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SD-WAN enables better cloud performance

By Louis Kirstein- DSM Expert: Connectivity Services at T-Systems South Africa

The proliferation of local and global public cloud platforms is resulting in a spike of cloud uptake across South African businesses. Moreover, barriers such as data sovereignty concerns and latency issues fall away with the in-country data centres coming online. Companies are faced with more choice such as Private, Public and Hybrid cloud strategies, and as such, many organisations are likely to forge ahead with their cloud strategies, pushing more applications into the public cloud.

Saying this, businesses need to ensure their infrastructure is cloud ready and that their WAN is engineered to handle the change in network traffic patterns. In order to optimise the performance of their cloud applications, most organisations will need to rethink their WAN architecture to support the accompanying “Software algorithm/API” requirements that enable Cloud adoption.

“Software defined” as a strategy

Software-defined (SD) networking is enabling many organisations to redefine, optimise and streamline the flow of data in their data centres and the network infrastructure. When applied to connectivity infrastructure, SD-WAN can help businesses overcome the challenges of operating in a cloud environment, not least of which is the cost of increasing bandwidth to accommodate increased traffic.

SD-WAN architecture allows businesses to benefit from the cost savings enabled through the scalability, availability and lower price points of ubiquitous Internet connectivity compared with traditional leased line services. Cost benefits can also be found in the ability of SD WAN to prioritise traffic based on the applications in use, thus enabling a business to efficiently use the bandwidth they have without having to build large, expensive pipes. SD-WAN furthermore initiates a new era in business flexibility due to its inherent scalability in capacity and footprint.

Priorities

Traditional WANs only allow one to affect a decision at the networking layer (Layer 3), meaning that traffic flow, prioritisation and Quality of Service (QoS) all need to be configured at the router. SD-WAN enables decisions to be made on the network without physically touching the networking layer. The actual devices on the WAN are configured to give priority based on the type of application traversing the network, the number of users accessing the application, and/or the time the application is being used.

What this level of prioritisation means for cloud users, is that bandwidth can be allocated to those applications that are most used for the benefit of the company, at the times that it most beneficial, shaping and prioritising as required. Connectivity is therefore optimised to ensure applications provide the most productive and efficient service possible.

Full view

Without needing to log onto a networking device, such as a router, SD-WAN allows users to view network performance from a single, full-view dashboard. From a central point, one can view traffic trends and enable WAN-wide decisions to optimise as necessary, assess application behaviour and use, and adjust the WAN performance accordingly, and find and fix errors.

SD-WAN also allows for proactive remediation. Alerts can be defined around threshold limitations, notifying IT teams of pre-defined thresholds so that they can respond proactively and avert issues on the network.

Paving the way

SD-WAN opens the path to establish a standard architecture across the board. Policies can be applied across all sites from a central management plane, that encompasses the networking layer, and even affects the data centre. Should a business want to implement Software defined Networks, SD-LAN and SD-WAN should be the foundation.

Standardisation enables central policy management and decentralised policy enforcement to be that much simpler by imposing policy changes from a single point. It minimises the need for excess resources to be applied to managing connectivity infrastructure, and heightens performance in one, easy step.

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