WAN Wrap-Up

Back in 2011, venture capitalist (and father of the modern Web browser, thanks to his contributions to Netscape Navigator) Marc Andreessen of the influential Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz argued in a Wall Street Journal column that “software is eating the world.” His remark was a colorful way of observing that software’s immense flexibility, iterability and economy was reshaping every vertical from retail to transportation. Whereas businesses all over the world had once fueled growth by investing in assets like hardware (e.g., new PCs) or in industry-specific ones such as hotels or vehicles, in time they had the opportunity to operate as software companies, with their applications doing most of the heavy lifting in everyday operations.

Andreessen’s words are often referenced as a timely prediction of the rise of startups such as Airbnb and Uber as well as the ongoing success of Amazon, Netflix and Google. The effects of software have reached much further than just these disruptive, high-profile organizations, however. Just think of how VoIP and video conferencing, made possible by the Internet, have provided dynamic alternatives to the traditional office phone system. Moreover, consider how software is redefining the network itself through software defined WAN solutions like Talari’s THINKING WAN, which uses intelligent monitoring to ensure the performance of a business’s most important applications across MPLS and/or broadband Internet.

This emergence of the SD-WAN has challenged the long-held notion that Internet circuits are not reliable enough to sustain the likes of voice and video. Let’s look at a few recent developments that underscore the growing importance of software in general, and the SD-WAN in particular, in enterprise networks everywhere:

Talari SD-WAN showcased at the Gartner IT Operations and Strategies Solutions Summit
Research firm Gartner held its IT Operations and Strategies Solution Summit in Orlando, Florida, last month, and Talari demonstrated its time-tested SD-WAN solutions that have been deployed in configurations including hybrid WANs and WAN to Cloud in thousands of locations across the globe. Talari’s Adaptive Private Networking technology is at the heart of its SD-WAN offerings, allowing for the creation of a virtual overlay network with centralized management and the shaping of applications across hybrid WANs in accordance with company policies.

Talari’s solution also enables the prioritization and regrouping of applications in the event of congestion caused by link failure. In this way, network administrators can ensure business continuity, in addition to holding service provider accountable for their service-level agreements. Overall, an SD-WAN is perfect for organizations that are now counting on software, cloud infrastructure and data analytics to power their businesses.

“[SD-WAN] is essential for businesses who are increasingly using unpredictable and bandwidth-hungry real-time and cloud-based applications to conduct business,” explained Talari CTO and co-founder John Dickey. “Talari’s SD-WAN technology tackles this issue in an unprecedented way to help IT staff achieve business continuity without compromise.”

Software gives the WAN a level of intelligence it wouldn't have with just dedicated appliances.Software gives the WAN a level of intelligence it wouldn’t have with just dedicated appliances.

Understanding the technical advantages of SD-WAN
One of the fundamental advantages of software over hardware is adaptability and the ability to handle operations at potentially tremendous scale. The difference comes into focus when comparing SD-WAN with traditional WAN.

Whereas the latter keeps the control and data planes together within dedicated network devices, SD-WAN separates them and uses more powerful appliances (often x86 devices) for policy decisions. The result is much greater analysis capacity than could be achieved via a network protocol running solely on dedicated hardware.

“SD-WANs have much greater path analysis capacity than traditional WANs.”

What does that mean in practice? It means that the intelligence of an SD-WAN can be put to work in analyzing traffic and finding the best possible path for it, including over comparatively inexpensive broadband circuits.

Accordingly, the network becomes less reliant on pricey, dedicated connectivity and yet can still support demanding applications across a combination of MPLS and broadband Internet links as needed. Keith Townsend has an excellent rundown of the SD-WAN difference in an article for TechRepublic.

SD-WAN as a practical way to implement software defined networking
Software-defined networking has been a hot topic for years among service providers looking to make their networks more adaptable to changing business requirements, not to mention cost-effective through the use of standard-based hardware.

A December 2014 IDC report found that the WAN market was maturing thanks to the rising use of software and virtual appliances in areas like WAN optimization. The Open Network Users Group also recently voted for the WAN as the top use case for SDN for the second straight year. The takeaway seems to be that while most of the coverage of SDN focuses on data center activities, companies can more quickly implement an SD-WAN and WAN optimization than they can remake their networks with SDN protocols like OpenFlow.

The SD-WAN is practical because it is the best way to support popular applications like VoIP and video. It also helps trim the costs of connectivity and increase the utilization of bandwidth once reserved only for backups.

Categories: IT Challenges, Network Reliability, Business Agility, Business Continuity, Hybrid WAN