Efficiency is important in all aspects of business, and this holds true in the world of WAN engineering as well. Throwing dollars at a problem to buy more bandwidth isn’t a scalable solution. Identifying a scalable solution and optimizing it to get the most out of your WAN investment, from a dollar and performance perspective, is.
For this reason, WAN optimization has been a focus of enterprises for a long time. Legacy WAN solutions like MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) with high bandwidth costs and limited flexibility forced organizations to do everything feasible to squeeze as much bandwidth as possible out of their investments. While SD-WAN has helped significantly improve the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the modern WAN, it has not inherently eliminated the need for some level of WAN optimization.
In this piece, we’ll explain some of the WAN performance issues created (or left unaddressed) by traditional Do-It-Yourself (DIY) appliance-based SD-WAN solutions and then dive into how SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) enables a converged WAN infrastructure that addresses these problems.
The WAN performance challenges of DIY SD-WAN
- Lack of reliability with the public Internet
One of the major downsides many enterprises saw when faced with the choice of switching from legacy MPLS solutions to DIY SD-WAN was the lack of an SLA to back the latter. As resilient and impressive as it is, we all know the public Internet has varying levels of performance and uptime. This is a scary proposition in the world of enterprise WAN where uptime is a major KPI.
To mitigate exposure to latency and downtime as a result of an unreliable public Internet connection, many organizations opted to continue to use MPLS in some capacity to support select applications. This in turn prevented them from achieving the full potential of SD-WAN.
- Lack of integrated security
DIY SD-WAN edge appliances generally do NOT include a full security stack. This means additional security products must be deployed at all sites, 3rd party cloud solutions must be implemented, or traffic must be backhauled to a specific location on the WAN. None of these options are ideal as they increase complexity and cost, and can impact WAN performance (e.g. when backhauling traffic or adding overhead by implementing VPNs).
- Limited mobile & cloud support
Generally, cloud infrastructure and mobile users were afterthoughts with DIY SD-WAN. While the software-defined nature of SD-WAN and ability to leverage multiple transport methods (xDSL, 4G LTE, cable, etc.) made it more flexible than MPLS in this regard, performance with these use cases was still lacking, particularly when it came to security integrations.
The SDWaaS solution
- An SLA-backed backbone
Premium, cloud-based SDWaaS uses an SLA-backed high-performance global backbone. This means that organizations can trust that the reliability and performance of the connections will be enterprise grade, eliminating the need to retain MPLS simply for the sake of an SLA. The global backbone provided by SDWaaS is backed by multiple Tier-1 ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and includes a number of Points of Presence (PoPs) across the globe. This fully meshed backbone brings low-latency and reliability to the world of SD-WAN.
- An integrated security stack
One of the major benefits of premium SDWaaS is that a full network security stack, including features like NGFW (Next Generation Firewall), anti-malware, and secure web gateways are baked into the solution. Not only does this reduce complexity, it eliminates the need for performance-degrading backhauling.
Modern mobile and cloud integrations
The cloud-based nature of premium SDWaaS streamlines user experience and enhances performance for mobile users. As opposed to hearing from your remote salespeople about how difficult it is to connect via VPN on the road, and how slow things are once they’re connected, SDWaaS offers an easy to use mobile client that simply connects them to the WAN by way of the nearest PoP. This leads to lower latency and a happier mobile workforce.
Additionally, many of the aforementioned PoPs are in the same datacenters as large cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, Office 365, and Jira. Since premium SDWaaS providers have a presence in many of the same datacenters, they are able to push packets to and from these providers at high speeds. Contrasting this paradigm with the varying levels of performance one would receive from the public Internet is a great way to conceptualize the performance benefits of SDWaaS. With so many mission critical apps hosted in the cloud today, this one benefit in and of itself can add tremendous value to users across an enterprise.
SDWaaS makes a truly optimized modern WAN possible
As we have seen, DIY SD-WAN offered some benefits over legacy WAN solutions but limited the ability for enterprises to achieve the full performance benefits SD-WAN should be able to offer. By providing an SLA-backed global backbone and seamlessly integrating security, cloud, and mobile to the WAN, SDWaaS solves these problems. In so doing, it enables businesses to achieve true WAN optimization at scale.