Not a New Problem

Over the years, there have been numerous WAN optimization technologies and solutions to help keep MPLS costs down. WAN optimization generally requires a head end unit and a branch unit to facilitate caching, dedup, compression, and other services. However, with more applications going to the cloud, and less costly Internet services becoming available, WAN optimization in the context of today’s networks is making less and less sense.

So, what else could we do?

  • We have had policy-based routing since the 1990s. We could offload the Internet-based traffic and reduce the MPLS bandwidth requirement, but we are still using an active/passive scenario.
  • We could combine that with next hop redundancy, to build in failover. If we need to go to a datacenter securely, we can create overlays, using IPSEC tunnels.
  • Each step closer to what we need is just treating another symptom. For example, FVRF, DMVPN, PKI, IKEv2, IPSEC, EIGRP, BGP, QOS, PFR, NBAR2, NETFLOW, MPLS, ZBFW, EEM, IPSLA, NAT, and the list goes on.
  • Each technology has its own limitations and caveats when deployed in an SD-WAN scenario. And there are hundreds of pages of documentation to compliment the overwhelming list of functions.

Putting these things together to create a functioning automation of load balanced WAN services is not an easy process.

Say Hello to SD-WAN

With Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), we are applying cloud-inspired Software Defined Networking (SDN) to our Wide Area Networking (WAN) to address the growing demand for Internet access including site-to-site MPLS and Metro Ethernet networks.

This habit of treating symptoms obviously compelled some very creative, yet complex uses of existing technologies to create today’s SD-WAN. To be fair, it does work, and up to this point, this method of cobbling together old technologies in complex configurations has been the only answer and really the minimum you need for an SD-WAN solution.

However, with all these neat little technologies, deploying this in a large environment is going to take time, effort, and requires highly skilled engineers. Monitoring, orchestration and support of all these pieces comes at even more costs and additional skill.

What is the cost of getting SD-WAN off the ground?

You might be wondering if it is practical and cost effective to go down this road, given all the trouble of getting to a working solution.

This combination of complexity, cost, and time to deliver and support this service will, in many cases, place SD-WAN out of reach. To top it all off, cleverly put together as they are, none of this technology was created to address the common challenge, and unfortunately, the result of this collage of services has not been what the WAN truly needs. The WAN is sick and it needs a cure, not an aspirin.

So, what is the way to move forward in delivering a true SD-WAN?

Reducing that expensive MPLS service and adding another less expensive Internet link to the branch to maintain redundancy, while at the same time improving performance and reducing cost would be a huge win.

It’s no wonder why there has been an explosion of interest in SD-WAN. The ability to deliver true active/active path utilization, all while doing it securely is the promise that SD-WAN brings to the table. The overall solution should be simple and easy to set up and manage.

The concept of a flow has been around for years, so we should be able to leverage that information in thinking about how a session uses a given path. We should be able to leverage all available paths for a given application and not just implement active/standby.

Deploy and Maintain Your SD-WAN Solution

CloudGenix provides a unique SD-WAN solution that is simple to deploy and maintain. In my opinion, CloudGenix really seems to be taking the best approach to cure the problems and not merely to continue treating the symptoms.

CloudGenix is ideal for the software-defined WANs of all your branch offices. The company is experiencing a surge in demand for SD-WAN solutions while the market for legacy office routers is on the decline. Compound annual growth rates for SD-WAN adoption over the next four years are trending upward by as much as 57 percent.

The CloudGenix Instant-On Networks (ION) product family is designed for modern SaaS and cloud apps including Microsoft Office365, Azure, Amazon Web Services, Unified Communications, and VoIP. It simplifies network configurations by up to 90 percent, and allows network managers to set up business rules and app-SLAs instead of working with legacy networking protocols.

Everything about the system is easy. For example, with a CloudGenix solution, CDI can install, configure, and implement the following business value and options for you:

  • An intuitive dashboard accessed via the cloud portal: Manage inexpensive x86 or virtual appliances in all branch and datacenter deployments from a single pane of glass.
  • Choose from two types of appliances: Options include the ION3000 for branch offices which is deployed in path, and the ION7000 for data centers which is deployed out of path.
  • Direct Internet access and multi-pathing: You can even deploy the ION3000 on a branch by itself and you will still be able to benefit from these features.
  • Secure connectivity options: Secure tunnels are automatically established to allow for granular policy control with no user interaction required. True active/active path utilization, per-flow-failover capability, and in-depth visibility of application performance provide an easy gateway for just about any customer to be up and running with all the benefits of SD-WAN in a fraction of the time, effort, and cost of other SD-WAN solutions.

The setup is simple and scales to thousands of sites. I originally had trouble visualizing how beautifully simple this was until I saw it myself.

Let me know if you would like a demonstration.

SD-WAN Woes? Focus on the Cure Instead of Treating the Symptoms

Regan Kingsbury, Technical Consultant, CDI Southeast

Regan Kingsbury is a Technical Consultant at CDI Southeast. In this role since 2016, Regan’s responsibilities include specializing in routing and switching with additional expertise in wireless, converged infrastructure and unified communications. He holds numerous industry certifications such as Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), CS-CUCTSS Cisco Unified Computing Technology Support Specialist, Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing and Switching (CCNP Routing and Switching) and Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching (CCNA Routing and Switching). Regan is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and in his spare time enjoys home brewing, scuba, snowboarding, skiing, hiking and spending time with his wife, two cats and two dogs.