The software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is intended to provide flexibility and dynamic provisioning, while lowering the cost of connecting the data center to the cloud and branch office infrastructure. But it also stands to improve another crucial piece of the emerging data connectivity formula: uptime.
A recent report by network consultancy Grudi Associates highlights how SD-WAN can not only improve overall performance, but achieve virtually 100 percent uptime for increasingly complex network architectures. This can be accomplished through four key capabilities: application prioritization, broadband aggregation, dynamic bandwidth management and network firewall virtualization. With these functions built into the SD-WAN operational stack as core elements, the enterprise gains greater network optimization and manageability, as well as improved security, better compliance and faster implementation of new network architectures — all of which reduces downtime to near zero even as network scope and complexity increase.
Leading SD-WAN platforms are starting to place uptime on an equal footing with flexibility and agility. Aerohive’s latest full stack release incorporates a unified cloud-managed Wi-Fi, switching and SD-WAN routing solution for branch office connectivity, which the company has optimized around application- and user-based connectivity and the ability to set preferential connection settings. In this way, users can establish self-optimizing network environments that can leverage advanced visibility and reporting tools to identify and circumvent potential trouble spots while continuously seeking out the fastest, least costly network pathways.
Telecom providers like AT&T are also coming to the realization that uptime is not something to be overlooked in the drive to draw enterprise workflows. Josh Goodell, AT&T's vice president of intelligent edge services, told the recent MEF17 conference in Orlando, Fla., that the ability to provide continuous uptime is emerging as a key differentiator in an increasingly crowded field. One way AT&T manages this is by leveraging its cloud infrastructure to provide dynamic application routing between multiple gateways should performance degrade at any one connection point. At the same time, the company can still rely on legacy MPLS and TDM data services to allow the enterprise to make a gradual shift to SD-WAN.
Wide area connectivity is not limited to just text or graphical data but will also accommodate the plethora of voice and video services of unified communications (UC) architectures, which have stringent uptime requirements of their own. Versa Networks recently outfitted its Versa Cloud IP platform with a new codec supporting mean opinion score (MOS) traffic reporting and management. This offers an added layer of insight into voice and video beyond the standard loss, latency and jitter metrics of standard SD-WAN solutions. The aim is to tie network configuration and policy management to user experience data gleaned from decoding and encoding real-time data streams. That in turn allows the enterprise to support near-100 percent uptime through dynamic network management.
Nobody is happy when the network goes down, but as the data environment starts to push past the enterprise and the cloud into the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT), failure to maintain connectivity starts to cross the line between mere inconvenience to outright disruption of the core business model.
The ability to grow, expand and dynamically adjust network architectures will prove critical going forward, but it will amount to nothing if users cannot count on you to provide reliable access your data.
Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.