SD-WAN heralds a more agile, efficient internet

Increased confidence in the promises of SD-WAN technology will drive market revenue to US$6 billion in 2020, according to IDC. Its recent survey of more than 600 companies in nine countries – including Japan, China, India and Australia – found that 70% plan to adopt SD-WAN in the next 18 months.

Half of the businesses will acquire an SD-WAN solution through a service provider. “The market drivers for SD-WAN is really because of the disruption in network connectivity, what’s being delivered and the massive price delta between traditional MPLS market and [other] ways of getting potentially higher capacity for a fraction of the cost,” says Shayne Stubbs, Silver Peak's vice-president of Cloud Service Provider.

Companies surveyed by IDC estimate a 20% cost savings with SD-WAN and reported accessing nearly 50% of applications via the Internet. Indeed, SaaS and IaaS services are forcing enterprises into an environment where they are using multiple WAN networks, typically an MPLS service and one or more service providers for internet access, to provide cost-effective cloud-era networking to branch offices and remote sites.

“We think that both MPLS and SD-WAN will coexist for some time,” Stubbs says. “An $80 billion [global MPLS] market does not go away overnight. There are still certain legacy applications that are still tied to a data center. But analysts are predicting a shift in the growth of MPLS [to being] flat to slightly negative, But the growth of broadband is certainly much bigger. If you look at IoT and all the Big Data initiatives, there’s a massive appetite for bandwidth and in most cases, broadband meets those requirements very well.

“From our perspective, we’re completely transport agnostic. We’re really there to give our customers a solution to enable them to use whatever transport they want. And with our interesting path conditioning technologies, we can allow them to deliver on SLA over any transport.”

Path Conditioning is a key feature of Silver Peak’s Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution. It provides private-line-like performance over the public internet by overcoming the adverse effects of dropped and out-of-order packets that are common with broadband internet and MPLS connections.

Still, in an environment where the enterprise's WAN includes large portions of the internet, much traffic is routed sub-optimally with no knowledge of the end-to-end service or application being carried. This could be partly driven by routing decisions made by service providers – whose interests are not always aligned with the enterprise – that disregard the best path available.

As service providers look to expand the reach of their fixed infrastructures, SD-WAN’s cost, availability and application performance advantages will be major considerations. Silver Peak has over 2,000 global customers in 77 countries and the company recently surpassed 200 customer deployments of its Unity EdgeConnect, just five months after securing its initial 100 paying customers for the solution. The Unity EdgeConnect commenced shipping in August 2015.

Broadband convert

Among the enterprises that have purchased and deployed the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect is Service King, one of the largest multi-location operators of automotive collision repair facilities in the US. The company leveraged the Silver Peak solution to deploy broadband at each of its more than 300 collision repair locations, saving significantly on annual managed router services costs.

Since then, Service King has been able to increase network performance by rapidly deploying broadband at both existing and new locations, immediately migrating all locations to the company’s WAN. It plans to eventually convert to broadband-only WAN.

“Silver Peak’s EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution brings an unparalleled level of flexibility to our network and allows Service King to connect users to our corporate network in record time,” says Derek Kramer, CIO of Service King. “Not only are we going to increase network performance, we are aiming to significantly reduce our cost-to-serve by moving to broadband.”

This will likely be the trend in the service provider market too. “In the service provider model, there’s a sell-to and sell through,” says Tricia Png, Silver Peak’s regional director for ASEAN. “Sometimes service providers act as systems integrators, which bring together third-party appliances into a project.

“We are doing more systems integration than managed services today because in Asia, 80% of enterprises are still going through that model, unless it’s a very large enterprise which would outsource the entire services,” Png adds. “But with SD-WAN, we see it’s going to shift over time. The service provider is going to embrace broadband and it’s going to be a whole collection of technologies, so all the more they need tight [systems] integration. We are working with managed service providers and every service provider [project] has an SD-WAN component in it.”

“Service providers work with thousands of routers that they manually provision,” Stubbs stressed. “If there’s a security vulnerability, they literally have scripts to upgrade them – laborious tasks that take a long time. We need to centralize, automate and really simplify the edge and I think SD-WAN delivers a lot of that.”

Hands-free transport

For enterprises, Silver Peak provides detailed statistics on bandwidth, latency, loss and out-of-order packets across the WAN and advanced reporting tools that assist with WAN analysis and in the enforcement of service provider Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

“We know everything about every packet,” Stubbs explains. “And this massive amount of telemetry data about what’s going on in the network is critically important because it allows us to take networking even further to where our vision of the future is, which is analogous to what Goggle has done with the self-driving car. It’s really interesting that we’re still programming networks to tell packets and data where to go. We believe, with the use of all this rich telemetry data, that we can ultimately have this ‘self-driving’ network, as an analogy.

“That has profound impacts because you can now look at what the user is trying to access based on available resource, security policies, and how you can best route or serve that user. And there are tremendous use cases in that wealth of data, some of which we’re already realizing today and some that will happen in the future.”

Silver Peak’s deep learning of the infrastructure, routing and the packets ensure that the right decisions are made for optimal routing of every packet. And its SD-WAN technology leverages all data transport links, not just a single link. “There are lots of business reasons to consider SD-WAN,” says Stubbs. “I really encourage people to look at performance, visibility, extensibility and security.”