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Managing network underlay: 3 ways you CAN with SD-WAN

July 27, 2017

Mike Winder   

Senior Vice President of Customer Service & Operations

Software Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN), opens up a huge raft of benefits to any business looking to adopt it – but don’t underestimate what it takes to exploit.

In one of my previous blogs, I discussed the idea that while people may think you just have a box that works across the network which will route traffic on the fly, it’s actually far more complicated than that. The starting point is for businesses to understand the common pitfalls.

This three step guide will discuss how businesses can realise the benefits of SD-WAN. These include increased enterprise agility, flexibility, quality of service (QoS), cost reduction and speed to respond.

  1. Don’t underestimate the complexity of the network underlay

The postal service has undergone a massive change in recent years because people’s buying habits have changed. They spend less time visiting shops and instead buy online. The customer can get what they want, when they want it, at a competitive price. However, what most consumers don’t consider is the huge amount of ‘logistics’ that happen behind the scenes. Let’s call these logistics, the ’underlay’. A parcel might be delivered by FedEx or the in-country postal service, but this doesn’t’ concern the average consumer. It might go through three distribution centres or 10. Again, they don’t care. They just want their order. But if the underlay doesn’t work and their parcel is delayed, damaged or lost, then the online platform and brand they bought it from starts to lose credibility and value.

This is the same principle with SD-WAN. The network underlay is a key part of the architecture. It’s complex and often underestimated. SD-WAN came about because businesses wanted to make better use of their network resources, and they want the seamless online experience and options. However, they’re not network experts – so they need to work with a partner that can manage the complexity.

  1. Make light work of defining the policies for applications

Networks are 10 times more complex than they were 10 years ago. Back then we would have chatted to a customer about QoS over their MPLS network They might not have known all the applications running across their network but it would have typically been around 10 high priority ones as well as anything else on top. Now they have five times the number of applications to consider: some on premise, some in the cloud, some transition between, and many of these are mission-critical. These applications need to be secure and free of congestion or QoS issues.

When you start implementing SD-WAN today, you need to have clear visibility of all applications. You need to think about what should go in which queue and when congestion occurs, what should take priority – and, more importantly, where does the low-priority traffic go during busy periods? This is where the in-depth knowledge of networks and gateways can help you achieve success.

  1. Optimising voice for SD-WAN

Architectural underlay is vital for the overlay to work efficiently. This is especially important when you look at unified communications (UC) and want to take advantage of cloud enabled services such as SIP trunking. SIP servicing is a real challenge to achieve alone. Working with a service provider with supportive solutions across overlay and underlay elements directly into its PSTN (public switched telephone network) reduces the headache significantly.

In summary, to see the biggest return on your SD-WAN investment and reap all the benefits it brings, you need to partner with services experts that can manage the entire complexity layer for you, define and roll-out the required policies and work across your organisation to ensure seamless delivery. This will minimise disruption and downtime in the short term and maximise increases in efficiency, productivity and technological capabilities in the long term.

Read more about networks and services, and look out for my next blog on SD-WAN.